Saturday, July 2nd. Scorching hot in Naples. 40° C. First big exodus of the summer with Neapolitans looking for a little relief on the beaches, at the sea. I , instead, set my sights on Irpinia, A16, direction Avellino…To a cool place, about 914 meters above sea level. To Nusco, Irpinia’s balcony, with an amazing view from the parking area, a stone’s throw from the centro storico. A quick stroll through the medieval streets…to Vicolo dello Sapgnuolo, 1…to La Locanda di Bu.
Reservations were for 1300 and it may have been 1301 when I introduced myself to Chef Antonio Pisaniello. Antonio, who spent the morning looking for mushrooms in the nearby mountainside. Antonio Pisaniello...the chef who I would have the pleasure of spending a few hours with on this Saturday afternoon.
Aperitivo…after sitting down, Antonio…or Tonino as his friends fondly call him, poured a glass of Rosato di Aglianico 2009 Vigne Irpine. A wine from his Irpinia. A territory that he is proud of and a territory that would be demonstrated throughout the meal in the dishes he would present, in the tales that he would tell.
Jenny Auriemma, Antonio’s wife, professional sommelier, and partner in La Locanda di Bu soon joined us, fresh flowers in hand. Jenny-the perfect hostess-and the perfect ying to Antonio’s yang. We discussed the menu, made our choices, and were then presented with the wine list. Decision made-Greco di Tufo DOCG 2008, Pietracupa. Then off to the cantina next door to get our wine.
Back inside-the parade began. From the kitchen, an array of antipasto and breads: Stuffed red pepper. Hamburger di Podolica with a mayonnaise sauce (flavored with lemon) and vegetables. Fried ricotta from Montella on a bed of pureed broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, and anchovies. Homemade bread sticks, chiacchiere, crackers, and zeppole. Bread with onions, olives, and pancetta. All fresh from the oven…all warm, soft, soffice.
The first course arrived with a glass of chilled Greco di Tufo. Spaghettoni di Gragnano in a sauce made with red peppers, caciocavallo cheese, agrumi, and Sarawak pepper. Tortelle with fave beans, pecorino cheese, and lard croccante.
The decision was made to skip the second course, off to dessert. Jenny served us a glass of Passito di Aglianico 2007 A Casa. Two desserts: Antonio’s version of the classic Sicilian cassata and a semifreddo al torrone.
One of the things that I enjoy about these visits is the ‘after hours’. The chance to sit down for a chat and unwind, una chiacchierata, over a glass of passito, a caffè, biscotti. A whirlwind of topics…Antonio’s love for his Irpinia and his desire to make the local products known not only throughout the region, but the world as well. His thoughts on the States. His time in New York as a guest on Rocco Dispirito’s reality TV show ‘The Restaurant’. Thanksgiving. How he enjoys traveling through North America and how impressed he was at a dinner there where he was served a large t-bone steak that was so tender after being marinated for three days. We talked about why he will NEVER eat at McDonalds. Recycling. His recent collaboration at Caraino 7x nearby. His first restaurant, ‘Il Gastronomo’. Then back to the land, the territory, the recipes that he wants to bring back, the dishes that he enjoys revising. A little hard to keep up…but I really loved watching his enthusiasm…his expressions, his gestures. Jenny joined in as well. As I watched and listened, I not only saw a chef and a sommelier. I saw a young couple passionate about their life choice. A mother, father, husband, wife. I saw, once again, how my Campania can be hospitable, warm and friendly.
Locanda di Bu
Vicolo dello Sapgnuolo, 1
83051 Nusco (AV)
Closed for dinner on Sundays and on Monday.