Two stars that changed my life

To say that I was anxious walking into Cracco is an understatement. I had made the reservation in the famed Milan establishment based solely on my fascination with the sweet and salty contrast for which Chef Carlo Cracco is known. But upon perusing the reviews of the restaurant itself, the words “AVOID” “MISTAKE” and “INEDIBLE” seemed to flood every search. Lucky for us, I hadn’t read the complaints until it was too late to reconsider. So, armed with a sense of humor and a nervous appetite, we sat down for a what, in hindsight, was a remarkable gastronomic adventure.

Some highlights…

The meal began with zucchini flower, rice, and algae ‘chips’ – each piece hand-fried and perfectly arranged in a small white box. Mom and I decided right off the bat we were going to like this place.

The caper curd – Just two bites of this salty intermezzo was an intense palette cleanse unlike any I’ve ever experienced. It left every taste bud ready for the next nibble…

Veal Milanese – Served in two small cubes, this was the most perfectly cooked meat I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Every morsel was flawlessly juicy and the perfect follow-up to the saffron risotto and marrow.

Cheese plate with banana bread and tomato jam – Though not one to order it off a menu, a good cheese pairing never disappoints me. The sweet and salty here provided a contrast I could only dream of discovering on my own. The banana bread gave just the right texture and sweetness to balance the sharpness of each cheese, and transitioned us seamlessly to the desserts.

Nutty mascarpone cloud with crème anglaise– Reminiscent of a hostess snowball, at first glance, I truly underestimated this one. Far from the coconut-covered marshmallow in my mind, the bulk of this treat was airy, whipped, creamy perfection, all dusted with finely ground hazelnut crunch.

The almonds – My weakness. As far as I can tell, these were roasted unsalted almonds, with a practically invisible coating of marzipan, each covered in powdered sugar. It is my mission to recreate these. As well as the lemon sorbetto with salvia that followed.

To those who relentlessly bashed what to me was the fulfillment of perfection, I hope you find your faultless meal somewhere else.  Sure, the risotto may have had too much saffron, the zucchini puree was a bit strong to be paired with the veal, and the sommelier was slightly overbearing, but to anyone who suffers the same sweet/salty affliction I so adore, Cracco is your bliss.