Sunday, February 17, 2019

Pizzeria da Lioniello, Succivo (Ce)

One of the reasons that I feel lucky to live in Campania since there are plenty of pizzerias to choose from, each offering  more that just a good pizza, but a pleasurable evening out.  My recent trip to Pizzeria da Lioniello is one example.  I went on a Wednesday evening- early- just as it was opening to ensure I got a table and a chance to chat with Salvatore Lioniello- pizzamaker and owner. alongside his brother Michele.  Lioniello is  young with a dynamic and magnetic personality.  His signature fedora hat was not only on his head, but throughout the pizzeria as well, included the plateware, napkins, glasses and-yes- the pizza ovens.

 Lioniello picked up the menu and we had a chat about some of the newest pizzas.  Pizzas such as 'A cas' r'a nonn' which in dialect is translated as 'Grandma's house.' What's on top?  creamy beans, sausage, provola cheese, and fried parsely.  Or his limited edition Aria d'inverno - Winter air with velvety potatoes, smoked provola cheese with veal cheek, a reduction of red wine, and crunchy leeks.  Or would I be interested in classics such as margherita or marinara, Lioniello asked.  Actually, I told him.  There's a pizza that I'd been thinking about all day.  This one, I said, as I pointed to my telephone which was opened to the pizzeria's Facebook page.  Ok!  he smiled, and headed to one of three wood burning ovens.  I followed - Salvatore - Let's add a frittata di pasta before I try the pizza.

Just a few minutes later, their famous fried pasta arrived at my table filled with creamy besciamella, ham, ground beef and peas.

From my seat I could see Lioniello and his team prepare pizzas from behind the large glass window.  I decided to get up and take a closer look, just like what the curious children in their father's arms had been doing all evening.

Salvatore Lioniello

Time for mine!  I just was just as he was adding the finishing touches.

The finishing touches to Oreste - a Lioniello classic with sausage,

walnut cream, porcini mushrooms,

grated cheese and basil.

I finished my pizza - decided to skip dssert (this time) and headed to the window to wave goodbye to Lioniello.  Goodbye?

More like a see you later...

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Fantastic First, Chef Francesco Sposito, Taverna Estia, Brusciano (Na)

It had been over a year since my last visit to Taverna Estia.  Too long, I reminded myself as I made the 30 minute or so drive towards the 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Brusciano just outside the city of Naples.
After checking out the new dining room and wine cellar, I sat down to look over the menu.  To slowly look over every page before deciding on which tasting menu I wanted to try.  The decision was easy.
Mario (Sposito), I said.  Today I'd like to try this one - CampAnia. 

CampAniaChef Francesco Sposito's tasting menu which feautred a particular dish that caught my eye.  Sposito's vision/version of the classic pasta alla genovese.  Pasta alla genovese, for those who don't know, is a classic Neapolitan pasta dish featuring a sauce of beef and onions that have been slow cooked together for hours.  It's probably one of my favorite dishes to prepare since the aromas that fill the house are comforting.  A fine example of slow cooking Campania style.

So what would Sposito - the youngest chef in Europe to receive 2 Michelin stars share with me that afternoon?  What would arrive from the pass and join me at my favorite table by the window?

Fresh homemade tortelloni pasta filled with onions.  Each package of pasta was placed on top a circle shaped battuta di manzo, which is raw beef finely chopped by hand.  The chef added a juice made from flavorful Piennolo tomatoes as well as tart green apple spheres and a cream made from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bifulco Exclusive, Ottaviano (Na)

A trip to the butcher's.  Whether you go once, twice, three or more times a week, it usually isn't so exciting. For me, at times, it had become, well...ordinary.

Luciano, Franco and Nando Bifulco

So it was refreshing to pay a visit to th Bifulco family's latest undertaking- Bifulco Exclusive just a cuople of months old.   Franco Bifulco and his sons Nando and Luciano are butchers known for some of the best meat in Campania.  The family already has two locations in the small town of Ottaviano in the Naples province; Bifulco Braceria and Bif Burger.  So why add a third?  Wouldn't it compete?  No is their bet.   Their desire was to go from an ordinary shopping experince to an exclusive  one.

Bifulco Exclusive can be thought of as a real meat lovers' paradise.  The first floor is the butcher shop where shoppers can get a view of what goes on behind the scenes.  No secrets here! Large glass windows lets one see it all.  Then there is of course a wide selection of Bifulco meats, but here one can also purchase top quality cheese and deli items.  Not ready to go?  There is even a bar where you can order an aperitif and enjoy it on the second floor.

My destination that afternoon, however, was towards the third floor, to enjoy a sit down meal in a spacious dining room with a perfect view of the kitchen and pass.
When it is my first time to any location, I'm always tempted to try everything, but after speaking with Chef Roberto Lepre, responsible for developing the menu and putting together the brigade, we narrowed it down to just a few items.

Take a look!

First, an appetizer called arancino sbagliato- basically, an arancino made inside out.  The rice is inside while beef, peas, tomato sauce  and creamy cheese is on the inside.

Next - pork terrine with all the flavors of the popular reinforcement salad served in Campania during th Christmas season such as cauliflower, Neapolitan peppers, and anchovies.

Next, a taste of two main courses/secondi.
Beef shoulder (dry aged 180-220 days) with potatoes, porcini mushrooms and minestra nera greens.

I decided to take a few steps to the pass and get a closer look as they prepared my next dish starring Caserta black pork.

The pork is served with spring onions from nearby Nocera, ratte potatoes and rosemary mayonnaise.

Ready for the mini buns?  Lepre asked.  Would you like to try all 6?

Challenge accepted!

  • steamed mini bun, smoked salmon, wakame seaweed, provolone and hazelnut ointment
  • roast beef, lemon mayonnaise, raw champignon, creamy walnuts, and radicchio trevigniano
  • scottona beef (dry aged 90-120 days), minstra nera greens, bacon and taleggio cheese
  • lamb genovese and creamy goat cheese
  • porchetta (Bifulco selection) , Agerala provola, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and Jalepeno mayonnaise

Bifulco makes their own buns, too.  My favs were the porchetta...

and the scottana beef.

As usual, I needed a break before dessert.

They sent me two to try.

Dacquoise with hazelnuts, pink chocolate, mandarin and candied chestnuts.

Then Catalan cream with almonds, Gianduia, roccocò and passion fruit gelato.

The Bifulco family. Their desire was to go from an ordinary shopping experince to an exclusive one.
Did the succeed?  In my opinion, they are definitely on their way.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Fantastic First, Chef Francesco Franzese, Casa del Nonno 13, Sant'Eustachio (Sa)

It's been a little over  month since Chef Francesco Franzese has called Casa del Nonno 13 casa...home.  I decided to take the hourish drive to Sant'Eustachio in the Salerno province to check it out. Franzese served me several fantastic firsts, like this one - pasta e patate/pasta with potatoes.  Franzese, a Campanian chef has a bit of Japanese fusion in his soul.  

His pasta is a ravioli with a provola cheese filling. A litle licorice and octopus dashi- a light Japanese broth reminescent of the octopus broth stilled served in a few stret food stands today.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

An Evening 'A Casa' - Casa a Tre Pizzi, Mergellina (Na)

Chef Francesco Sodano
Casa a Tre Pizzi

My curiosity about the restaurant's name, a strong desire to discover creations by Chef Francesco Sodano, and a strong recommendation from a mutual friend lead me to Mergellina a couple of weeks ago. Casa a Tre Pizzi was my destination - a casa and possibly a new place to call home.

I entered as a sliding glass door revealed a very sleek dining room run smoothly by two brothers Andrea and Mirko Notaro. The brothers took me on a mini tour asked me where I'd prefer to sit; the main dining room on the comfortable velvety couch or in the smaller more intimate area which has a perfect view of Chef Sodano at the pass. He didn't have to ask twice! I chose the pass!

Notaro handed me the menu and this was my perfect opportunity to learn about the background of the name and the logo. I learned that Casa a Tre Pizzi was originally founded as a cantina/small bar that served wine run by Notaro's great great grandmother in Somma Vesuviana back in the early 1900s. The location was named after a triangular shaped house near the cantina which was basically the point of reference for customers to find the place. As time went by, the clientele grew as well as the location by adding food to their offerings. A year ago, with that same spirit and desire, Andrea and Mirko Notaro decided to transfer the casa to Mergllina.

It's always exciting for me to try a place for the first time. After studying the menu and a chit chat with Chef Sodano, I chose the Traditional tasting menu.


tapioca chip with Cantabrian anchovies, peppers, and algae powder

endive with marinated prawn, creme fraiche, and caviar.

fermented lentil falafel with colonnata lard and sumac

steamed then fried bao bun filled with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and truffles

Next, Sodano arrived to my table to talk to me about his first appetizer - his deer tartare with pomegranate, fermented leaves and soil flavor.

 Another one of Sodano’s dishes that I found it quite amazing was his appetizer called beef - grilled beef served with a green sauce and sedano rapa, or in English, celeriac.

Here's his egg 65 degrees with mushrooms and salted zabaglione.

Next up, his first courses starting with my favorite pasta format - spaghettone.    I took advantage again of my proximity to the pass to get a closer look.This plate of pasta, inspired by the tradition 'spaghetti, garlic, olive oil and chili pepper'  dish includes cream codfish, tomato water and tomato water for a touch of acidity. The chef's personal touches included a mix of 4 types of chili peppers and fermented black garlic.

Another fantastic first was his mescafrancesca.  This is a colorful pasta dish with provola cheese and potatoes.

Second course?  Of course. 
Salted cod – an item that pops up quit often on Sodano’s menu.   Fried in a light tempura batter and served with a marinated endive, pumpkin and black lime.

Sodano’s pre dessert.  A pre dessert gives diners a chance to clean their palate, a chance to go from a savory part of the meal to the sweet part of the meal. The chef’s pre dessert evening was a flashback of memories of his childhood in Somali Savannah. A flashback of the aromas from the various leaves grown in his grandmother's garden.  The chef lit some of his leaves to give that smoky flavor.  An aroma that embraced the small dining area and brought it to my table. The leaves housed a small mandarin orange, that when I raised the top, found a fresh frozen surprise of shaved mandarin ice.

Around 10 p.m., the chef invited me back to the pass to try his tiramigiu’, a twist on the classic Italian dessert tiramisu this featured mascarpone cheese, cocoa and coffe in various forms such as coffee gel, and coffee sponges.

Here's a look at the wines; a different glass for nearly every dish chosen for me by Andrea Notaro.

Dinner over - nearly three years that passed by too quickly.  On my way home, I thought back to what Notaro had told me about the history of Casa a Tre Pizzi - how slowly it grew into a gathering place for many.  I could see that potential here in Mergllina as well, with Mirko and Andrea, just celebrating their first anniversary.
Auguri e avanti cosi'!

My visit was on the 16th of January.  Since then, Casa a Tre Pizzi has changed their menu.
 'You'll just have to come back then,' Notaro wrote me.  
I just might do that! A presto