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Ravioli - French vs. Italian [split from France]

Why would you ever eat ravioli in a French restaurant in Paris? As I've mentioned here over and over again, there are two things not to eat in France... pasta and risotto. French chefs just "don't get it."

Oh, and what are "percorino ravioli?"

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  1. Well, first of all, let's not call this a French restaurant. The chef is Italian and I am sure that influences his menu. And, the raviolis were just a starter and served as a context for seasonal microgreens and an herbed oil emulsion. Secondly, if I like what I'm eating in a French restaurant in Paris, why can't I have ravioli, couscous, sashimi,...you get the picture.

    1. Ravioli is a Côte d'Azur specialty. It is not the monopoly of a given country's expertise.

      38 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        @ famdoc : absolutely, if you like what you're eating, that's all that matters. I was just asking why one would eat raviolis (sic) in a French restaurant? BTW, ravioli here in Italy, is not served as a "context for seasonal microgreens..." or as a context for anything. Unlike what often happens in France, pasta is not a side dish or a "vegetable" or anything else. And again, what are pecorino ravioli?

        @ Parigi Of course, ravioli is a Cote d'Azur specialty, but eat ravioli in Nice and then go 50 km. away to Varigotti and eat at Conchiglia d'Oro or , even closer, to Paolo e Barbara in San Remo and you'll see that what you thought ravioli was in France, bears little resemblance to that in Italy. The differences in risotto are even more pronounced

        1. re: allende

          "ravioli is a Cote d'Azur specialty" Yes, but they are also a speciality of Romans, in the Drome, and of Savoie.

          Oh, and BTW, Giovanni, the chef at Rino. is Italian. Does that make his use of ravioli ok?

          1. re: vielleanglaise

            Of course it's okay. Whatever people like is okay. Now why don't you or famdoc address the questions? Ravioli served as a context. Pecorino ravioli. Herbed oil emulsion with ravioli... perhaps the great abomination, truffle oil, is next.

            I’ve read all the reviews of Rino in French, Italian and English. It seems to me that this is nuova cucina all over again. It failed in the 1980s; why is it back?

            Spiedini di ragnone di coniglio e lumache su zuppa di patate e salvia. Why would an Italian do that? Oh, as a review said, the restaurant might be French, might be Italian, might be innovative, might be classic. It might be, it might be, but a dish like that would only be served at a few restaurants in Italy, restaurants that want to move up in the two main guides L’Espresso and Gambero Rosso. Many of those few restaurants will not be around in a few years because most Italians don’t go there. The restaurants are basically for American, French and Japanese tourists; for “show” with business associates; and for “foodies” who only count numbers in the guides and couldn’t tell a Brunello from a Barolo unless they saw a label.

            Barley risotto with anchovies, preserved lemon and fish eggs? Ravioli stuffed with calf’s head and served with a dandelion salad and parsnip consommé? Call it what you want, call it great food if you want, but you won’t find this here in Italy.

            The "Italian" food at this restaurant reminds me of what one well travelled and very knowledgeable blogger recently wrote on his blog about food in New York, to wit: a French or Italian restaurant in New York will be very different from a French or Italian restaurant in France or Italy. Or as a friend of mine, who runs one of the best regarded restaurants in Tuscany said about a recent meal at a very well regarded "Italian" restaurant in New York, "what are they thinking... that meal had very little to do with Italy."

            1. re: allende

              Have you been to Rino, or are you just referencing the menu?

              Last time I ate there, I had scallops with stewed jerusalem artichokes and swedes. Braised mackerel. Then a squash tart served with buttermilk icecream. All of the above was washed down with a sauvignon from the Loire, followed by an Corsican red. Apart from the red wine (almost, but not quite), the menu doesn't exactly scream "Italia", does it?

              The guys at Rino do have Italian backgrounds that somtimes come through in their cooking. But they never sell or market Rino as an "Italian" restaurant.

              As so often with these posts pertaining to the relationship between a chef's origins and his or her abilities to master a certain cuisine, I find your comments at best foolish, at worst distasteful.

              Buon appetito, quand même.

                1. re: allende

                  Whew. I've just had an overdose of non-issues, thanks for the fun.

                  Oh by the way — ravioli are, simply, *from* Nice. Traditionally made the day after a daube has been made, filled with leftover daube meat and served with the daube jus and a sprinkling of Parmesan or Sbrinz. Thanks Heaven, I grew up on that. And yes, ravioles (a smaller version) are from Romans and Isère. Filled pasta are all over the former duché de Piémont-Sardaigne and pasta has been all over the South of France for centuries. Cultures and borders are a different thing, don't you know?

                  In the French version of pasta cuisine the pasta plays either the part of main dish (in rural cooking, as in Greek cooking) or side dish. It has been so for ages. Do you see anything wrong with that?

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    @ Ptipois Nothing wrong with that at all. In Italian cuisine, pasta, as you know, is not part of the main dish or a "side dish." It stands on its own.

                    @ Vieileanglaise Partially, but only partially, tongue in cheek, I asked why one would ever eat pasta in a French restaurant? Then, in all seriousness, I asked what pecorino ravioli was; here in Italy, we don't know what they are and I was curious. No one bothered to answer the question but talked about the chef being Italian, ravioli served on the Cote d'Azur, the Drome and Savoie etc.. I then looked at all the 20 odd reviews posted on Rino's site (it should have been obvious that I hadn't been to the restaurant or would have said so) and saw that a number of other dishes mentioned would not generally be found in Italy.

                    Rather than a back and forth re questions and opinions ( e.g. what is pecorino ravioli) which is the usual format here, we get an ad hominem from you. I won't stoop so low.

                    @ famdoc I'm sure the pecorino ravioli were delicious (as you said the restaurant was "certainly an excellent choice..."), but just exactly what are they?

                    1. re: allende

                      It is best to try the resto before you "stoop to" (your phrase) writing one of your hypnotically verbose posts.

                      1. re: allende

                        I'm sorry, Allende. I am responsible for the reference to pecorino ravioli. They were simply ravioli in which pecorino cheese was a significant part of the filling.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Oh that's what it was ! Ravioli with pecorino... Why do you call them Pecorino Ravioli if you could have said from the beginning "Ravioli with Pecorino", it changes everything ! ;)

                          1. re: mangeur

                            Thank you for the explanation mangeur.

                  2. re: allende

                    "...you'll see that what you thought ravioli was in France, bears little resemblance to that in Italy. "
                    maybe that's one of the reasons why someone would eat ravioli in France; if they completely resembled their Italian counterparts, then maybe there wouldn't be a point in eating them in France.

                    1. re: kerosundae

                      Smart point. Ravioles are actually a French speciality, and the way they're made is different from how Italian pasta, traditionally involves pork fat, for example, and a translucid dough.

                      But I would have to agree that most supposed Italian specialities, including ravioli, just make no sense in France in general, and that you have to be in Italy to understand why it's actually good.

                      I really wonder why that is -- it's like night and day indeed, for expresso, pasta, risotto, but also for gressini, sundried tomatoes, and so many other things.

                      That said, not a judgement on Rino where I haven't been yet.

                      1. re: souphie

                        Ravioli (raiola) were born in Nice... In the large repertoire of Genoese cooking they are particularly associated with that city.

                        Okay Nice was Italian at the time, but the ones I had in the Niçois village of my childhood days, made by local ladies, were based on white, translucent pasta dough. I am sure there are still people making them that way up in the mountains, very delicate, stuffed with daube and chard greens, sauced with daube jus and sprinkled with grated sbrinz cheese, parmesan or sardo… and that's in France now. There certainly are people still making "merda de can", herbed gnocchi, and these are specifically Niçois. Barbajuans are made on either side of the border and no side can claim theirs are better.

                        This is not to rub in the nationalistic discourse but rather to point out its unreliability and relativity. What is the point of comparing foods on either side of the border when history shows that they changed nationality several times through the centuries? That the pasta zone actually embraces Italy, Greece (which eats more pasta than Italy), Southern France and Northeastern Spain? Pasta is just as traditional in France as it is in Italy. When ravioli were created and developed in Nice, Nice was Italian. It is now French. When other pasta specialties were created in the South of France (yes, Provence and Languedoc were also pasta country, and always were), they were already in French territory and remained so. When ravioles were created in the Dauphiné, it was part of Duché de Piémont-Savoie-Sardaigne at a time when the idea of French or Italian nationality was totally different from now. When you study the foods of the Southeastern part of France you realise that today's borders mean absolutely nothing.

                        The food specialties we are talking about here are much older than the nationality issues we associate them with now; they do not obey them. They are regional, not national. To whoever writes "Why would one eat ravioli at a French restaurant?" there are many possible replies, from "Have you ever eaten locally-made ravioli in Berre-Les-Alpes?" to, as with Rino, "Have you ever eaten ravioli made by hand by Giovanni in Paris?" But they don't even need to be made by Giovanni. His former sous-chef, Jeremiah, a New-Yorker of Chinese origin, made spectacular ravioli as Giovanni had taught him.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          "The food specialties we are talking about here are much older than the nationality issues we associate them with now; they do not obey them. They are regional, not national. Hence claiming that ravioli in France 'don't make sense' is not only absurd, it is also based on deep misunderstanding of food history and geography."

                          Excellently put.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Yes, that was the previous version, which I edited, but I am glad you preserved it.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Frankly, the original question of why would one eat ravioli in a French restaurant is difficult for me to understand. I can't count the number of modern bistros and restaurants in Paris and the country that have offered a stuffed pasta (ravioli if you will) as an entree: lobster, escargot, girolle and on and on. It is the filling and the sauce that imbue originality,

                              1. re: mangeur

                                Just in case: when I write ravioli, I don't mean stuffed pasta (these come in all shapes and names) but specifically ravioli, or raiola from Nice, square shape with dented edges, uncooked size about 1 inch. Hence I distinguish ravioli/raiola from "raviole" which is the generic French for anything poached between two layers of pasta dough, and also from other types of stuffed pasta.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  Aha! And it is this latter that we have enjoyed at Reno et al.

                                  "Ravioli", unfortunately, is commonly loosely applied to many other stacked foods that indeed contain no pasta at all, e.g, L'Astrance's "avocado and crab ravioli". At this point, the term has been popularly misappropriated as has "nem" and "bonbon" among many other shapes and processes.

                                  1. re: mangeur

                                    Yikes! This thread is no longer about Rino, but has turned into a scholarly treatise on the origins and variations of ravioli and whether it is politically correct to eat ravioli outside of its birthplace.

                                    Back to Rino..we were there in early May. As I reported in my earlier entry, found the food to be very good, but not great and were aware that most of the diners (ourselves included) were there because of the NY Times piece on Rino. I concluded that Rino was worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood, but not necessarily worth a detour if you're not.

                                      1. re: famdoc

                                        Souphie. What you said at the bottom of this post is IMHO 100% correct. It's what I've been saying on this board for a long time. Risotto, pasta and espresso (and grissini etc.); once you try it at a good restaurant in Italy, as you said "Italian specialties just make no sense in France in general."

                                        Subjective test: Ptipois, go to your favorite place in the area around Nice and have ravioli (stuffed pasta). Go to Paolo and Barbara in San Remo or better yet Conchiglia D'Oro in Varigotti about an hour up the coast, and, being honest, tell us what you think, not only of the pasta, but just as importantly as to how the pasta is sauced (and stuffed).

                                        As I've said many times here, French chefs in general, have it all over Italian chefs in terms of cooking skills (and I live most of the year in Italy and am close friends with many well known Italian chefs from Tuscany on North). However, when it comes to risotto and pasta, this is where Italian chefs in restaurants trump, by far, what I've had in France during many many meals in the last 35 years.

                                        From Souphie: "But I would have to agree that most supposed Italian specialities, including ravioli, just make no sense in France in general, and that you have to be in Italy to understand why it's actually good.

                                        I really wonder why that is -- it's like night and day indeed, for expresso, pasta, risotto, but also for gressini, sundried tomatoes, and so many other things."

                                          1. re: allende

                                            "Subjective test: Ptipois, go to your favorite place in the area around Nice and have ravioli (stuffed pasta). Go to Paolo and Barbara in San Remo or better yet Conchiglia D'Oro in Varigotti about an hour up the coast, and, being honest, tell us what you think, not only of the pasta, but just as importantly as to how the pasta is sauced (and stuffed)."

                                            WIth pleasure. But I did mention that I was referring to native Niçois ravioli/raiola - OK i'll do it again: square, dented, size about 1 inch, traditionally stuffed with daube but can have other stuffings too.
                                            Not just stuffed pasta.
                                            I suppose that, as a competent expert on Italian cooking, you're not going to put all stuffed pasta under the vocable of "ravioli" just because it suits you in this case?
                                            Now I am ready to admit (if it's true ravioli you're talking about) that the places you're mentioning serve the best ravioli — why not? That would mean you've also sampled the traditional ones from Alpes-Maritimes in their best version and I'll bow to that.
                                            But I wonder in that case what point you would be making, since the region on both sides is pasta country...
                                            I was raised on Niçois and Riviera cooking, both from the city and from the mountains, from this and that side of the border. I have good reason to mistrust borders as a relevant element when it comes to cooking.

                                            "As I've said many times here, French chefs in general, have it all over Italian chefs in terms of cooking skills"

                                            Funny, I have never seen that happen. I have only seen extreme respect and admiration from French chefs towards Italian chefs and their skills, and Italian cuisine in general.

                                            (Now why (all historical idiosyncrasies put aside) is Italian food in Italy better than elsewhere? Maybe for the same reasons that French food is better in France? And Thai food in Thailand, etc.?)

                                            1. re: Ptipois

                                              The pourosity spreads beyond the borders. I'm about to leave for a corner of Tuscany where one of the specilaities are "crèpes" served with "béchamel", both words in VO on the menus. Another speciality there is "stockfish" the wind dried cod (not salt), like in the Cantal, and with the same name, but not always spelling, which in itself is a testimony to Europe's shared culinary culture. .

                                              I think the difference between French and Italian restaurant cooking is that the equivalent of the cheap but well executed cooking that is still very easy to find in Italy is virtually impossible to get in Paris - if you discount "non-French" restaurants that is. It wasn't always the case.

                                              1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                If you are going to a corner of Tuscany where one of the specialties are crepes "served with bechamel" then you are really going to the wrong part of Tuscany and the wrong restaurants :) Which part and which restaurants? I live in Tuscany and could possibly help you to do better than crepes with bechamel.

                                                I think your second paragraph is very good with the exception that is not that easy to find cheap and well executed cooking anymore. Cheap yes. Well executed yes. Both... not as easy as it use to be, easier in the northern part of Emilia Romagna, Piemonte and Friuli, than in other parts of the North. Can't speak for the center or the South.

                                                1. re: allende

                                                  I've eaten them in both private homes and in restaurants in the Val d'erra. They're liitle crepes, stuffed, in spring time with asparagus, and a little bechamel, covered with the said Bechamel and a little sugo, then baked.

                                                  But I'll tell Mme Bini, the owner of the restaurant, and my wife's family, who are from the area and that they're not "authentic."

                                                  1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                    "I'll tell Mme Bini, the owner of the restaurant, and my wife's family, who are from the area and that they're not "authentic." "

                                                    O yes, not a transcendentally trivial point at all. :-)

                                                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                                                      I go through the Pontedera area a half dozen times a year; lovely area. Never found a good place to eat, although a bit further north there are wonderful places. What is La Signora (Mme?) Bini's restaurant? Is it any good?
                                                      I never said crepes with besciamella were not authentic. Where did you pick up that? There was a :) after my comment. "Crepes with a little bechamel" is what you originally said and that is far different from "liitle crepes, stuffed, in spring time (sic) with asparagus, and a little bechamel, covered with the said Bechamel and a little sugo, then baked."
                                                      Still waiting for Ptipois recommendations on great ravioli in the Nice area and Alpes-Maritimes. There have to be some great places. Which ones?

                                                      1. re: allende

                                                        Chianni. I think the restaurant's official name is "Il Vecchio Forno", but everyone calls it Da Bini...which is very confusing because the cook's surname is Burgalassi. I do eat there in the summer, but they really come into there own during the hunting season. In Rivalto, same commune, different village, there's Da Mirella, whiich nothing indicates is located under under the village bar and which has the most idiosyncratic opening hours. They serve the best wild boar sugo I've ever eaten. The scichatta (don't know how to spell), pizze, and pastries which said Mirella still makes every satrurday morning, are also very good.

                                                        I have other addresses in the area.

                                                2. re: Ptipois

                                                  Ptipois,

                                                  In my reply, I mentioned ravioli specifically. Didn't say any stuffed pasta. "True" ravioli; what is "true" ravioli? There is no "true" ravioli in Italy. Ravioli comes in various sizes. I would, however, like to try ravioli around the Nice area and Alpes-Maritimes. Which restaurants would you suggest I try?

                                                  Square, size about 1 inch, stuffed... that sounds like the ravioli that Varigotti makes and, if they've made them that day, you'll get square, size about 1 inch, stuffed, sauced, though stuffed with fish, not daube. Try them sometime and tell us if the ravioli are any good or not. If you want them stuffed with daube and chard, try them at Da Renzo in Cervere or Il Centro in Priocca, both in Piemonte.

                                                  You said:"Ravioli (raiola) were born in Nice... In the large repertoire of Genoese cooking they are particularly associated with that city." A lot of cooks in Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Piemonte etc. might take exception to that statement.

                                                  If you have good reasons "to mistrust borders as a relevant element when it comes to cooking", why is French food better in France, as you rightly said?

                                                  If you believe that Italian chefs have anywhere near the same cooking skills as French chefs, I'm afraid we're on very different wavelengths. That said, it has little to do with Italian cuisine which is absolutely wonderful.

                                                  You said: "Have you ever eaten ravioli made by hand by Giovanni in Paris?" How else is ravioli made if not by hand?

                                                  1. re: allende

                                                    "In my reply, I mentioned ravioli specifically. Didn't say any stuffed pasta."

                                                    Good. But how was I supposed to understand this? (below)
                                                    "Subjective test: Ptipois, go to your favorite place in the area around Nice and have ravioli (stuffed pasta).

                                                    "If you have good reasons "to mistrust borders as a relevant element when it comes to cooking", why is French food better in France, as you rightly said?"

                                                    Read again, I added "all historical idiosyncracies put aside" and I've explained extensively why borders are unreliable. For instance the origin of ravioli (not of stuffed pasta, which may will be Byzantium or Central Asia) which is Nice is now politically located in France. What does that mean? Nothing.

                                                    It is also true that you never get better Italian food than when you are in Italy. That is a different matter than the ID details of ravioli. In the same way French food is better in France, British food in Britain, etc. Why is that? Products, tours de main, local bacteria in the air, microclimates, fengshui? I have no idea. Besides I'm not searching too hard for I am comfortable with the fact that you have to go to a country to truly taste its food. Seems perfectly logical.

                                                    "If you believe that Italian chefs have anywhere near the same cooking skills as French chefs, I'm afraid we're on very different wavelengths. That said, it has little to do with Italian cuisine which is absolutely wonderful."

                                                    I was not talking about my own estimation of their skills but about how Italian chefs were respected by French chefs. Mastery of techniques is not necessarily why chefs admire and respect each other. And as a rule I never hierarchize cuisines. It is not necessarily the esoterism of cooking techniques that makes the quality of cooking, for in that case molecular cooking from Northwestern Spain would be the best of all and I don't think it is.

                                                    As for Giovanni and his hands, you're splitting hairs of course.

                                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                                      Ptipois,

                                                      Thanks for your clarifications. Not sure I understand them all, but I'm not too bright sometimes.

                                                      One question of mine, which is the crux of our discussion, went unanswered. I would like to try the "best" (and in this case why don't we say "best" means the ones you enjoy the most) ravioli around the Nice area and in the Alpes-Maritimes. Which restaurants in those two areas would you suggest that I go to in order to sample ravioli? You have my advice on where to find excellent Italian ravioli (Conchiglia D'Oro, Da Renzo, Il Centro, and I can give you more places if you'd like), but now I'd appreciate your advice. Where do my wife and I go?

                                                      Thanks in advance.

                                                      1. re: allende

                                                        You're welcome, and indeed thanks for your recommendations. As I wrote before, I was raised in that region, and I live in Paris. Since the 70s I have had too few opportunities to go back to the Comté de Nice.

                                                        As for restaurants, I am sorry I cannot come up with such clear recommendations as you did for me. Ravioli in the Comté are associated with 1) home cooking and festive events and 2) traditional inns and auberges. If the former is still going on, expectably in the hinterland, I am not sure how to find the latter now that most of the places where I used to find that specialty have disappeared and I don't know about the remaining restaurants.

                                                        Back when I was much younger and raised in one of those auberges, ravioli were made on a weekly basis, one day after the daube which was prepared especially for that purpose. The restaurant still exists, it is the Hôtel Beauséjour in Berre-les-Alpes, but I am not sure they still make the ravioli. At any rate the last time I was there was probably 10 years ago... Things have changed a lot since then, all over the region. In the same village the Hôtel des Alpes also used to serve incredible ravioli, maybe they still do.

                                                        In Nice there used to be the fantastic Taverne du Château, and the very old La Trappa, and a few more - but as early as the mid-80s they were replaced by cheap clothes or video game stores. I remember searching in vain, right in the Vieux Nice, for the fantastic cooking that I used to know. Still a few joints going on but unfortunately I don't know them. Niçois cooking is still famous, places like La Merenda, etc., but to me it is a modernized, poorer version of what it used to be. Aside from my wish to relativize borders, I have to point out nevertheless that national policies and fashion movements regarding modern/traditional cuisines do make a difference depending on the country you're in, and it is true that France has been far from treating its low-priced, wholesome, ancestral traditional cuisines as respectfully as Italy has done on its side. After all, I believe that is precisely where the difference lies between the two countries.

                                                        Maybe people more familiar with the current state of the Nice hinterland could be a better help. At any rate, and given the rather vanishing state of Nissard cooking, I guess there will have to be a search.

                                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                                          Many thanks for your great reply. I really appreciate it.

                                                          It is very much a shame that the great old places, on both sides of the border, are dying out and with that the traditional foods which were so wonderful and so well prepared.

                                                          Fortunately, Italy has, very very surprisingly, a number of younger people in the North who own trattorie/osterie and are bringing back many dishes that had disappeared. Difficult life but one that provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment. See for example my post on the Italy board from yesterday, below.

                                                          If you go to Italy and need some other places for ravioli, just post it on the Italy board and if I can help, it would be a pleasure. Please note that the three places I gave you are ristorante, not trattorie, but with great ravioli among many other good dishes.

                                                          Thanks again for your latest post.

                                                          from yesterday:
                                                          The state of Italian trattorie kitchens has never been better today, than in the 35 plus years I've been eating in them. Perhaps not in Rome, and maybe not in Tuscany where I live, but in Piemonte, Emilia Romagna (particularly in the countryside around Parma), southern Lombardia, Friuli, Liguria, and even up here in the Val Badia (small valley in the Alto Adige) if you count some of the wonderful rifugi (Scotoni, Bioch etc.).

                                                          The reason that there are better trattorie kitchens is that younger people are opening them and that seems to have signaled more careful preparation of dishes, a return to many more traditional dishes that had disappeared from menus, a menu that changes more often, more daily specials, and very importantly the consideration that a decent, good or very good bottle of wine, served in good wine glasses (no one would accept eating on paper plates and no one should have to drink good wine from bad wine glasses) should be a part of the meal.

                                                          Slow Food, in spite of its faults, has had a tremendous positive effect on the mentality of trattorie owners, and we, the clientele are the beneficiaries. Again, it might not be that way in Rome with its captive audience, but it is that way in many other places. There is only one minor downside. It comes with a price. You can find cheap trattorie food, you can find very good trattorie food, but it is more difficult to find cheap and very good trattorie food, particularly when it comes to fish. Prices are still in the "value" range which is all to the good, but its rare to find a place, except for rifugi, that, after paying your bill, you walk out and say how the hell did they serve that wonderful meal at that low price.

                                      2. re: Ptipois

                                        "Yes, that was the previous version, which I edited, but I am glad you preserved it."
                                        whew... I thought my eyes were skipping lines...

                                        anyway, ptipois I bow down to your knowledge and eloquence!

                                        1. re: kerosundae

                                          This thread reminds me why I so enjoy this forum. And we will have to add Rino to our September list.