Eat This Now: Fried Risotto Balls from Cotto

Chef Giuseppe Di Gennaro serves them with a side of cheese fondue.

Photograph by Jared Sych

Giuseppe Di Gennaro is a man who knows his arancini. The fried risotto balls have become a bit of a calling card for the chef, who many Calgarians know from his former restaurants Borgo and Capo. When it came to the question of including them on the menu at Di Gennaro’s new place, Cotto, he didn’t need to think twice.

“I knew if I didn’t put them on the menu there would have been a lot of requests,” Di Gennaro says. “It’s so simple to make, but people love it so much. And we put a lot of love into it.”

Here’s how much arancini means to Di Gennaro and his customers: while arancini is typically made of leftover risotto, there is no actual risotto dish on Cotto’s menu. The kitchen makes risotto just for the arancini, flavoured simply with vegetable broth, white wine, onions, salt, butter and olive oil. Di Gennaro cooks it to the point where the rice still has some bite, because no one wants mushy arancini.

Di Gennaro takes that simple risotto and mixes in mascarpone and grana padano cheese, cools it off, then rolls it into balls and coats them in breadcrumbs. From there they get fried until they’re perfectly crispy.

One thing that makes Cotto’s arancini special is their absolute simplicity. He doesn’t stuff them with meat or a gooey cheese-bomb centre. The idea is to keep them fairly light so that customers can order them as an appetizer to share and still have room for an entre. Not that this dish doesn’t feature gooey cheese – Cotto’s arancini come with a side of cheese fondue, made from a mixture of cream, gorgonzola, grana padano and other cheeses.

The arancini at Cotto come four to an order and cost $12. Pair them with a red from Cotto’s extensive list of Italian wines.

314 10 St NW, 587-356-4088,

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