Houston, Texas, Ristorante Cavour, Chef Renato De Pirro

Sep 1, 2010
2010 / September 2010

DePirroTuscan-born Chef Renato De Pirro has a soft spot for the kitchen. It’s where he spent his childhood learning to cook in the company of his mother and grandmother and where he began to build a culinary legacy rooted in family tradition.

“Italians are about family, cooking and tradition,” says De Pirro. “The kitchen is where we spent all of our time with family and friends; creating recipes, enjoying wines and creating meaningful traditions and techniques that I still rely on to this day.”

With more than 20 years of experience in some of the finest kitchens in Europe, South America and the United States, the executive chef at Houston’s Hotel Granduca and its signature Ristorante Cavour combines traditional Italian culinary principles with his extensive travel experience. The core of his style, though, remains firmly rooted in understanding the origins and finely fragmented diversities of Italian cuisine.

“The best part of preparing Italian cuisine is tradition: Every region, province, community and valley has different traditions and eating habits. I’ve always believed it’s critical to study and understand the cuisines of the past in order to work the present and build the future,” says De Pirro.


Mixed greens with heirloom tomatoes, pesto dressing and pine nuts Serves 4

For the salad:
8 long, very thin slices of cucumber
6 ounces salad mix
8 ounces baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced in half
4 teaspoons toasted pine nuts

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients for the dressing in a blender and blend until smooth.

For the garnish:
4 Grissini breadsticks

Presentation:
For each serving, use 2 cucumber slices to make a crown in the middle of the plate. Place 1/4 of the dressed salad mix into the cucumber crown. Top with tomatoes and pine nuts. Garnish with a bread stick.

Gnocchi with eggplant tomato sauce and fresh ricotta cheese Serves 4

For the gnocchi:
1 pound Idaho potatoes, skin on
5 ounces all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes until well done. Mash cooked potatoes through a food mill to a fine consistency. Set aside and let cool completely. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well until a dough forms. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a 1⁄2-inch “snake.” Cut the dough into 1⁄2-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough on the back of a fork to give it the classic gnocchi shape. Set aside. When ready to plate, cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water. Gnocchi is ready when it rises to the top of the water.

For the eggplant tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced to 1⁄4-inch
1 small can imported Italian tomatoes, pureed
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil and garlic in a pan. Add eggplant and fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the basil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the garnish:
Fresh ricotta cheese Basil sprig

Presentation:
Toss the gnocchi with the eggplant tomato sauce and place on the serving dish. Finish with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Pan-seared branzino with heirloom tomato sauce and fennel salad Serves 4

1-1⁄2 pounds branzino (Mediterranean sea bass)
8 ounces baby heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fennel, shaved
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Season fish with salt and pepper and sear in heated oil on both sides until done. In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and basil. Season fennel with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

Presentation:
Place the seasoned fennel on the side of a plate. Place the fish on the other side. Top the fish with garlic tomato sauce.

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