Chef Dustin J. Trani is the Executive Chef at J. Trani’s Ristorante in San Pedro as well as DOMA in Beverly Hills. Earlier this year, Chef Trani was well-deservedly named as one of the Top 5 Rising Chefs in the U.S. by Gayot Magazine. On June 6th J.Trani’s Ristorante hosted their first wine dinner.
It was an extraordinary meal. With nearly three decades of dining in San Pedro, I can confidently declare that this meal was the best served in our town. Ever. Chef Trani paired a five course menu with wines from Napa Valley’s Franciscan Estates. Every element of every dish had a purpose, each in perfect balance. He deftly orchestrated a symphony of wine and food. It was an absolute pleasure to experience the Chef”s passion and commitment to perfection first hand.
My version of the Chef’s pasta course is simplified, to say the least. Where the Chef studied pasta making in Italy, I bought packaged cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s. Where undoubtedly, the Chef simmered his veal stock in an hours-long process, I purchased French Demi-Glace from Whole Foods Market. My recipe is an everyday version of that extraordinary plate served at the outstanding wine dinner.
J. Trani’s Ristorante Wine Dinner
Fifty-three guests enjoyed the casual yet sophisticated ambiance of the upstairs banquet room, softly lit and dressed in white linens. Guests mingled over the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc with its lively aromas of lime zest and lemon grass, and balanced citrusy flavors. The Chef paired this wine with his first course, a Dungeness Crab Cake over Burrata with a roasted pepper emulsion. At this point we already knew we were in for a treat.
Chef Trani’s second course was a delightful presentation of smoked duck carpaccio adorned with petite frisee, pistachio, feta, and a divine blackberry vinaigrette. The team expertly paired the Franciscan Chardonnay 2011 with this dish. The Chardonnay’s apple, vanilla, and spice notes harmonized perfectly with the smoked duck course.
In addition to superb food and wine, the evening was fun! Tables were set for eight people so guests were able to get to know their table-mates throughout the evening. Needless to say it was a vivacious affair. Between courses, the Chef and the Wine Specialist would have to quiet the room to share highlights of the upcoming courses.
Trani, in the kitchen by age 5 and trained by his father and grandfather, went to Belbo, Italy after college where he studied pasta making at Guido da Costigliole. Supple and layered, with flavors of ripe berries, bing cherries, cocoa and sweet vanilla the Merlot 2009 paired elegantly with his third course, a Truffle Scented Mascarpone Tortellini dressed with a rich veal reduction, beech mushrooms, and crispy bread crumbs and fried sage. This course was powerful in its simplicity.
When the wine enhances the flavors of the food and the food simultaneously enhances the characteristics of the wine the result is a stellar match, an exceptional wine pairing. This was completely evident in the fourth course, Grilled Colorado Lamb Chop with Vanilla Poached Butternut Squash. Melt-in-the-mouth lamb cracklings, micro arugula, and a lamb reduction completed the dish. Franciscan Estates Magnificat 2007, a seamless red Bordeaux blend named after Johann Sebastian Bach’s 1723 musical masterpiece was the highlight. With complex flavors of dark berries, mocha, and sage and a long luxurious finish, Franciscan’s Magnificat and Trani’s Lamb made for a brilliant composition.
The finale was heavenly – imported Italian Gorgonzola Dolce topped with Moscato Poached Pear. Artistically adorned with petite midnight basil, bacon and amaretti cookie dust, pear and moscato reduction.
Dessert was served with Inniskillin Icewine from Canada. The Vidal grape hybrid yields intense flavors from the frozen-on-the-vine process resulting in a nectar reminiscent of marmalade with bacon sugar. The meal could not have ended on a sweeter note. Thank you, Chef!
My Interpretation of Chef Trani’s Pasta Course
Truffle Scented Tortellini, Veal Reduction
Beech Mushrooms, Olive Oil toasted Bread Crumbs, Crispy Sage Leaves
- Cheese Tortellini
- Beech Mushrooms, Stems Trimmed
- White Truffle Oil
- Veal Demi-Glace
- Fresh Sage Leaves
- Fresh Bread Crumbs
- Olive Oil
Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Cook beech mushrooms in simmering water for five minutes. Drain. Add mushrooms to the cooked pasta, toss with white truffle oil. (My favorite brand is from my friends at Gourmet Attitude in NYC). Season with a little sea salt.
Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan combine one part demi-glace with four parts water. Bring to a light simmer and whisk to form a sauce that coats the back of a spoon, about six minutes.
Plate the pasta-mushroom mixture. Drizzle with veal reduction. Finish with bread crumbs and sage leaves.