They've known each other for just a year, but there's already a seasoned understanding: at the helm of Aimo and Nadia BistRo, Sabrina Macrì and Beatrice Perin celebrate the elegance of simplicity in the "pop" establishment of the group.
They are like day and night, like Wes Anderson and Tarantino, in some ways like oil and water. Sabrina Macrì and Beatrice Perin are the chef and the maitre of Aimo and Nadia's BistRo, women with such contrasting personalities that they create something highly harmonious for the customer. Although for some, having two women at the helm of a "high-level establishment" may still be an issue, it is not for us. Therefore, we won't dwell on the issue of the gender gap or customer gender ignorance; instead, we'll focus on the professionalism and mindset of these two very different yet realistically on-point women.
A brief introduction to BistRo is necessary. Ro stands for Rossana Orlandi, the grand dame of Italian design, one of the most influential figures in the global design field. A talent scout, a discoverer of what design should still do, simplify human life and the planet we live on. The BistRo is on the same street - Via Matteo Bandello, Milan - where Rossana Orlandi has concentrated all her activity after winning a Compasso d'Oro and much work in the fashion industry. Now, try to imagine how frequented this place is during Design Week; it's practically a pilgrimage site. And, as you know, pilgrims are always thirsty and hungry.
In this case too, another pair of women, Rossana Orlandi and Stefania Moroni, had the foresight to think of a place that reflects Ro's unmistakable style, in a dimension of elegantly Italian cuisine, told without stiffness and with a lively welcome. Thus, BistRo was born. "We face Design Week with tears." Beatrice jokes, but not entirely, about the impact of the famous Milanese week. Sabrina simply nods in agreement.
"Our most loyal customers explicitly tell us they won't show up. They know there will be a special menu, faster and non-stop service, and more cold dishes. From morning to night, the flow of people is unbelievable, a tsunami of people. The bar is busy, and for all these reasons, people from other Aimo and Nadia establishments always come to help us. It's a week focused exclusively on foreign customers, with a focus on the aperitif, which we've noticed has worked well in recent years."
A week to toughen them up, as Tolkien would say. The girls, despite everything, know what to expect and have turned it into a business idea to maximize their efforts. They've known each other for just over a year, yet there's already a seasoned understanding. Perhaps because both have been thrown into the same burning embers, and nothing creates a sense of unity like a situation where sleeves need to be rolled up. Sabrina, a woman who loves the background and hard work, raised in the Mediterranean world of family relationships, absorption, juggling, and the third act of tradition, wishes she could immediately break the ice with Beatrice, steal her ability to engage in dialogue and dialectics. Then she calls her stubborn.
Beatrice, on the other hand, a worldly woman, a versatile spirit who has worked abroad for many years, envies Sabrina's precision and meticulousness. And also her seriousness and punctuality. Conversely, she nags her for worrying too much, for not taking things lightly. Sabrina continues to nod. I wonder if Alessandro and Fabio, the chef duo at Il Luogo di Aimo and Nadia, specifically created this duo. Knowing them, the suspicion is well-founded. The discussion of couples leads to a reflection on the world of gastronomy and the epochal change it is experiencing. Beatrice makes it clear without mincing words. "Gastronomy is a life choice, and we are among the last. It's going through this crisis because it used to have laborers. Now, you can't find the staff numbers anymore; you have to find someone who truly believes in it. Abroad, it's different; they don't have our training, although they pay a lot of attention to working conditions. If you leave here, Italy and France, you can do anything. Abroad, you get paid more, but you come out of it not being independent."
At BistRo, as in the other establishments in the Aimo and Nadia galaxy, they rest for two days a week, with exceptions like during Design Week. One thing is clear: in this family, they help and correct each other within a constant calibration and getting to know each other better. "I'm totally transparent with the guys; I like giving them responsibility right away. The guys in the dining room are young and have their flaws, but we can speak our minds. I'm learning that teaching is also beautiful. Our job is communicating with the public, being express psychologists. People are always different, and we must be able to read between the lines of their personalities. Table reading is the foundation because I also have to be the intermediary between Sabrina and the kitchen. By nature, I'm much more easygoing, but I have to realize when I have a customer in front of me who wants to be treated with more discretion, distance, and formality sometimes."
As we were saying, correction is something that should be taken without resentment. So it becomes a growth element, a personal micro-crisis that makes them more motivated, more professional, and without too many words, better. "At the beginning, I always wanted to go above and beyond. I thought, I've made it too simple; my mind wandered towards stratospheric things. Fabio and Ale told me, look, there's no need, the essential thing is the taste. For me, it was a liberation and a push to focus even more on the cuisine I had in mind." This time, Sabrina not only nods but speaks respectfully and without flattery about those who chose her and how the choice is now hers every day. Beatrice also reflects on her "superior's" vision and how diversity has made her grow. "Alberto (Piras, sommelier at Il Luogo di Aimo and Nadia) and I have very different palates. He is all about France, the whole of France. I have lived in Canada, Australia; my on-the-job training started in hipsterism, so macerated, natural wines. Collaborating with Alberto means that even these last types of wines must be clean, without those faults that are just trendy. It's growth for me, paying attention to the little details"
We could say that the elegance of simplicity is the essence of the dishes prepared by Sabrina. In appearance, it is. Let's say it's not the simplicity of repeated recipes, of home cooking. Instead, it's a dive into Italian culture, rejuvenated by the hands of a memory explorer.
"In my cuisine, Aimo and Nadia are the foundation, and I feel it's mine. For me, it's the cuisine of memory, rediscovered within to provide new sensations to the customer. I try to convey my memory with the dish; all dishes are designed this way. Dishes are simple but not simple in taste. I use a maximum of 2-3 ingredients, which I work and transform with all the technique at my disposal."
The Rabbit stuffed with vegetable caponata is one of the dishes that's gaining the most attention. In essence, it's a traditional recipe, yet Sabrina brings it to life through complex preparation and hard work, enhancing both the protein and vegetable components. In a way, she's also paying tribute to her grandmother. This is evident, and people quickly come back for more. The full name of the dish is Local rabbit stuffed with eggplant caponata, mustard-flavored melting potatoes, a dish that recalls the typical Sunday roast, at Grandma's house, the same one as before. The local rabbit is deboned and stuffed with fried eggplant caponata, then browned and baked. The roast you're used to will be a distant memory, and even the potatoes, layered, crispy, and light, can bring tears to your eyes.
Another dish that has captivated our minds and palates: Fresh pasta buttons stuffed with Venetian liver, caramelized onion, apple vinegar reduction. Venetian liver goes on a business trip in a first course, it starts smart working enclosed in a ravioli-shaped bungalow and delivers the presentation of a lifetime. The liver is cooked with lots of onions and bay leaves, and on the buttons, a milk cream made with apple vinegar is added. Caramelized Tropea onion to finish. A dish that, when you see it, you think is extremely comforting. It's the same when you taste it, with a well-pronounced acidic dimension yet inclusive.
For many, tripe is a memory. It's pleasant for some, and for others, it's an acquired taste. With Tripe, roasted marrow with pickled vegetables, these people, and even the skeptics, have the opportunity to forgive and be forgiven for anything. Veal tripe is cleaned, washed, and cut. Then, it's slow-cooked with celery, carrot, onion, and bay leaves. No tomato sauce; it's cooked white for 3-4 hours over low heat to achieve a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Then comes the stroke of genius, a slice of roasted peach to provide fresh sweetness and degreasing. Lastly, pickled scallion and celery and the pleasant bitterness of fried sage. A reinterpretation that, if we were a bit less lazy, could outshine any tuna tataki, avocado toast, or poke bowl.
The refrain remains the same on desserts. Desserts of memory, step forward. Today is soufflé day. Here, in the form of Iced strawberry soufflé with chocolate crumble, a summer version made with fruit puree, combined with egg whites and sugar. The swelling that emerges from the ramekin is the sign we've been waiting for, the crust on the surface is the fetish we want to break, and the chocolate crumble inside is better than a Kinder Surprise. Sabrina isn't our grandmother, but for the taste of her dishes, we'd want to dine at her place every Sunday and every other day too.
BistRo Aimo e Nadia
Via Matteo Bandello, 14, 20123 Milano MI
Tel: 02 4802 6205