Dr. Adriano Borgna is more than a practicing grilling enthusiast—you might say he’s an open-flame obsessive. Borgna doesn’t just fire up the Kingsford on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. He grills year-round—three or four times a week in the garden of his Barrow Street townhouse during the summer, and in the fireplace during the winter. Grilling comes naturally to Borgna: He grew up in Orvieto, Italy, where cooking in the kitchen fireplace was a regular occurrence (the garden and fireplace were two main reasons Borgna chose his current home nine years ago). Grilling also dovetails with Borgna’s health beliefs. As a general practitioner turned holistic doctor, he likes the technique’s emphasis on fresh ingredients (he favors organic) cooked with minimal interference. To put Borgna’s skills to the test, and to help would-be Borgnas sharpen their own technique, we asked Borgna to prepare a multicourse meal and to let grilling guru and New York restaurateur Bobby Flay (Bar Americain, Mesa Grill) watch—and critique. The result is a grilling master class that can help even a seasoned cook hone his technique.
Borgna planned his meal around the grill, but decided to serve most of it at room temperature, which put less pressure on him to deliver multiple courses piping hot while tending to easy-to-burn food over an open flame. Using organic meat and vegetables, he decided to make marinated crudités wrapped in thinly sliced flank steak, sardines with fresh herbs, and sausages in focaccia to start, followed by chicken alla diavola and grilled vegetables as a main course, plus a green salad with grilled-garlic vinaigrette. For dessert, there are warm sugar-stuffed peaches. “I always think seasonally,” he says, “and I like to serve a variety.” Hence, the sardines, chicken, and sausages are all Tuscan: “The flank steak I learned to cook here,” Borgna says. The idea of wrapping steak around the thinly sliced crudités was inspired by Borgna’s love of sushi.
Why such a feast? Technically, this meal was just for his wife, Michelle Stein, and the couple’s two children, Oliviero, 15, and Alida, 13, but Borgna cooked as if he were having a dinner party. “When friends come over, I like to cook up a storm to make it look opulent, and I like to have leftovers for my family the next day. It’s a tradition I learned from my mother and grandmother.”
Flay: Typically, American grillers cook hamburgers, then move on to bell peppers and onions. Europeans have a different sensibility: I get the sense Adriano grew up in a household surrounded by food, where they used an abundance of ingredients. People always love chicken, and he’s doing it a different way. Most Americans would cut the chicken into quarters and smother it with barbecue sauce; he’s butterflied it and marinated it for a crisp skin. The flank steak is a little off the beaten path, but Adriano got his inspiration from his love of Japanese food. I love the fact that he’s grilling leeks; in this country, they’re used only for soup. This is a well-balanced, simple menu of local food and things Adriano seems comfortable cooking.
Adriano Borgna’s Barrow Street Barbecue
Crudités in flank steak mini-rolls
Mixed sausages and focaccia with seasoned drippings
Chicken alla diavola
Grilled plum tomatoes
Grilled onions and leeks
Green salad with grilled-garlic vinaigrette
Grilled sugar-stuffed white peaches