I have been spending more and more time in Brooklyn, there is so much good food to find there, you kinda just have to go every once in a while. My favorite restaurant in Brooklyn is La Rina Pastifico & Vino, a lovely Italian restaurant in the Fort Greene section. With its huge store front, rustic accomdations, and a very friendly neighborhood atmosphere, its just the kind of spot you want to spend lots of time in. The chef and owner is Italian born Silvia Barban, who happens to be an extremely lovely person. She also happens to be one of my beloved Top Chef contestants, so you know I dine there any opportunity I get. The subway ride from the Bronx is lengthy, but in this heat, a long ride in full air conditioning is somewhat appreciated.
Every now and then, Chef Silvia features collaboration dinners with fellow Top Chef contestants, and I try to attend every one of them, because not only do you get to try her amazing food, but also the food of one of her fellow contestants. It’s a double whammy I can’t refuse.
Silvia Barban/Shirley Chung
Shirley Chung competed in season 11, and made it to be a finalist, and also in season 14, where she was the runner up. Without a doubt she is a very charming and focused person from my perspective. A dinner collaboration with Chef Silvia Barban, who is playful and carefree, had a promise of dueling harmonies, I was excited. Italian and Chinese? Yes, please.
The dinner was a 5-course meal, marrying their cuisines ever so delightlfully. The first course was a Chicken Potsticker with Calabrian Chilies, and it was the perfect introduction of two minds from two worlds coming together on a plate. Just outstanding. Second was a Scallion Pancake with Buffalo Milk Ricotta and hazelnut. What? Yes. It worked like a charm. The Third course was Tonnarelli Mapo Cacio with Sichuan Pepper, whipped tofu and parmigiano. Are you intrigued yet? You should be. Number Four was Duck Breast with Mandarin Mostarda, broccolini and fennel pollen. Nope, not a typo, just deliciousness. The dessert was an Espresso Cake with black sesame, gelato and candied kumquat. No, I never thought Italian and Chinese cuisine would make for a good combination, but I stand corrected, it was an amazing meal!
Silvia Barban/Brother Luck
Chef Brother Luck competed in season 15, where he made it to round 7, which is not an easy task. He hails from Colorado, and his cuisine is generally Southwestern, so I was beyond curious how he and chef Silvia would marry it with Italian food. Even though it wasn’t as far removed as Chinese food, I still was anticipating it with gleeful energy. May I please insert here that Chef Brother is just the nicest, sweetest person, his energy seemed to match Chef Silvia’s, and I expected a harmonious dinner.
This was another 5-course meal, starting with Albacore Tuna Bruciato with tropea onion, zebra tomato and fennel bronze. The second course was a Bow and Arrow blue Cornbread with Wojapi, barrel aged honey, and pueblo green chiles. Third was a pasta course: Spinach Cappellacci, sheep ricotta, porcini, chanterelle and Matsutake mushroom. Next was Mangalitsa Pork Belly with Anasazi beans, soft egg, Cotija cheese and salsa verde. The dessert was a Meringata with pine smoked vanilla cream and huckleberries. The lines were drawn a little more sharply here, each chef stayed in their zone of expertise, while adding and assisting each other. It nevertheless was a harmonious and interesting, and most definitely delicious meal, I felt blessed.
Now, these collaborations are one of a kind, and while you shouldn’t miss them when they pop up, do not wait for one to visit Chef Silvia in her awesome restaurant. It’s amazing, and you’re welcome.
For more info on La Rina click here