Thursday, December 14, 2017

Back to the Future, Pepe in Grani, Caiazzo (Ce)


Sunday afternoon.  And I decided to head to Caiazzo to try a pizza or three made by Franco Pepe  A familiar pilgrimage that I've made who knows how many times over the last 6 years.  During those years a lot has changed for my amico pizzaiolo.  He opened up Pepe in Grani...then added a bed and pizza so visitors could have a place to stay-right in the pizzeria!  Then he added a tasting room for those looking for something extra.  He added a second pizza oven. Deepened his wine list. Oh, and did I mention, became one, if not the top, pizza makers in the world.

One thing that I love about Pepe, besides the pizza, is his desire to evolve.  To continue to look for ways to make Pepe in Grani not just a pizza place...but a pizza experience.  
An authentic experience.  


I arrived in Franco's little viale right before the crowds. I entered, found Franco, took off my jacket - then Franco said - Karen, vieni con me.  Come with me...
I followed Pepe up the stairs to the third floor - to Authentica- his latest project.
Authentica- authentic.  




A state of the art stereo system playing soft jazz greeted us as Franco opened the door to a small room.  A simple room featuring a bookshelf full of pizza books.  A new generation pizza oven in the corner embraced by a simple counter and stools for a maximum of 8 guests.  


Guests, participants, pizza enthusiasts who could reserve a special front row pizza experience with Franco Pepe himself. A chance to participate in an intimate pizza making/eating experience in a cozy environment. 


Photographs or words cannot convey the intimacy, coziness and emotions that I felt listening to my friend Franco as he took another step on his journey. 
Auguri, Franco...
Dal cuore!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

In the Kitchen Diaries - Jose Restaurant Torre Del Greco (Na)

Chefs Lorenzo Cuomo, Oliver Glowig, Ludovico De Vivo, Domenico Iavarone, Valentino Palmisano and Daniele Corona

The idea of going out on Halloween usually doesn’t excite me much.  I mean, in the States, it can get pretty crazy, you know, with all the costumes and tricker treaters and such.  However, an invitation from a friend - Domenico Iavarone, Jose Restaurant (who happens to be one of the top chefs in the Campania region) was impossible to refuse.

Chef Domenico Iavarone


Karen, the 31st of October – a dinner to wrap up a series of dinners at Oliver’s (Oliver Glowig).  I won’t take no for an answer. - Iavarone wrote me a month or so before the cena.

And he wouldn’t have to.  A dinner that was not the usual four hands dinner starring 2 top chefs – but a twelve hands dinner starring 6!!!  Wow!!

So after a looong day at work, I hopped in my car and headed to Jose Restaurant for dinner. A dinner to celebrate l’amicizia…friendship.  One that budded blossomed and thrived nearly 10 years ago in the kitchen of Capri Palace – 2 Michelin stars – under the lead of Chef OliverGlowig.  Over the years, Glowig’s brigade has gone their separate ways, but that beautiful bond remained. 

An opportunity to hang out in the kitchen with Iavarone, Glowig (aka il maestro)  and   Chef Ludovico De Vivo(Capofaro Malvasia&Resort ) Chef Valentino Palmisano (Vespasia) Chef  Daniele Corona, (Barrique), and  Chef  Lorenzo Cuomo,(Re Mauri’ ).


I pulled up in the parking lot around 8 30 pm, and headed straight to the kitchen where I decided, thanks to Iavarone, to camp out in the corner.


That is when my diary began…
8 35 pm:  Purse down. A glass of sparkling wine and a quick look around the kitchen.  Iavarone? Oh, there he is! A hug and a chance to meet his friends. I must say, I was a little nervous. 

Karen, ti presento Ludovico…



Ciao, chef..

This is Valentino…



Buona sera…

Lorenzo...

Chef Lorenzo Cuomo

Hi!

And Glowig, I wondered?  Il maestro?  
Ecco, there he is…
Ciao Oliver… (OMG)…

Chef Oliver Glowig and Daniele Corona

Karen…do you know Daniele?

No, ciao chef, piacere… nice to meet you.

8 40 pm
Iavarone knows me well….he knew that after a long drive I would be hungry – very hungry, so he and the chefs made sure I had a chance to try the appetizers that were making their way out to the dining room…

Mini bun with smoked ham, Piennolo cherry tomato marmalade and olive powder.



Castelluccio lentils with parmigiano reggiano cheese mousse – aged 36 months.



Smoked saffron rice waffle with goat cheese and ham.



Ok, ok… with a little food in my stomach, I was ready to check out the scene. You know a little look up close and personal as to the who and what was going on.

9:03 pm…A chance to chat with Chef Ludovico De Vivo. 
I noticed right away that his dialect was not a familiar one for me.  

Allora, you’re not from the Naples area, I said while munching on a breadstick.
The chef told me that he was originally from the south, but had was raised around the world.  His Neapolitan accent comes out when he gets angry. 
At the point, the chef switched to English (grazie!!!) as we spoke about where he  works - Capofaro Malvasia&Resort – Sicily, Sicilian wines, and his appetizer…

Chef Ludovico De Vivo




a Bundle of caper leaves, fermented fennel and smoked mackerel.





An opportunity to hang out in the kitchen is also an opportunity to watch and respect not only the preparation, but also the plating of each dish. 
An evening such as this one, with chefs of this caliber (Michelin stars!!!)  Egos were not included. Everyone helped everyone. 







10:04 pm 
Chef Valentino Palmisano at the pass.  
His veal tongue with spumed mousse, 'nduja sauce and San Pellegrino black garlic purée was an omg amazing appetizer.  





Okay- I built up a little courage…it’s not always easy for me to approach a chef for the first time and discuss his dish, I’ve a compliment or two without sounding like a total groupie!!!


The conversation went a little like this –
Karen, allora?  What did you think?

Chef, one of the most amazing tongues that I ever had!..Ooops that did not sound right.

No problem, an evening among friends, old and new.  We laughed it off and then headed over to the other side of the kitchen- selfie time!!





10:27 pm 

There Iavarone was whipping up the first course of the night. 


At the pass during plating, for sure!!!  Nevertheless, in the kitchen has its advantages…patience pays off.  A dish plated up especially for me!

Risotto with burnt onion, anchovies, almonds and yogurt. All hands on deck!!! 





  
11:27 pm 
Second course prepared by the shy (?) yet simpatico young chef with a crooked smile and a fantastic touch.  Daniele Corona works in Rome, but is from Pianura, a town net to my son’s high school.  We chatted a bit as he plated up his twist on a Roman classic – broccoli and arzilla/broccoli and skate fish.






Almost impossible to eat without a piece of bread to soak up the spectacular sauce!!! In my little corner of course!



Heading towards midnight – and anyone who knows me knows that that is when the shoe drops, so to speak!

But it was time for Glowig’s dish – his predessert.  Dessert?  No, but a grande sopresa – his classic elliche pasta, cacciocavallo, sea urchin and pepper dish!






Surprise!

Midnight – time to take a break..or so I thought.

Chef Lorenzo Cuomo was plating up his dish and my new friend invited me over for a look – and taste of course!!





Piña Colada with persimmon – the question came spontaneously- chef, are you saving’ that dessert for me?






In between tastes, snapshots, laughter, pieces of bread, glasses of wine, more pieces of bread etc etc etc, I took a look around.
There I had the answer to a question that many would as me later.
Karen, what was it like to be in the kitchen with chefs of that magnitude??? Similar to a Hell’s Kitchen???
Ma noooo!  Chefs who are professional, who are friends, and appreciate and respect each other...  It was a blast!!!


12:30 am….
Time for me to say goodnight. Goodnight, but not goodbye.