Dinner at Dario’s has been a regular event ever since I’ve known my husband Matt. Matt first met Dario in London through a mutual friend, Matteo. For a while they both assumed the other lived with Matteo because whenever they went to see him the other one was always there. When Dario followed his ‘Proff’ to Bristol to start his post doc at Bristol University, he asked Matteo where he should live. ‘Totterdown’ was his reply, which was probably because, thanks to Matt, Matteo had had many good times in Totterdown, but what Matteo didn’t tell Dario, was that it was also the only place he knew in Bristol. Still, luckily for us, Dario went with it, and Dario and Matt became proper mates, who finally knew where each other actually lived and who shared meals, running and rum amongst other things.
Their tradition of dinner at Dario’s, I’m glad to say, carried on after I came on the scene. If it happened during the week it would be just with Dario: a very welcome after work wind down that usually involved a lot of red wine and putting the world to rights. Then at weekends and holidays it would be with his girlfriend Margreet who’s brilliantly smart, levelheaded and good humoured. As time went on, Margreet did him the honour of becoming his wife, and over the years more chairs gradually appeared: first for Levi, then Matteo and most recently Naemi. Sitting around a table with them is always time well spent. But I have to come clean. It’s not just because of their company or even because of their gorgeous kids. It’s the food. On Dario’s shelves sits olive oil from his grandparents’ farm in Abruzzo and tomatoes cooked by his mum, and on his table Dario would serve up thoughtful, simple and unfussy dishes of deliciousness. Not that he ever thought so, he’d just shrug and say, ‘it’s nothing special’.
The meal below is slightly different because Dario wanted to try something he hadn’t done in a while. It also marks a point in time. Dario will be leaving Bristol at the end of summer and although I’m sure it’s not the last meal we’ll have with Dario and his family, the photo story below is certainly of one of the last all together at Dario’s. I know Dario and his family will be very happy in Utrecht, and I know he enjoys the ingredients you can find there, but I also know that I’ll miss Matt asking ‘Fancy going to Dario’s tonight?’ because my answer was always the same.
Dario’s recipes for 5 people in his own words (“I steered from the original recipes”) and a bit about his cooking:
I learnt to cook in England. Of course, my mum had a strong influence, but she missed the variety of ingredients that I could experience in England. The variety of Italian ingredients is immense...I don't even know many of our ingredients. However, the multi-ethnic cultural and Jamie helped me to try and try and try and try. For instance, we don't use Kalamata olives in Italy, but you see how tasty they were in the Bruschetta?
What I learned from my family background is to learn what raw products should look like or taste. It is not just ingredients, the spectrum is wider. For instance, back to tomatoes. It is the colour, shape and texture which you need to check before you use for one type or another cooking. A sour one can fit a type of dish, but a ripe and rich/dense might be best for another type of dish.
Tagliatelle maltagliate [=badly cut] (5 people)
6 eggs, 1kg flour and a pinch of salt.
400g Sirloin, 400g Rump and 250g pork chop. Set in freezer for 30mins before mincing (this avoids excessive bleeding...).
Process for ragu alla sbolognese: trim one shallot onion, one carrot and one garlic clove. Stir in olive oil...but avoid darkening. Drop in minced meat. Keep stir frying for a while. Add tomoato cuore pera d'Abruzzo (see photo), bay leaf, a lot of pepper, salt and nutmeg. Cook for 1hr or more, but slowly.
Sour dough bread. Cut medium/thick slices and grill light brown one side only. For topping. In a mixer put a table spoon of salted capers (not pickled!!), calamata olives (a fist), anchioves (2/3) and pepper. Mix but keep it coarse!! Few spins. Grill aubergines and red peppers (not too hard not too soft...al dente) let cool them. Chop booth aubergines and pepper. In a bowl mix chopped aubergine, peppers, add the mix, add chopped pomodoro cuore pera (see photo) add some more olive oil and parsley. Check on salt and pepper. Let is rest for 30mins so enough juice is formed. Then add on top of soft part of the bruschetta so it can soak up the juice.
photo from: http://www.pomodoroperadabruzzo.it/en/pera-dabruzzo/