Semifreddo [say-mee-FRAYD-doh, ] Italian for "half cold," semifreddo culinarily refers to any of various chilled or partially frozen desserts including cake, ice cream, fruit and custard or whipped cream. Source: www.epicurious.com
The word Semifreddo (semi-chilled) would much better describe this winter in Moscow than the warm, comfortable Italian restaurant now called Semifreddo Mulinazzo. The Mulinazzo has been appended in honour of Chef Nino Graziano; after the name of his two Michelin star Il Mulinazzo in Villaftati, a village off the highway that connects Palermo to Agrigento in Sicily. At this Mulinazzo in Moscow on Rossolimo side street, you may need help from the valet to find parking among the black metal beasts crowding out the surrounding streets.
Semifreddo Restaurant is anything but half-cold, starting from the small grill to the right as you walk in off the street, to their wood-framed, light and bright terrace. It is here that Nino holds court in the evenings, personally grilling dishes for his favourite customers. The menu at Semifreddo is Italian, but Nino’s specialties are in fact Sicilian, with an emphasis on fi sh. The wine list, with the exception of Champagne, is exclusively Italian, and it must be one of the largest and intelligent selections in Moscow, with some of the best wines from every corner of Italy.
We visited Semifreddo twice, for dinner with last month’s wine tasting and again for lunch this month. At 1200 roubles, the Semifreddo’s business lunch includes a choice of
- Home-made Salad or Pea Soup with Ricotta, Speck and Fresh Mint,
- Aubergines with Cheese Sauce of Parmesan and Tomatoes or Penne All’Arrabbiata, and 3) a dessert choice of Ice Cream or Fruit. An easy choice for dinner is the Prix Fixe Sicilian Menu (3400 rubles) that includes a 1) Fish Tatar Assortment with Olive Oil and Lemon, 2) Baby Calmari and Artichokes Grilled with Sea Salt,
- Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lobster Pieces, Langoustine, and Fried Zucchini,
- Ravioli with Goat Cheese and Piquant Honey Sauce, and
- Semifreddo with Almonds.
For lunch, I started with a delicious Cream Squash Soup Con Seppie (Cuttlefi sh) and Toasted Almonds (550r) and John Ortega went for the Fish Soup la M dit rranee (1260r), which was brought in a large tureen holding enough for two servings. The Fish Soup was perfectly spiced in a tomato base and consisted mostly of shellfi sh, including calamari, scampi, shrimp, mussels and clams with Branzino (European Sea Bass). The Squash Soup was a wide bowl filled with the brilliant golden orange soup and an ample helping of the pure white pieces of cuttlefi sh, which at sight could be mistaken for a pasta until one bites into the firm, sweet flesh.
John ordered the Penne All’Arrabbiata (512r), traditionally prepared with chunks of tomato and ham, and I went for the Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lobster Pieces, Langoustine, and Fried Zucchini (960r). John called the Penne perfect. The Spaghetti was fl ush with a light creamy sauce and there were ample, bite-sized pieces of the shellfi sh and it made me regret we passed on a nice white wine with lunch.
We skipped dessert both at our wine dinner and the business lunch, but the selection looks marvelous starting with the Semifreddo with Almonds (490r).
Semifreddo has only a couple of rivals in Moscow for the name Best Italian, and like its rivals customers should be prepared to pay accordingly. But few restaurants, if any, can boast of a chef with a two Michelin star restaurant under his belt, and gracious Nino himself, with his kind and gentle manner, also enjoys mixing it with the guests. I hope we can return when he’s at work at his small open grill on his Sicilian terrace.