Chef Ken Vedrinski – Trattoria Lucca & Coda del Pesce – Charleston, SC & a Recipe for Espresso Gelato

On our recent visit to Charleston we headed over to Lucca to get an update on the opening of Coda del Pesce.  As we talk to Vederinski about the location of the new restaurant and the menu, we watch as he makes the pasta for the evening’s service.  It’s fascinating to watch as he alternates between making perfectly textured hand rolled pastas, like raviolis filled with a luscious goat cheese mixture, hand rolled gnudi, or extruded pastas beautifully formed by his machine imported from Italy.  All the while he is multitasking as vendors come and go, he writes the occasional check, and continues to answer the phone to make a reservation.  “Can I get you a glass of wine?“ he asks, knowing the answer will be yes.  “I have a wonderful white wine from Friuli I know you will love.”  And of course, he’s right.

Making Corzetta for the evening's Crab Minestrone

Making Corzetti for the evening’s Crab Minestrone

On this particular day, while showing us how to make Corzetti (rolled and pressed pasta dough coins which he decorates with a wheat design from an old press he found in Philadelphia), Vedrinski told us “I love to go to Italy to get inspired.  There is a Michelin 2-Star restaurant that sits right on the Adriatic, Clandestino Portonovo.  You walk down a trail and there’s a little blue building that sits out on the beach.  That seven course meal I had there was one of the best of my life and I’ve never forgotten any of the courses.”  Maybe that dinner was the part of the inspiration for the evening’s Blue Crab Minestrone with fresh vegetables, a good Umbrian olive oil, and the precious little gems of Corzetti floating on the top.

Crudo is one of the specialties Vedrinki is known for (photo from Facebook)

Crudo is one of the specialties Vedrinski is known for (photo from Facebook)

“I recently turned 50 and at some point you just want to sit and relax.  I thought about buying a house in Italy, but doing business there is…so Italian.  They want $25,000 in cash up front before they begin to work with you,” he laughs, but tells us that his cousin did the deal with the guy and bought an old Roman farmhouse and it all worked out in the end.  “I know I will retire there some day.  Italian food is the best in the world.  I believe it in my heart.”  That retirement may be on the back burner for a while longer with two restaurants keeping him busier than ever.

There is passion in everything Chef Vedrinksi does

There is passion in everything Chef Vedrinksi does

In the meantime, Vedrinski is bringing Italy to Charleston by combining his talent, passion, and love for Italian food to both Lucca and Coda del Pesce.  “Lucca is like a trattoria that you’d find in Italy.  People are having fun and laughing.  There’s a good energy.  I come out and chat and then go back and cook.  When you leave, you are happy.  I think it’s the right way.”  That strategy has worked extremely well for him at Lucca.  I can’t wait to see what he does at Coda del Pesce.  Table for two, please.  Better yet, make that three.  There’s nothing better than dining with the chef and listening to him describe his cooking techniques and feeling the love that goes in to each dish.

The flavors and textures in this gelato were fabulous

The flavors and textures in this gelato were fabulous

Chef Vedrinski’s desserts are a perfect way to end a meal at Lucca.  The last time we were in town, we enjoyed his Strawberry Olive Oil Cake with Strawberry Gelato and a Strawberry Compote which was the inspiration for this dessert.  We’ve also had a selection of gelato flavors at Lucca, so he thought a recipe for Espresso Gelato would be perfect to share with my readers for their summertime desserts.

This recipe was the first that I prepared in our new Breville ice cream maker and we were really impressed.  I modified the recipe to work with this particular machine and took a few preparation tips from the booklet that came with it.  The texture was incredible; smooth and creamy and really luscious.

On the Gelato setting, the final texture is like a soft-serve ice cream

On the Gelato setting, the final texture is like a soft-serve ice cream

If you enjoy coffee ice cream, you will adore the richer and deeper espresso flavor of this gelato.  Serve with a shot of Amaretto or make Affogato for a delectable way to end a meal.

Place in an airtight container to freeze to desired texture

Place in an airtight container to freeze to desired texture

In fact, it’s so good, you may want to have a few scoops for breakfast the next day.  It’s the perfect way to combine your morning’s espresso with eggs and a glass of milk. 🙂

Combine your morning's caffene with a little dairy

Enjoy your morning’s caffeine with a few scoops of Espresso Gelato

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Espresso Gelato

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
.45 ounces ground espresso (from beans, not instant powder)
6 egg yolks, at room temperature
7 ounces sugar

Directions:

1. Combine milk, heavy cream, and ground espresso in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Stir thoroughly to combine liquids and ground espresso and let steep for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat with a hand mixer or wire whisk until doubled in size and the mixture is pale yellow. Set aside.

3. Strain the espresso grounds from the milk and cream mixture through a fine sieve into a clean bowl or large measuring cup. Gradually add the hot liquids to the egg yolks and sugar, tempering the mixture. Pour combined mixture into a clean medium-size saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, just until the mixture coats the back of a stainless steel spoon. When you can draw a line down the spoon and the mixture stays put, the custard is done. This should only take a few minutes. Do not overcook.

4. Pour the custard into a medium-size clean bowl. Let cool at room temperature and then cover. For best results, let the custard remain in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Freeze according to you ice cream maker’s directions. Remove and place in an airtight freezer container, covering the top of the gelato with saran wrap to avoid ice crystals. Freeze until ready to serve.

* The texture of the gelato was best after just several hours in the freezer.

Recipe adapted from Chef Ken Vedrinski
Trattoria Lucca – Charleston, SC and Coda del Pesce – Isle of Palms, SC

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