Dining at Al Tiramisu restaurant, located in the heart of Washington, DC, is like taking a trip to Italy without leaving the country. The award-winning restaurant is cozy, warm, and joyful—reflecting the effervescent and playful personality of Chef and owner Luigi Diotaiuti.
Now Chef Luigi lets home cooks everywhere experience his Italian culinary heritage and favorite recipes with his new book, THE AL TIRAMISU RESTAURANT COOKBOOK: An Elevated Approach to Authentic Italian Cuisine, a collection of 100 of the restaurant’s most popular recipes. The book is also part culinary memoir taking readers from Chef Luigi’s birthplace in Basilicata, Italy, to kitchens in Sardinia, Paris, Venice, Tuscany and ultimately Washington DC. Each chapter is devoted to a distinct phase in the chef’s career and features recipes that can create a complete menu.
“As chef-owner of Al Tiramisu, I love to keep learning and refreshing my skills. But as a teacher at heart I also enjoy sharing my knowledge and discoveries with others, whether it’s my staff, guests, students in my cooking classes, or audiences on television and radio programs,” Luigi explains. “In that vein, I also offer culinary tips in these pages that I accumulated over my long career. I share advice on selecting top quality products and where to buy them, and on using authentically Italian cooking techniques.”
“But the heart and soul of this book are my treasured recipes. Each recipe is special to me and starts with a bite-size memory of an event, person, or emotion that the dish evoked. They are culled from family recipes and from those of friends and colleagues in far-off places. Many appeared on the very first Al Tiramisu menu in 1996 and remain on the menu today. Others I have created more recently and I am very excited to present them in my book.” Some of Chef Luigi’s treasured recipes he shares in the book include:
- Sausage and Mascarpone Crostini
- Swordfish Carpaccio
- Placido Domingo’s Antipasto Platter
- Tuscan Swiss Chard and Spinach Filled Crepes
- Cream of Chestnut Soup with Herb-Coated Goat Cheese Quenelles
- Shrimp and Cranberry Bean Salad
- Vegetable Terrine with Red Pepper and Leek Coulis
- Country-Style Morning Vegetable Fritatta
- Fava Beans with Chicory
- Lagane Pasta with Beans and Chestnuts
- Radicchio and Ricotta Gnocchi with Sweet Gorgonzola
- Grilled Sea Bass with Asparagus and Potatoes
- Tuna with Onion in Parmigiano-Reggiano Cups
- Stuffed Swordfish Involtini
- Classic Tiramisu
- Bread with Chocolate, Fleur del Sel, and Olive Oil
- Chocolate Mousse with Candied Orange Peel
- Yogurt Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis
Each recipe is followed by an Italian Cooking Primer giving home cooks interesting background information and chef tips along with a Sommelier’s Pick of recommended wine to serve with the dish.
“The food that arrives at your table at Al Tiramisu directly reflects who I am. Food has always been central to my life, starting with my childhood on our family farm, where our lives and livelihood revolved around food. Food, culture, and history are all connected in my view and traditional recipes reflect a people, a place and a time. They mirror historic events —invasions, catastrophes, deprivation, excesses—and even express a community’s manner of celebrating or mourning. Fundamentally, they reflect the rapport between humans and Mother Nature at a given moment in time. I believe we must respect our traditions, and doing so is an important part of my mission at Al Tiramisu and what I hope to share with others who love to cook through my book.”
Take a culinary journey to countryside of Italy and bring Chef Luigi’s refreshing tastes of his homeland to your dining table.
“My wife Jean and I have enjoyed Al Tiramisu for more than a decade. Luigi Diotaiuti always makes us feel at home. Now with this book, we have a fuller window into Luigi’s life – and success.”
-Steve Case, former chief executive officer, AOL; chair of Case Foundation
“Chef Luigi’s story is a wonderful example of how vision, dedication, and selflessness results in excellence. Blessed with an abundance of passion, culinary skill and great character, he has truly achieved the American dream. Remembering his roots and upbringing in Italy, Chef Luigi has become one of the very best in his profession.”
-Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army Chief of Staff
ABOUT CHEF LUIGI DIOTAIUTI
Chef Luigi is a world-renowned authority on Italian cooking and living. A celebrity favorite for decades, this certified Sommelier was born on a farm in Basilicata in the mountains of the southern Italy. Chef Luigi’s formal training experiences include working in world-renowned restaurants such as Hotel Georges V in Paris, the Grand Hotel Bauer Grunwald in Venice, Il Gourmet restaurant and Hotel Bellavista in Montecatini, Tuscany and Costa Smeralda and Forte Village in Sardinia. He opened Al Tiramisu restaurant in Washington DC in 1996, and has been awarded the coveted “Insegna del Ristorante Italiano,” the seal of approval by the President of Italy. While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton inducted Chef Luigi into the American Chef Corps, an elite group of some 80 “culinary ambassadors” from around the country. When not cooking at his restaurant, he is a regular on US and Italian television showing home cooks how to prepare some of his favorite recipes. He also works with elementary school children in DC teaching them how to cook and enjoy and appreciate healthy food, gives cooking demos at local farmers’ markets, and is part of the Washington DC sustainable food movement.
For more information on Chef Luigi and Al Tiramisu, visit his website, www.AlTiramisu.com.
Tuscan Tomato Soup
Pappa al pomodoro
This rustic tomato soup is Tuscan comfort food at its best. So popular is this dish that it inspired a hit song in the 1960s called “Viva la pappa al pomodoro!” sung by Italy’s beloved recording star Rita Pavone. One of the original “green” recipes, pappa al pomodoro was traditionally made by frugal casalinghe, or housewives, to make use of leftovers. Today this homey and satisfying dish is found on the menus of Florence’s trendiest restaurants and is craved by Italian ex-pats around the globe. Its flavors intensify as it sits so it’s a good option for a buffet table. Pour it into individual-portion glasses for an original and modern presentation. Serve it hot or at room temperature.
Note that you will need good Italian bread that is at least two days old, as well as the end rind of either Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped or pureed
10 basil leaves, shredded
1 cup good quality Italian bread (at least 2 days old), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 ounces rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese Salt
4 cups vegetable stock
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic. When it is golden, add the tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend.
Add basil, bread, cheese rind, and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.
Stir every 10 minutes, adding 1 cup of stock at a time. Be sure to stir firmly from the bottom to prevent sticking. Cook until soup is thick and has a uniform consistency, about 40 minutes.
Before serving, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat.
When soup is ready, remove the cheese rind, stir, and drizzle hot olive oil over the top. Serve warm or cold.
Italian Cooking Primer
Leftover bread and cheese are the basis of many Italian home-style dishes. Bread that is a few days old can be used to make bread crumbs or croutons. You can soak it in milk and add it to ground meat to tenderize meatballs, or mix it with other ingredients to create croquettes or bread puddings. Add cheese rinds to sauces, soups and stews for extra richness, flavor, and complexity.
Escarole Heart Salad with Ricotta Salata and Anchovies
Cuori di scarola in insalata con ricotta salata
This pretty salad gets its unusual flavor and texture from the salted ricotta and anchovies, a combination long enjoyed in southern Italian cuisine. I’m happy to see that these ingredients are now being used and appreciated on a wider scale, as cooks discover their versatility and ability to add zing to many recipes. One of the specialty cheeses of Basilicata, ricotta salata is a variety of ricotta that has been pressed, salted, and dried.
As a child, this is one of the first cheeses that I helped my parents Rosina and Biagio make. We used fresh milk from our cows and goats, and to coagulate the milk we mixed in rennet from baby goats that had not yet grazed – the purest form possible. It was not unusual for us to make 20 baskets of tangy, creamy ricotta a day.
2 medium heads of escarole, cleaned
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 roasted red pepper, julienned
4 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded ricotta salata, crumbled
Remove the green outer leaves of the escarole and separate the white inner (harder) leaves for use in this recipe. Cut them into 2-inch pieces. (Remaining leaves can be stored and tossed into a soup, if desired.)
In a bowl, add lemon juice, oil, and the anchovy fillets, and whisk vigorously to obtain emulsified vinaigrette.
In a medium size bowl, combine the escarole and vinaigrette and toss well.
Distribute salad onto serving plates and top with pine nuts, roasted red pepper slices, and ricotta salata.
ITALIAN COOKING PRIMER
Escarole is a member of the endive family, yet it has a less bitter flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and is most commonly used in soups, salads, pasta and side dishes. Note that since this recipe has a pronounced lemon base, wine is not recommended.
THE AL TIRAMISU RESTAURANT COOKBOOK:
An Elevated Approach to Authentic Italian Cuisine
by Luigi Diotaiuti
December 2013/ www.AlTiramisu.com