Via Magellano 35 San Salvo, Abruzzo, Italy
Al Metro is a modern one Michelin star restaurant in Abruzzo, which is on the southeast coast of Italy, with …Rating:
Al Metro is a modern one Michelin star restaurant in Abruzzo, which is on the southeast coast of Italy, with a focus on fish and seafood. It is headed by Chef Nicola Fossaceca, who is surprisingly young to be quite so talented and sophisticated. The menu consists of a variety of small plates, in which allows you to sample an endless variety of creative Italian dishes from the sea. This makes for an exciting trip through the hands of Chef Fossaceca.
The room itself has a stark almost Nordic design to it, but somehow it still feels warm and inviting. The neutral colours and contrasts of the dark wood and steel felt masculine and striking, but simple enough to keep the focus on the food. We had a view off a stark beige wall with a tiny window encasing a very busy chef poking his head up from time to time, adding a bit of animation to the decor.
The meal began with a diverse array of fresh breads, all arriving warm and freshly baked. There was an incredible sourdough semolina bread that was all at once thick, rich, and hearty. Also to sample were some crispy saffron crackers and super crusty brown sourdough bread that sort of melted on your tongue. I was very impressed by the baking, which really stood out, even against the amazing dishes to follow.
The amuse bouche took a creative spin on classic Italian cicchetti (tiny bar tapas), but turning them into a more sophisticated version. There were cute mini arancini (typically a Sicilian street food of fried balls of rice stuffed with various bits), which were stuffed with fried rice, salami, paprika, and tomato sauce. This reminded me of a tomato risotto fried into little nuggets. They were very rich and passionate, but easily handled because of the size. There were also tiny little squares of cured mackerel on a bed of ricotta crème and tiny cubes of foccacia, dashed with cured micro herbs. A very subtle and elegant contrast to the arancini.
The insalata di mare, or seafood salad, consisted of baby squid, poached red mullet, and soft succulent baby prawns. There was some crunchy and nutty puffed rice, dill, fennel and mandarin, all placed next to a bright green herbed granita, which was cold, sweet, and beautiful. The textures of temperature and crunch were quite exciting. However, seasoning was lacking here, making the complexity of the dish sadly fall a little flat.
Scampi crudo, or raw prawn, arrived topped with some gleamingly fresh sea urchin made into a granita. It was paired simply with some cucumber and grassy, rich local olive oil. I found this to be a little genius…cold, nude, and meltingly sexy; like something a mermaid would eat.
A very cute baby red mullet tapa arrived, tail in tact poking out of its fried tempura skin. They served it whole, d-boned, on a tiny bed of rocket with a honey mustard vinaigrette and two single wedges of radish. Stark yet inviting, like the restaurant itself.
A heart-warming and satisfying plate of prawn and “ciciria” arrived, ciciria being a kind of chicory or perhaps the mother of puntarelle, with a bitter celery like flavour. This was tossed last minute with tiny croutons into a simple tomato broth producing a rich and elegant flavour.
Then came a dish of baby ravioli stuffed with sepia ink, and served with spinach puree. This was curiously fried, creating a crispy crusty texture contrasting with the firm fresh pasta and the intense and awesome burst of ink onto the tongue. I was still noticing a real lack of seasoning on each dish, my one and only compliant (except that heavenly bread, which was perfect).
Finally, a finale of turbot fillet, coupling rather well with a slice of foie gras and a dash of spinach puree. I suppose these are the two most glamorous of products from both land and sea, so why not? A very masculine and hearty choice, with intensity and boldness in its pairing and its flavours.
Fossaceca is excellent with sourcing and understanding his products. The freshness of the fish and seafood was beautiful, and his gentle and simple way of dressing it up without hiding this freshness was inventive and appealing, making each dish seem so simple but in fact was highly complex and perfectly executed. I would come back to Vasto again just to sample his cuisine, it was done so well. I look forward to seeing Fossaceca make it to star two.