Cuzco: The open kitchen at Cicciolina

November 30th, 2011
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While the eating options were a bit limited in Aguas Calientes, Cuzco was an entirely different story. One night, while looking for a place to grab a drink, we stumbled upon Cicciolina, an Italian place hidden in a courtyard of shops a block or two away from the main square.
We may have come for a drink, but as soon as I saw that our spot at the bar was directly in front of the open kitchen, it was pretty clear that we’d be spending hours there. See cooks, prep, pasta making and cocktail shaking after the jump.

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First, the pisco sours. The frothy cocktail is famous in these parts, so we had to give them a try. Topped with almost a meringue of shaken egg whites and sprinkled with bitters. Historically, I haven’t been much of a liquor drinker, but I wasn’t going to miss this local delicacy. The texture of the foam and the sweet, sour and tangy flavors over took any bite the pisco might have, regardless.
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The more piscos I had, the more camera happy I got. Between the cocktail shaking and the action off to the left in the kitchen, I wanted to shoot it all. The bartender joked, “I’m going to be famous in your country” after all the photos I took.
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This guy really fascinated both of us. He came up at one point with a blender pitcher, tossed a bunch of black, goopy stuff in there, mixed it all up and disappeared to the prep kitchen downstairs. Half an hour later, he brought up a huge wad of squid ink dough which he rolled out and cut right in front of us.
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Interestingly, more than a few places where we dined in Peru made their own pasta, something I don’t really expect here in the states, much less a place with a much smaller Italian history.
Pasta making is one of those things that I’m told is pretty straightforward, but always seems a little like magic to me. Watching him roll and re-roll and cut and hang all this gorgeous black pasta, didn’t dissuade me of that. In fact, it made me hungry.
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Honestly, seeing this plated a few times to go out to the dining room, I’m not sure anything could have stopped us from ordering it. Topped with a couple shrimp and tossed in a cream sauce, it made an amazing dish.
Another day, we returned to Cicciolina for a rather tasty brunch before taking a ride into the Sacred Valley, but that’s a story for another time.
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I’ve always loved getting a look at all the energy that goes into a professional kitchen. Since I’ve gotten back from South America, I’ve had the fortune to spend more time in a few here in New York for an upcoming project. Stay tuned for more details.

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