BATAVIA — Risotto may be a rather simple dish — it’s rice cooked in broth, perhaps with meat or vegetables — but there is nothing simple about preparing it. Risotto is delicate, easy to ruin, and requires constant, focused attention.
When done right, risotto will always be a customer favorite. Sunny’s Restaurant, 12 Batavia City Center, does it right.
Owner Tina Rose and chef Mike Mattern revamped the restaurant’s menu a few years ago and agreed that they needed a risotto offering. They decided on a seafood risotto that features langoustines and grilled jumbo shrimp. It has been so popular, that it is now the eatery’s signature dish.
“We really wanted to add some risotto items to the menu, because that seemed to be a popular thing in other restaurants that I had been to,” Rose said over lunch on Thursday, adding that Sunny’s also offers a chicken and mushroom risotto. “And we all loved risotto here, too. So our cooks and I just pulled it together. People love it; it’s ordered a lot.”
Rose, who worked at Sunny’s for 14 years before purchasing it in 2000, estimated that the restaurant will serve upwards of 20 seafood risottos in a week.
She also admitted that the dish is time consuming.
“You really have to stand over the stove,” she said. “You have to keep stirring and stirring. It takes a good hour. It’s nothing you can walk away from.”
An 11-year veteran of the kitchen, Mattern said the restaurant will cook about two or three batches of risotto a week and that it is mostly prepared ahead of time.
“The prep is the hardest part. It takes 20 minutes from raw arborio rice in stock to where it’s actually ready. That’s not feasible on a line. What we do is get it three-quarters cooked, lay it out on a sheet pan, and cool it down. That way, we can bring it up to the line and it only has about six minutes from start to finish to look like this,” he said, pointing at the plate in front of him. “But the prep is the hardest. You’re constantly stirring, because there’s so much starch, it can burn on you in a second. That’s the art of it, getting it not to burn.”
The kitchen staff uses a shrimp stock in the seafood risotto and leaves the rice slightly al dente, as it should be. The langoustines add a nice flavor to the dish, which is topped with four grilled shrimp that are seasoned with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.
Rose admitted to eating a lot of risotto, saying that she likes the texture.
“It’s a cross between rice and a pasta, so it’s that great combination of both,” she said.
The seafood risotto sells for $23.