Chef Dante de Magistris stands in the open kitchen at il Casale, his Belmont restaurant, and carves Parma ham into delicate wafer-thin slices with zen-like calm. At dante, his namesake restaurant in East Cambridge, he prepares cotechino, a rich sausage that’s cooked under ash to impart a smoky flavor. Whether it’s sophisticated salami in the North, or flavoring up and eking out beans in the South, pork is important in Italian cooking. But de Magistris’ annual fall patio cook-off, this year dubbed Sausagefest, will go beyond traditional sausage meat (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, dante’s bar is cramped with afterworkers downing drinks and sfizi (sss-feet-zi), the Italian equivalent of tapas. There’s arancini made with mushroom risotto and tangy scamorza cheese, the softest burrata cheese with crunchy pistachios, and that cotechino, which is served on grilled fennel.
The restaurant is calmer but soon fills despite being a midweek night. From the amber glow of table lights to the barbabietole — roasted beet panzanella where purple juices color and flavor the bread — and the berry rich crostini dessert add riveting spots of rich color to the pale toned elegant room.
Nasello, pan roasted New England hake, sits in a soup of cannellini beans; a touch of wilted kale adds verdant green. The voluptuous chic-ken scaloppini — cooked with marsala, garlic, chives, and pioppini mushrooms — is topped with a visually captivating mix of black trumpet mushrooms and deep-red braised dried tomatoes. Who said fall wasn’t colorful this year?
The Sausage King
As de Magistris says, “Sau-sage is defined by being in a casing.” Expect everything from veggie to fishy from Sausagefest guest chefs Toro’s Jamie Bissonnette, Prezza’s Anthony Caturano, Catalyst’s William Kovel and more. Attendees choose the Sausage King or Queen. Sunday, Nov. 20, 1 p.m., $20