Twice, my friend Lisa has tried to teach me to make risotto. The first time, I drank a glass of wine while watching her stir things into a pot. This looked simple enough. And the result was exquisite: creamy arborio rice fattened with homemade chicken stock, tossed with fresh greens and leeks.
The second time, Lisa watched me. I threw rice into sizzling olive oil, scorching the grains, then dumped in cold broth. My risotto was looking sad: burnt, drenched, soupy. Lisa elbowed me out of the way and (mostly) salvaged the dish.
Clearly, I’m no chef, but even experts agree that making risotto is an art. It requires constant stirring, assiduous temperature monitoring, and hot liquid dribbled in with a steady hand. Which is exactly what Gabriele Lo Pinto does in the kitchen of Risotto, the Lyn-Lake bistro he opened with his business and life partner, Patrice O’Hanlon, in May.
The results are toothy and rich, but feel light in the stomach. I highly recommend Risotto’s zafferano e salsiccia, a savory bowl of saffron-spiked rice cooked with shallots, white wine, asparagus tips, and homemade (it’s a secret Lo Pinto family recipe) Sicilian-style sausage. Pair this with the very reasonably priced Arancio Nero D’Avola, also from Sicily, a red wine with the zest of a Rioja and the delicate structure of a Pinot Noir that O’Hanlon serves—correctly—at a slight chill.
Lo Pinto, who was chef at Edina’s Arezzo for eight years, has been nailed for refusing to serve risotto at lunch. Critics say the name of the restaurant should guarantee a constant supply. I think they’re wrong. Like Lisa, this man is a perfectionist. He will not serve risotto that’s been parboiled (partially cooked) and only finished to order, which would be necessary during a busy midday rush.
But come in after five o’clock, say the word, and he’ll start pouring and stirring. About 30 minutes later you’ll be the recipient of a perfect plate of risotto. It’s worth the wait.
610 W. Lake St