A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Carmelo Sortino - The Man Who Cooks With His Hands
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Carmelo Sortino & Roberta Baseggio


Last Monday my friend Tim Turner invited me to go to a cooking class at IlCentro, the Italian Cultural Centre.

This centre, Slocan at Grandview Avenue, of almost constant activity is not to be confused with that other centre of constant activity the Istituto Italiano di Cultura on West Hastings. It is in the latter that in a series of evenings I watched the projection of Montalbano, a magnificent Italian TV series about a police inspector in Sicily. The series is most respectful to the novels of Sicilian Andrea Camilleri.

Through the years I have marveled at how a country like Italy (the Germans and the Americans have lots more money) can have such a large cultural presence in Vancouver where not only are cooking classes offered, but lessons in Italian, baroque concerts and lectures on opera and the navy of the ancient Romans.

If I understand correctly, the Istituto will be closing its doors in September because of severe budget cuts. This will mean that it will be on the shoulders of IlCentro to parade to our benefit all that is good and wonderful about Italy. Few might now that there is a museum at IlCentro where you can explore the contributions of Italians to our city.

But back to the cooking classes.

There were 18 of us in one of the ballrooms of IlCentro. We faced chef (and artist) Carmelo Sortino. Many who live in West Vancouver might remember his restaurant there, Carmelo’s. Working with Sortino was a delightful young woman with a black Prince Valiant haircut, a lithe body and who with her demeanor reminded me of Audrey Hepburn steering a Vespa around Rome with Gregory Peck in tow. Alas! Roberta Bassegio is not Roman, (better still!) she is Venetian. With Sortino born in Sicily, the team we faced pretty well represented two aspects in opposite ends of Italy.

Chef Sortino, a low key chef was hands on from the beginning. While I consider myself a pretty good cook I learned lots, from how to cut with a knife, how not to (never cut basil or sage) do things to learning, finally that making ravioli from scratch is something I want to pursue now.

He cooked our three course meal:

1. Chef’s Choice of Assorted Bruschetta
2. Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with Butter and Sage Sauce
3.Filet Mignon with Porcini Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Small Potatoes and Asparagus
4. Dessert –Sicilian Cannoli

With breaks between, we ate the dish and a man, Donne DiPasquale, who looked exactly like American actor William Bendix poured us wines from the firm he represents, Stile Brands. Imagine my delight when the DiPasquale asked me to choose from two different white wines, as his voice was just like William Bendix’s!

With DiPaquale I met IlCentro Cultural Coordinator, Giulio Recchioni, who with his dark eyes and little beard looked like he could easily have been haunting the ancient alleyways of Mantua with doublet and rapier.

This group of Italians made this Argentine (me) feel at home. The food was terrific and simple to make. Of course it was made simpler by the fact that Miss Baseggio represents the German made Thermomix and with that machine (it is compact) you can do anything except, perhaps clean the kitchen sink. It can steam, grate, mix, make pasta, make pizza dough, butter and incredibly when you add the ingredients the machine has a built-in scale.

I have since then found out that Carmelo Sortino is an artist, a painter who specializes in fruit and landscapes. This troubles me as I would be truly undecided if I were to be invited up to his flat in West Vancouver to see his etchings or invited to check out Miss Baseggio’s Thermomixes, and her ballerina slippers at her place. 


As we were about to leave I pointed out Turner’s socks to Sortino who commented, “Just like the logo for Juventus.”

What would be my wish list now? I would like to attend a class with Sortino cooking the recipes that his fellow  Sicilian, Salvo Montalbano loves. Eggplant would certainly be in that menu.





     

Previous Posts
Mower Heaven

Utilis - Not

That Goldfinch On Hold

But Peers Beyond Her Mesh

Where Have You Gone Husker Red?

That Egg Chair

An Invitation - Not

Separate & Sulky

Out Tangoing Tango

Heraclitus & My Ghosts Of Dance



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7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17

4/30/17 - 5/7/17

5/7/17 - 5/14/17

5/14/17 - 5/21/17

5/21/17 - 5/28/17

5/28/17 - 6/4/17

6/4/17 - 6/11/17

6/11/17 - 6/18/17

6/18/17 - 6/25/17

6/25/17 - 7/2/17

7/2/17 - 7/9/17

7/9/17 - 7/16/17

7/16/17 - 7/23/17

7/23/17 - 7/30/17