Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ischia Safari - 5th Edition, 15 and 16 September 2019

Chef Di Costanzo and Chef Palamaro
The 5th edition of Ischia Safari is just around the corner - literally.  In just a few days, the big green island of Ischia will be bubbling and bursting with activity with some of the biggest names in food and wine not only in Campania, but throughout Italy as well.
Ischia Safari is Chef Nino Di Costanzo ( Dani Maison -2 Michelin Stars)  and Chef Pasquale Palamaro's ( Ristorante Indaco - 1 Michelin Star) baby.  A baby whose intent is to raise money for aspiring and deserving youth in search of scholarships to enter into the restaurant world as well as help provide equipment and supplies needed for training at culinary schools.

There are two moments that will contribute to our fundraising with  proceeds of the tickets going  to the Professional Institute for Hotel and Catering Services" Antonio Turi "of Matera. This year, in fact - explains Chef Palamaro - the leading region will be Basilicata, in the year in which Matera is European Capital of Culture and is also Ischia's twin city”.

The fun begins on Sunday night, 15 September.  An exclusive gala dinner with top Michelin star chefs preparing a dinner at the beautiful Regina Isabella Hotel.  Here's the line up - Andrea Berton ("Ristorante Berton" of Milan), Andrea Aprea ("Vun" of Milan), the Cerea brothers ("Restaurant Da Vittorio a Brusaporto ”, Bergamo), Domenico Stile (“ Enoteca La Torre at Villa Laetitia ”, Rome), Emanuele Petrosino (“ Restaurant I Portici ”of Bologna), Francesco Sposito (“ Taverna Estìa ”in Brusciano, Naples), Gaetano Trovato ("Arnolfo", Colle di Val d'Elsa, Siena), Giancarlo Morelli ("Pomiroeu", Seregno, Monza), Jean Christophe Ansanay Alex (the Auberge de L'Île Barbe, Ile Barbe, Lyon), Pino Cuttaia (Restaurant La Madia, Licata, Agrigento), Vitantonio Lombardo (Restaurant Vitantonio Lombardo, Matera), Andrea Migliaccio and Manuel Conti (L'Olivo - Hotel Capri Palace, Anacapri) and many other chefs, artisans of taste, pastry chefs, pizza makers.  More info here.

Then on the evening of the 16th, over 200 stands feautring chefs, pizzamakers, and pastry chefs will take over the beautiful Negombo Spa with their delicacies, food and fun.

More info here.

New this year?  An after party on San Montano beach beginning at 11 pm for those who are not ready to go to bed just yet! Music provided by the  Frankie & Canthina Band.

"It is certainly one of the most important events on the island. We would like Ischia to present itself as a sort of center for promoting and enhancing the excellence of Italian food and wine. Because - explains Nino Di Costanzo - the products of our land are, together with our monuments and our culture, the best business card for those who honor us every year with their presence ".

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Notte di Stelle, September 9, 2019, Lettere Castle, Lettere (Na)

Notte di Stelle or Night f the Stars will be held  in Lettere (Na) on  Monday 9 September 2019. It is a  charity event created by Scatti di Gusto that combines food, culture and solidarity will take place at the spectacular medieval  castle of the town perched on the Lattari Mountains in the regional park to which it belongs. The ancient vestiges and the panorama of the southern part of the Gulf of Naples will be the backdrop to the group of chefs, pizza makers, artisans of taste and winemakers.  A full list can be found here.The aim of Notte di Stelle is to support the Sogni d’Oro project with donations from lovers of good things, which will make the departments of neurosurgery and day surgery of the Santobono Pausilipon Children's Hospital cheerful, colorful and suitable for their young patients.

To attend  Notte di Stelle it is sufficient to make a minimum recommended donation of 50 € per person (30 € for  those under 30) by Thursday 5 September with a bank transfer in favor of the Associazione Sostenitori Santobono Onlus on the Bank account Next IBAN: IT53L0335901600100000103988A, or directly on the Metoo platform by credit card, even until Monday 9 September morning. The reason for the transfer of the donation must be specified "participation in Notte di Stelle". For access you will need to show the receipt of the transfer.

It will also be possible to donate directly at the castle during the event by donating to the  volunteers of the University of Traditions who will take care of turning the proceeds to the SantoBono Hospital Supporters Association.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

La Locanda del Testardo, Bacoli (Na) - A Midsummer Night's Dinner

La Locanda del Testardo - the name alone puts a smile on my face.  Locanda in Italian means inn- so we're talking about a comfortable casual place where you can feel at home away from home.  In this case, describing a restaurant, not a hotel.

Testardo in Italian means stubborn.  A word that is not necessarily negative.  Synonyms like persistent, steadfast, unshakeable come to mind.  A name that, in my opinion, describes Chef patron Luca Esposito's philipsophy for the type of cuisine that he shares with his diners at his locanda a stone throws away from the Bacoli port in Campi Flegrei.  A persistent, steadfast, unshakeable commitment to those who want to feel at home away from home.

So let's get back to my smile.  A smile that naturally appeared as I saw Chef Esposito by the door of the restaurant and pointed me down to the parking lot just about 50 meters down to the right.  A smile that continued as Esposito gave me a quick tour that Thursday evening before Maitre Sommelier Giuseppe Di Ruocco  showed me to my seat.  I was handed a menu and a glass of sparkling mind to help me decide my journey.

Esposito's menu is primarly seafood, and I was excited and overwhelmed with the choices.  They're known for for their raw seafood platter on ice appetizers as well as a selection of antipasti based on the catch of the day.

Creamed codfish, tomato water and tarallo

Raw swordfish and pumpkin

Cuttlefish tagliatella cooked at a low temperature, and cous cous with cuttlefish ink 

Mackerel tartare

Seafood platter with sea truffle, scampo and two seafood treats found only in the area - sfera di mare and limone di mare

Smoked white shrimp burger with celery sauce and puffed rice with paprika

Goat milk ricotta cheese 'in the garden' with mackerel in olive oil

Toasted bread, butter and anchovies

Octopus tempura with fava bean and chickory sauces

Assorted fried tiny fish

When it came down to decide on a first course, well that was easy.  I asked Esposito for spaghetti, so he sent me his version of the famous Spaghetti alla Nerano which features zucchini.  Esposito adds steamed mussels and Provolone del Monaco cheese.

For the second course, the chef prepared grouper in an amazing teriyaki sauce.

Dessert?  I decided to go with fresh summer fruit.

Overall, an experience fantasticaaa!  By the time I had finished dinner, the place was packed - I didn't even pop into the kitchen since the chef and his brigade were very busy.  What did I have to drink?  Besides a bottle of sparkling water, Maitre Di Ruocco served me some glasses of great wines as well as an interesting rose' beer - it's all in the video below.  What you don't see is my smile - that was on my face when I left, and returns everytime I think about my misdummer night's dinner.

Note - beginning the 10th of September until the 6th of October, La Locanda del Testardo will not serve seafood - just meat.  This is due to the break in the fishing season in the Tyrhennian Sea to give time for marine life to reproduce.  And since Esposito is a testardo - stubborn, steadfast, persisitent - it is only natural that he strongly feels this need to serve his customers the best fresh seafood in season.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Scialatielli Pasta with Steamed Mussels - Pasta is a Girl's Best Friend!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I love to go out to eat at some of Campania's top restaurants.  Those who follow me on social media, however, know that I love to cook as well.  Can't eat out always!
Summer is one of my favorite times to cook because, let's be honest, I have more time.  More time to prepare an Italian staple - pasta.  I remember when I first moved to Italy over 25 years ago, I was surprised at how many different pasta formats there were and how many different ways it can be prepared. And because of that, pasta has basically become my best friend...
Recently friend and pasta maker Giovanni Assante  of Gerardo di Nola sent me a surprise package.  The postman did ring twice! A package full of pasta and tomatoes to last me quite awhile and maybe spark some creativity in my kitchen as summer starts to wind down.

One of the packages that caught my attention was his scialatielli al nero di seppia.  Scialiatelli is a thick pasta which looks a little like fettucine, just shorter.  This version includes black squid ink included during the pasta making proscess.
To stick with a seafood theme, I decided to prepare something simple but flavorful.  Steamed mussels!

After steaming the clean clams with a little garlic, chili peppers and just a small bit of extra virgin olive oil, I seperated the mussels from their shells, making sure to keep the water left behind which would basically be the pasta sauce.
In another pot,  I cooked the pasta for abour 7 or 8 minutes in lightly salted boiling water.  I then added the pasta to the steamed mussel water and stirred/tossed etc etc until the pasta was how we wanted it.  Al dente, of course - cooking time depends on many factors but I took about another 7  minutes or so.  Every now and then I added the water that I cooked the pasta in - make sure you don't throw that out!  It is full of starch that helps the pasta bond with the flavors from the mussels.  Oh, yeah, I added the cooked mussels right at the end with a bit of Italian parsley.

Buon pranzo!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Spaghetti Summer - Chef Carlo Spina, 3 Piani, Naples (Na)

I chose the dining room on the 2nd floor of 3 Piani restaurant.  Piani means floors or stories and the restaurant has, well, 3. :-) I chose the 2nd floor for its air conditioning - ( the 3rd floor is a spectacular terrace overlooking the city, but it was just way too hot that evening)

So sure, I admit that I preferred the a/c,  but that didn't stop me when Chef Carlo Spina invited me into the kitchen to observe him as he was in the final stages of preparing me his spaghetti dish. 

Chef Carlo Spina

The chef uses spaghetti from Monograno Felicetti for this particular dish and as I joined him at the pass, it was nearly ready.

He gently swirls the pasta in a ladle and places it down on a bed of shrimp tartare.

A touch of plankton powder and sea urchin...

And lemon zest...

Then back to my seat in the dining room to enjoy my spaghetti summer - fantasticaaa!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Amazing Appetizer, Chef Valentino Buonincontri, Bertie's Bistrot, Nola (Na)

What happens when a young Italian chef gets inspiration from an American fast food favorite?  Maybe it was during  one of those early morning visits to the local fishmarket that Chef Valentino Buonincontri got his idea for what would soon become his amazing appetizer.  His octopus hot dog.

Bertie's Bistrot in Nola, a small town about 30 km from Naples was where I sat down to have lunch one afternoon.  There were many dishes that the chef had in mind for me to try and I was more than a willing participant. As long as one of those dishes included his...well, you dog.

After his aperitivo, which you can check out here, Bounincontri called me to the kitchen when it was time to plate up.  

Chef Valentino Buonincontri

For his hot dog - the chef uses octopus tentacles that have been sauteed in Sprite

Then wrapped in a bun.  Lime mayonnaise and octopus ketchup complete the dish.