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Risotto Rage

In the West Village, a chef refuses to stir the pot.

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As everyone knows, and as we’ve said before, there is no such thing as a quickie risotto. Risotto requires twenty minutes of crazed stirring, preferably by the light of the full moon and after having entered into a hypnotic, carpal-tunnel-inducing state. These risotto truths are self-evident and also the cause of great controversy at the new West Village restaurant Dell’anima, where chef Gabe Thompson has unleashed a version that takes mere minutes to cook. So divisive is his risotto, in fact, that Thompson has resorted to having servers issue disclaimers to unsuspecting customers. The blogger response has been either wild, if slightly baffled, enthusiasm or befuddled outrage. Some have compared the dish (unfavorably) to jambalaya and rice pilaf, others (favorably) to Chinese takeout. “I become borderline furious just talking about it,” says Thompson. As it turns out, his “risotto alla pilota” is no case study in a rogue chef’s taking liberties, but a legitimate regional variation, and perhaps the only known risotto that goes unstirred. Rice in Italy, you see, used to be hand-husked by men known as piloti. The piloti were also in charge of the staff meal for the rice pickers, and apparently their busy lifestyle did not allow for constant stirring. Thompson, whose tiny kitchen isn’t equipped to make a twenty-minute risotto, boils but doesn’t stir Vialone nano rice and combines it in a pan with sausage, salami, onions, and pecorino. The verdict: It’s far less creamy than regular risotto, but just as delicious.


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