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Jul 1, 2006 02:31 AM

'Italian' risotto

This evening, I ordered a risotto at an Italian restaurant. The rice was long, soft and bland. It did not look or feel like any arborio or carnaroli with which I have been acquainted, seemed clearly overcooked, and was just not at all what I had anticipated. (It was a mushroom risotto and the flavor was exceedingly mild, with no foundation of earth or musk or any kind of umami. But my point here is the rice). When the waiter asked how I found it, I told him that it was overcooked. He drew himself up and said that it was 'Italian risotto'. Being unfamiliar with the finer points of Peruvian and Senegalese risotto, I can only speculate about the distinction he was drawing. But when I followed on by saying that it had no resistance or texture, he insisted that 'creamy' risotto such as theirs was really the beau ideal and al dente an aberration. The whole experience was a disappointment because I had been growing excited about what I had thought was an unrecognized neighborhood gem; because he continued to argue his point after he had made it instead of saying that regardless, he was sorry that I didn't care for it; and because they neither comped the uneaten dish nor made any other acknowledgment of my dissatisfaction (see preceding item). But before I give up on the place entirely, I want to take the precaution of presenting the case to this audience, in case I am the one in error and the real conclusion to be drawn is that I just don't know or care for properly made risotto.

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  1. Well, "long, soft, and bland" doesn't give me a complete picture. "Long" doesn't sound like risotto, soft could simply mean it was overcooked, and bland--well, who knows. However, "He drew himself up and said that it was 'Italian risotto'" rings a bell. This is the kind of pretentious dork in a 10th-rate restaurant who tries to survive by imtimidating any customer with a trace of taste. In fact, I've seen the same phenomenon at relatively well-regarded restaurants where someone slipped up in hiring a new waiter. All of this, of course, is predicated on the assumption you know what a risotto ought to be. However, I'd have to say that the response suggests to me that you're right. Sad to say, these thugs are all too common. I suppose you could complain to the management but guess who hired this idiot. I say just walk away. Places like this don't deserve a second chance.

    1. I was always under the impression that a perfect risotto should have a tiny point of hard pearly centre in each grain of rice. And no flavour is rarely a good thing.

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          1. I agree with the other posters.

            Besides, the waiter's point that "creamy" is authentic is moot. Al dente risotto can also be creamy.