Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mascarpone for the Masses

Part of the myth of the classic superhero is that they walk among us, unrecognized, until the moment when their skills are required, whether to save a damsel in distress or to prevent a runaway train from plunging into a ravine. Whether they slip around a corner to strip down to their tights or simply take off as is from the street, they're inevitably paragons of beauty and rectitude.

My superheroes play just as important a role, even though they rarely get comic books written about them or movie deals based on their life stories. Today's story in the Oregonian's FoodDay, titled "Lessons from a Mascarpone Maestro," is about just such a person.

Marco Frattaroli was born in Rome to his mother, a university professor, and his father, an American earning his medical degree in Italy. He inherited his love of food from his family, since his father's parents had a restaurant in Philadelphia, and his mother's family were from Brescia, in Lombardy, known for its cheeses, salamis and prosciutto.

As a child his family lived and traveled extensively in Europe, then as a young man he came to Portland to go to college at PSU. He stuck around, selling Roman antiquities and, oddly enough, hunting accessories, before deciding he wanted to learn to bake the kind of bread he remembered from his childhood. A stint as an intern in Italy taught him the skills he needed, and he and a friend opened the Tuscan Bakery, one of a small handful of artisan bakeries operating in Portland at the time (others were Pierre’s, Portland French Bakery, Le Panier and Bread & Ink).

He eventually opened Basta's Trattoria in 1992 in a renovated fast food joint, using reclaimed and recycled materials for the interior, with murals by Sandy Sampson, his first wife. Dedicated to local, organic and house-made ingredients, it was quite unusual for its time. And that kind of effort, especially spanning more than two decades, qualifies as heroic, at least in my book.

Video and photos by Randy Rasmussen for The Oregonian.

No comments: