Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lunch con Carmine Mazza-Il Poeta Vesuviano

Saturday...Napoli- Salerno A3, Torre Annuziata nord exit...direction Torre del Greco...Viale Europa 42....Il Poeta Vesuviano’s summer menu.

A menu that uses home grown vegetables, homemade breads and pastas, local products. A menu that is simple, pleasing to the eye and palate. A menu prepared entirely by Chef Carmine Mazza.

The first thing that stuck me about Carmine was the fact that he is only 25 years old. The ‘chef’ bug hit when he was 12, waking up on Sunday mornings to the smell of the typical ragu sauce simmering away. After attending chef’s school, he worked in numerous local restaurants…then his big break or breaks came. Hotel Capri Palace with Chef Oliver Glowig…Don Alfonso 1890, Sant Agata sui Due Golfi. Then eventually, at the ripe old age of 23, he opened up his own restaurant, Il Poeta Vesuviana, and has been running things ever since.

Humble, charismatic, and proud of his Campanian roots. That is the impression that I got while talking with Carmine. We discussed the menu…which began with a benvenuta from the chef; marinated artichoke with a reduction of Aglianico…Welcome.

The appetizer was Variazione di Zucchine, zucchini made in three ways. Timballo di zucchini con provola di Agerola…a little zucchini package with melted provola and basil inside. On top, tiny cubes of zucchini that had been light sautéed in olive oil—from Cilento. This timballo was served with a puree of zucchini and a zucchini flower that had been lightly fried then dried in an oven for about 2 hours (80° C)….Kate, my accomplice, described this as an essence of zucchini…I have to agree.

First course…Gnocchetti al limone con calamaretti and vongole. YES! This is what caught my attention. Homemade gnocchi, made with boiling hot water, flour, and lemon peel. Then a simple sauce of tiny squid, clams, and parsley. Beautiful…from the presentation, to the flavor. Just the rights touch of lemon…not over powering…just the right amount of mare...the squid, the clams…

Second course…Parmagiana di pesce bandiera …a mini tower with alternating layers of lightly fried eggplant, and fish…all on top of a light tomato sauce. A sauce made with the pomodoro al piennolo—typical of the Vesuvius area…

To accompany our meal…Carmine’s bread rolls (homemade of course) made with tomato sauce, olives, and plain…brought to our table hot from the oven.

Dessert…Semifreddo pralinato al latte di mandorla, con salsa al cioccolato e fragole, a frozen cream made with almond milk, a light chocolate sauce topped with fresh strawberries. Speechless.

Il Poeta Vesuviano is only about 45 minutes from Naples…in a quiet neighborhood…in a modest setting with straightforward decor. Almost out of place when you consider the impressive menu, the evolving wine list…we accompanied our meal with Apicella’s Costa D’Amalfi...Tramonti.

Il Poeta Vesuviano is definitely worth the trip. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Sunday, lunch only. I would definitely call for reservations; particularly on the weekends since their dining room only has seating for 28 people…

Il Poeta Vesuviano
Viale Europa 42
Torre del Greco
081 833 2673

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