The highest honor an Italian chef can receive is “the black jacket,” signifying election to the Master Chef Board of the International Federation of Italian Chefs. This fall, Calogero Rino Baglio tried his on for size.
The executive chef at Pazzaluna has a relatively low profile locally, but a luminary reputation abroad. His 43-year cooking career started at the age of 10 with a kitchen job at the world-renowned Hotel Ville d’Est in Como, Italy. He was later the private chef of Princess Caroline of Monaco, preparing meals for visiting popes and presidents, and on the team of top toques that made the wedding dinner for Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
For the past two years, he was champion at a local Iron Chef challenge for which I was a judge. I remain in awe of a Baglio presentation that included a hollowed-out sea urchin filled with soup and clutched in the claws of a cooked and re-assembled scampi whose tail was a cracker laden with colorful caviar.
But back to Pazzaluna. Baglio has been there since May 2006, and if, like me, it’s a place you haven’t visited in some time, go now. You’ll likely be pleased and surprised by the updated menu that includes not just classical pastas but authentic entrÃ©es such as braised lamb shank, marinated roasted rabbit, and stuffed chicken breast with truffle cream sauce.
If you really want to have the full Rino experience, though, reserve the kitchen table, where you can watch up close as he and his crew prepare a tasting menu especially for you. It’s definitely one of the best seats in town.
There’s no gamey taste in the medaglioni de cervo, medallions of venison imported from New Zealand, cooked to perfection, and served with a tasty complement of mashed celery root and pear.
For his pappardelle al cinghiale, Baglio makes his own wild boar sausage, then cooks and crumbles it into a wonderful rich and earthy ragu of tomatoes and wild mushrooms and pours it atop fresh homemade saffron pappardelle.