Thursday, December 31, 1998
The amount of time the d'Agliano family has spent in the kitchen is better measured in years than days. The grandson of a chef and wine-grape grower, Remo d'Agliano's life around food began in his parent's restaurant in Florence, Italy. Just six weeks old, he was placed in a basket within easy eyesight of his mother and father, in the bustling kitchen where they would continue to cook in tandem throughout his youth. Remo''s father had been a chef in the diplomatic corps of Paris and London, and when he opened his own place some years later in Carmel, Remo christened his restaurant with his father''s name, Rafaello.
That was in 1965. And for almost 34 years, Amelia d''Agliano has been keeping her son company in the back of the house, turning out pasta doughs, attending to slow simmering Bolognese, and shaping the handmade gnocchi that stay faithful to this classically inspired, Northern Italian menu.
Before coming to America, Remo d''Agliano''s career took him all over Europe, first as a culinary arts student in Paris, then on to Switzerland, followed by a stint at the world famous Savoy Hotel in London, and next to a position where, for seven years, he oversaw the kitchens of two world-class hotels in Scotland. When the offer came to come on as the opening chef of Club XIX, he accepted.
"At that time, Carmel seemed just a little village," Remo recalls. "There were only three or four restaurants and business was much more seasonal. A lot has changed since then." But he also concurs that a lot has stayed the same; as the area''s oldest, independently owned restaurant, Raffaello''s longevity has come through steadfast attention to detail, and being there as each plate has gone out the door over the years.
"I''ve always bought the very best raw product," Remo adds. "Even if the price isn''t quite right," he laughs. "I use only free-range chicken and veal, and fresh, local, organically grown produce, the best fish that''s in season."
Beyond a selection of a few simple hot and cold appetizers (prawns in garlic sauce, prosciutto and melon), Raffaello''s menu divides into several categories. All the pasta is homemade, like the cannelloni stuffed with veal and spinach, fettuccini alla Romana, linguine (al pomodoro, al prosciotto cotto, or in Bolognese or pesto sauces) and gnocchi, also in pesto or Bolognese.
Fresh halibut appears with tender artichokes, petrale sole is lightly sauced in a Chardonnay and butter reduction, and swordfish is glazed in shallot sauce. Chicken receives a hearty treatment of ham and Fontina cheese with a zesty sauce of mushrooms and wine, or with Madeira sauce, or a pungent sage sauce. The single beef selection (Angus filet with vintage port sauce) gives way to half a dozen veal choices, like scaloppine with delicate lemon sauce. There is veal with tomatoes, mushrooms and Chianti, or Piemontese-style with Fontina and truffles, or with earthy morels. Veal sweet breads also appear, with brandy cream sauce or finished with lemon.
There''s a lovely assortment of fresh vegetable plates to choose from, keeping in mind that a special effort should be made to save room for dessert. Crepes al ''Arancio, house-made spumone, Marsala-laced zabaglione, and semi freddo with Italian wild black cherry sauce all vie for attention.
Beyond all that is represented on this ample menu, three generations of chefs can produce a lot of recipes: Raffaello''s legacy to his son left the matter of some 600 recipes that the d''Aglianos still work to catalogue. Which means that they''ll likely be in the kitchen for some time to come. cw