The Italian chef who puts lasagna in a toothpaste tube

Silvia Marchetti, CNN

    (CNN) -- Perhaps because it's so darned delicious, there isn't generally much radical experimentation done with Italian food -- except for that disastrous incident when someone put pineapple on a pizza.

Which is why young Italian chef Valerio Braschi's bizarre fine dining creations -- including a toothpaste tube full of lasagna -- are causing such a stir in Rome.

Braschi, 24, has been pushing the boundaries of classic cuisine at Ristorante 1978, a Michelin Guide-listed venue in the Italian capital's chic Trieste Salario district, in the hope of surprising diners, treating them to new taste sensations and confounding their expectations.

"My desire to experiment with daring new flavors and concoctions by creating new combinations is infinite, there are no boundaries in cuisine and I believe you must be open to everything," Braschi tells CNN.

"I want my clients to be flabbergasted at the sight of my dishes, and then realize once they've had the first bite -- 'oh, yes' -- that they recognize that flavor as lasagna because their granny made it each weekend."

Italians say "eating starts with the eyes," and it's certainly worth feasting on the photos of some of Braschi's extraordinary creations.

Lasagna in Tubetto (in a tube)

A creamy mix of beef ragout, béchamel, nutmeg and lasagna distillate is squeezed from a toothpaste tube onto a "toothbrush" of oven-baked egg pasta.

"The idea is to mimic the ritual of washing your teeth with the lasagna ingredients. My brother and I loved eating at breakfast the leftovers, cold from the fridge. It brings back memories of my granny, it's a taste of her," says Braschi, who says he loved how the cold lasagna bits stuck between his teeth.

At the end of the course, parmigiano reggiano cheese "water" is drunk as a mouthwash. Braschi aims to destabilize the eater by the way this composite dish is presented -- and eaten.

La Mia Santarcangelo (My Santarcangelo)

This is a tribute to Braschi's hometown of Santarcangelo di Romagna, on Italy's Adriatic coast.

Diners get to stare at a plate printed with a photo of the cozy location shot by Braschi's brother. Alongside it is a liquid version of the local piadina flatbread made with sausages, Santarcangelo water onions and roasted bell peppers.

"First you savor the view of the town, then you lick my version of the piadina," says Braschi.

Bitter Melanzana (Aubergine Bitters)

Braschi has a penchant for recycling food so he salvages the savory water that oozes out of roasted aubergine leftovers and mixes it with angostura sauce, soy sauce and bergamot juice.

It turns red and looks like a sample of Italy's popular red aperitif Bitter, and is served as an amuse-bouche.

Lasagna Lollipop

It looks like a bonsai white tree or a flower, but it's another of Braschi's reinterpretations of lasagna. The lollipop shape contains a mix of nutmeg, ragout sauce and lasagna distillate covered in a béchamel gel that creates a whitish coating of puffed, crispy egg pasta powder.

Marinara Pizza Sachet

Neapolitans would likely disapprove, but this unusual bite is perfect if you're on the go and crave a slice of pizza.

The dish looks like a small plastic bag containing colored powder. It's odorless, so to understand what it is you need to pop it into the mouth -- including the transparent sachet made with rice paper. Voilà -- pulverized marinara pizza flavors explode onto the taste buds: tomato sauce, garlic, dried oregano and roasted pizza crust powder.

Bruschetta Test Tube

We all know what bruschetta is: the iconic Italian slice of grilled bread usually served as an appetizer with various toppings, mainly olive oil, salt, garlic and bits of tomato.

But Braschi invites us to drink it in a test tube, rather than bite and chew it. This liquid version has just tomato, basil and garlic.

Uovo di Geppo (Geppo's Egg)

Don't be fooled: it's a fake egg, named after Braschi's favorite childhood hen. This dessert is a twisted bavarese with sesame and apricot filling shaped like an egg.

The shell is almond icing, while what looks like farmyard straw is actually crispy kataifi dough.


It's a godsend if you've just had a tooth implant but still want to enjoy a steak. This is a liquid chunk of beef emulsified with premium Spanish Rubia Gallega cattle fat.

Braschi uses ultrasound to turn break apart the meat and transform it into a succulent juice that's ready to sip.

Distilled Carbonara

It's the perfect example of an iconic pasta dish dissected and turned into booze, with all its ingredients.

The mix of black pepper broth, salted Zabaione with pecorino sheep cheese and roasted guanciale (pork cheeks) cream makes for a peculiar toast. Cheers!

Rabbit Ear

Again, this isn't a metaphor for something else. Italians adore eating succulent bunnies and Braschi enjoys cooking the animal's most unexpected parts.

What looks like a crispy potato chip served on a stone is actually the long ear of an Italian rabbit -- boiled, then dried and fried in olive oil until it's crunchy. The rabbit ear is served on a bed of oyster sauce with sea plankton caviar.

Zebra and Scampi

This isn't a joke, diners get exactly what's written on the menu, much to the shock of many.

It's one of Braschi's signature dishes, catering to wild meat lovers who crave both fish and red meat together. The zebra usually comes from South Africa, he says.

Bison Heart

No tricks this time -- rather than create something that looks like a bison's heart, Braschi this time serves up the real thing.

Plated on a granite rock, the sliced, blood-red piece of heart -- sourced from Umbria, the United States or Canada, is roasted and then barbecue-smoked, but seems as if it's still beating.

Plankton Foam

This dish allows diners to savor what whales eat each day: real plankton. Braschi imports it from Spain and spices it up with chocolate. Roasted scallops topped with cocoa beans float in a bed of green plankton foam.

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