Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Magical Mystery Tour -12 Morsi Burgers and Friends, Caserta (Ce)


A laid back Saturday afternoon was the perfect time for me to (finally) head out to  12 Morsi Burgers and Friends.  I have long been a fan of Chef Mirco Scognamiglio's magnetic personality and magical combinations that have made him and 12 Morsi one of the top gastropubs around. 12 Morsi has 2 locations - one in downtown Naples and the other in Caserta.  I chose Caserta - which has been open a little more than a year.

Chef Mirco Scognamiglio

 I walked in around 1 pm, quickly eyed the place and found Scognamiglio sitting at a table, totally relaxed, waiting for the long day ahead.  Since I was the first to arrive, it gave me the perfect opportunity for a little one on one time with the chef to chat about the menu for my first visit.  It wasn't easy.  It never is when I vist a restaurant for the first, so I place myself totally in the hands of the chef.  

Do you trust me?  he smiled.
Of course! I smiled back.
Let the magical mystery tour begin.

So we got started with a few starters -


Angus beef tartare seasoned with salt, extra virgin olive oil and pepper.  Scognamiglio added lime zest, fresh ginger, homemade mayonnaise, basil oil spheres, and beet and chard sprouts.  This all sat neatly on a thin braided eclair.


Next up, the chef decided to have me try his chicken and fries.  It may look simple, but these were deep and delicious.


First lets talk about the fries.  Two large potato wedges lightly seasoned and fried.  Then the nuggets that which have an impressive story all their owned.  Scognamiglio bones and chops up chicken then places them into silicone cube molds.  The cubes are then vacuum sealed and slow cooked.


Then they are bathed in corn meal and lightly fried.  A lot of work - but this is not your simple pub.  Scognamiglio prides himself for the time and care it takes to prepare each dish including the homemade dipping sauces.


Next up is a panino that I had been dying to try.  His steamed bao bun! 




The bun is filled with pork belly which had been slow cooked for 18 hours.  Scognamiglio then adds his teriyaki sauce...

and tops it all of with friarielli greens that have just popped into season.

I wanted a burger, but I couldn't decide which one.  Scognamiglio thought I should try two...


His buns are homemade, of course.  Soft  -but strong enough to host his burgers.  One housed his cheeseburger made from angus beef  with Westcombe cheddar cheese, the chef's pickled cucumbers...


 and his super sauce which is a blend of bbq, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and anchovies.

Next his Yimmy Burger with caramelized onions, a sunny side up quail egg, and a truffle sauce. 



I couldn't leave without tryong one of 12 Morsi's steak - the chef insisted.  So I agreed to an assaggio- a bite or two of his bistecca.


Scognamiglio uses Friesian beef and prepared medium-rare...with just enough pink.  Grilled pumpkin, zucchini, and eggplant were the perfect sides.


 As much as I would have wanted to dive into dessert, there just wasn't any room. 
My magical mystery tour is on a brief pause - to be continued soon.  Very soon, because at the end of the month, Scognamiglio is changing his menu to include a couple new steamed bao bun sandwiches, for example.  Then I need to try those desserts...did he mention cheesecake?  Also, I'm curious about some of the wines and beers that make up his carta di vino.

So, stay tuned for the next stop on the tour!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Baccala'Re - 3 - 6 October, Mergellina (Na)


This year marks the 3rd edition of Baccala'Re - the codfish party on Mergellina's beautiful seafront.  This year's event features 11 Michelin star chefs, as well as one of Italy's top pastry chefs, and 2 top Campania pizzerias.  Four days of baccala' - but that's not all.  A full schedule of aperitifs, food and fun!  More info can be found on their website here or on their Facebook page.




See you on the seafront!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Ogni Piatto È Un Viaggio - Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi (Na)


I remember that Saturday, it was a Saturday similar to today -only a few months ago.  It was the beginning of Don Alfonso 1890's 2019 season, and like every year since 2011, I travelled the nearly 90 minute drive from my house to Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi for lunch.  A visit to this 2 Michelin Star Restaurant is always a dazzling dining experience and after 8 years I can safely say that I have seen Chef Ernesto Iaccarino's cuisine embark on many awesome adventures.

Ogni piatto è un viaggio - every dish is a journey, Chef Iaccarino told me. 

Chef Ernesto Iaccarino


A journey led by Iaccarino, who shares with each diner his years of experience, travels, and flavors all combined in tasty dishes for each season.  That Saturday afternoon, one of those diners was me!

My journey began in the kitchen with a quick chit chat with the chef.  Would you like to try some of the new dishes for 2019?, he asked.  My smile was my response.

I tried many dishes that afternoon - these four, however, are the ones that I'd like to have stamped in my gastranomic passport.




This first course pasta dish, for example.  Iaccarino's fresh pasta filled with snapper marinated with lemons.  Underneath, a carrot cream with ginger and - wait for it - a spicy pumpkin broth.




Then Iaccarino brought me into his mondo del pesce- second course dishes that featured treasures from the sea.  Beginning with this cod dish.


 Cod cooked at low temperature served on top of a cauliflower cream,  black truffles, black olives and grilled leek.


Next, probably my favorite dish of the year, Iaccarino's dentice.  He cooks his grouper fish at a low temperature, vacuum sealed with lemon and vanilla. 


 Grouper is not an easy fish to cook - when fresh, it can be quite tenacious, firm. Iaccarino's cooking method helps to ease it up a bit - making it tasty and tender.  Then it is paired with Don Alfonso's famous creamy potatoes, lemon, and spring onions. His anchovy sauce zabaglione is fantasticaaa!




Another dish that I stamped in my passport Iaccarino's tuna with a black sesame seed crust.


This dish is a revisitation on his tuna from last year where he used pistachios.  Iaccarino chose to pair his tuna with 4 different types of sauces.


A red wine sauce, onion sauce, a sauce made with horseradish, and finally one with Italian parsely.


After my viaggio was over, I had a chance to sit down with Iaccarino.  This is always a magic moment.  A chance for me to chat with the chef about the meal and just about anything else that comes to mind as he relaxes between services with his cigar.  As he thinks about his next menu, his next season, his next viaggio.

I can't wait to taste it!



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.

Fantasticaaa!