A TASTE OF SARDEGNA
Il Fornaio at The Village at Westfield Topanga presents its May “Festa Regionale” menu showcasing dishes from the island region of Sardegna, scheduled to run between May 2 and 22.
As the second largest island in the Mediterranean right behind Sicily, Sardegna sits separated from the remainder of Italy by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea, refusing to fall victim to the foreign influences brought to the rest of the mainland through conquests – thus remaining true to its origins throughout the centuries. Agriculture in Sardegna equates first and foremost to grazing; raising livestock is the proverbial backbone of the region’s economy, accounting for 25-percent of all sheep raised in Italy. Because some shepherds have no way of keeping milk from sheep – often made into one of the most popular of Italian cheeses, pecorino – fresh in remote parts of the island, they often make cheese right on the spot…and it is Sardinian pecorino that is featured in Il Fornaio’s Tamatta cun Casu and Malloreddus con Polpettine, the cheese being just one of several products the famed Italian eatery has imported especially for its May “Festa Regionale” menu.
Il Fornaio at The Village at Westfield Topanga, lorded over by general manager Joel Barajas and chef Giuseppe DiMola, offers the most authentic Italian dining experience outside of Italy and has been designed specifically for the community it serves. To this end, the Woodland Hills location presents a dizzying array of premium-quality Italian delicacies paired with incredible wines and cocktails in a beautiful Southern California setting, with these elements best demonstrated by “Festa Regionale,” Il Fornaio’s monthly exploration of the food and wine of the different regions of Italy. The restaurant announced its May Festa Regionale menu, set to showcase the dishes from the island region of Sardegna, which will run from May 2 to May 22.
Gianpaolo Putzu, native chef seasoned in the ways of Sardegna-sourced culinary arts, grew up in a small town in the island region where sustainable cooking was a way of life, and his philosophies are often observed by Il Fornaio chef staff for inspiration, guidance and insight. “Sardinian food is simple, seasonal and made to last,” says Putzu. “When one lives on an island, he or she learns to cook by the calendar; during Easter, we often ate lamb, while in the summer we ate a lot of artichokes. One thing I did learn to prepare early on was fregola, a bead-shaped toasted semolina pasta made without eggs. Fregola is unique to Sardegna, representing our centuries-old version of couscous but larger, lasting a long time in the pantry. Traditional fregola is just one of the specialties being served on the Il Fornaio May menu with Costicine d’Agnello al Mirto.”
Among the appetizer – or “Antipasti e Zuppa” – selections on Il Fornaio’s May Festa Regionale menu are Zimino d’Aragosta e Granchio, fresh crab and vegetable soup with Maine lobster stock; Tamatta cun Casu, organic tomato salad with spring onions, basil, Sardinian pecorino cheese and red wine vinaigrette and Delizie del Mare, calamari with pepperoncino sauce, grilled shrimp and scallops, served with fregola nera and pomodorini grattnati. Pasta dishes include Malloreddus con Polpettine, ridged shell pasta with beef and pork meatballs in tomato sauce; Spaghetti all’Aragosta, fresh one-pound Maine lobster sautéed with tomatoes, garlic, shallots and brandy, tossed with imported spaghettini and Risotto con Bottarga di Muggine, carnaroli rice with fresh crab, artichoke, bottarga and Sardinian extra-virgin olive oil.
Sardegna-themed entrees include Sogliola alla Sassarese, grilled petrale sole fillets with chopped fresh tomato and lemon; Branzino al Vermentino, wild seabass filet sautéed with green and Kalamata olives and tomatoes, fregola nera and fennel with Vermentino wine sauce and Costicine d’Agnello al Mirto, grilled lamb chops served with Mirto sauce, grilled asparagus, pomodorini gratinati and fregola. A “Taste of Sardegna” three-course tasting menu is also available, as is a special selection of wines perfectly paired to the dishes.
“The traditional cuisine of Sardinia was in some ways a contradiction – an island civilization that did not incorporate seafood into its diet,” concludes general manager Barajas. “However, today much has changed and now seafood has been embraced by Sardinians, no longer having to fend off invaders or pirates…but that’s just the beginning of the Sardegna story, and we are extremely proud to offer the traditional cuisine of this culturally-rich region of the world, prepared by one of the most experienced lead chefs we’ve ever had the privilege of working with.
Il Fornaio of Woodland Hills is located at 6320 Topanga Canyon Boulevard and can be reached by calling (818) 297-1700. Restaurant hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11 am to 11 pm Friday and Saturday. For more information visit www.IlFornaio.com/WoodlandHills.