A return to the newly Michelin starred “Alice” in Wonderland
When a restaurant receives it’s first Michelin star the risk is that the fame goes to one’s head and what was once a great eatery can turn into a pretentious show piece. Thankfully that was not the case last night when I returned to Milan’s “Alice” restaurant with a couple of friends, one of whom was sampling the delights of Alice for the first time.
I first met Viviana Varese (Chef) and Sandra Ciciriello (Sommelier) a couple of years ago when I shot a photo expose of their restaurant and was instantly charmed by the atmosphere of Alice, the attention to detail, the teamwork in the kitchen, the presentation and of course the taste of their food. Experts in fish; Sandra is an ex fish monger and still attends Milan’s fish market every morning at 4am to select the best fish for the menu and Viviana grew up in Salerno in the south of Italy where she mastered her art of cooking fish within a family of restaurateurs and later with experiences with some of Italy’s most important chefs, most notably the 2 starred Gualtiero Marchesi, together they present a formidable team and Alice is testament to the hard work and passion they share.
Sadly last night Viviana was not in her usual place in the kitchen as she is currently show cooking at an event in London’s Piccadily Circus but the kitchen was in good hands with the team at Alice who to their credit have perfectly mastered the creative menu and are able to seamlessly carry on with business under the ever watchful eye of Sandra who is the epitomy of quality control.
We started our meal with a delightful selection of appetisers beautifully presented on a slate; salmon balls filled with a light mousse, wraps of fresh cheese with apple and honey, crunchy tubes filled with a parmesan cream. These appetisers change regularly depending on Viviana’s imagination but are always a delicious way to start the meal and the show doesn’t stop here. After our amuse bouche we are then served a pre-antipasto of lightly smoked sardines creatively served in a tin accompanied by fresh ricotta and a tomato salsa. For me these are the little touches that distinguish a great restaurant from a good restaurant and make the experience all the more memorable!
I should also mention the breads which are all home made (of course!) and arrive in a multi coloured array of splendor with varieties including olive bread, tomato bread, fruit loaf, puff pastry buns, focaccia, chicory bread and for those who prefer a simpler flavour some regular white bread. Between us we sampled them all. Well it would have been rude not to!
With temperatures already soaring in Milan we opted for a light meal and unanimously chose Alice’s famous Spaghettino with clams and calamari as our dish for the evening. As simplistic as this dish is, Viviana has a way of turning a classic into a masterpiece with a fusion of flavours and textures that provide a musical symphony in the mouth, with all the ingredients complimenting each other perfectly. From the softness of the clams, the tenderness of the calamari, the impeccably cooked pasta and the final crunch of the toasted anchovies scattered on top, the dish just works!
From our spaghetti we moved straight on to dessert but to give you a taster of some of the other dishes on the menu here are some of Alice’s wondrous creations including the Anchovy risotto, Lobster, Mullet, and Fish tartar.
As with our appetisers we are treated to a pre-dessert which bore some ressemblance to a mini cheesecake. It was in fact a coulis of raspberry served over yoghurt and a crunchy base of pan di spagna (spounge). I then opted for the “rosso” dessert which combined a beetroot soup with coconut ice-cream, shavings of white chocolate and mixed berries for a bold and fresh way to finish my meal.
Only I hadn’t quite finished as Viviana’s other skill, aside from fish, is pasticcerie and so we are treated to a final sweetner of mixed pastries to ensure we leave with full tummies and a lasting memory of our meal.
And so, what is there left to say except for those of you living or passing through Milan try and find a little time for an evening at Alice and you won’t be disappointed!
Via Adige 9 – 20135 Milano
Prenotazioni / Reservations: 02 54 62 930
Chiuso la domenica e lunedi a pranzo / Closed Sunday and Monday lunchtime
Orario apertura / Opening Times