|gnocchetto di seppie e calamari|
I stepped out of Campania for a awhile and headed for one of its next door neighbors, Basilicata. I had a desire to try some specialties from a region that I was unfamiliar with. From their wines to their prodotti tipici. A trip through the territory, all in the comfort of a corner table at Antica Osteria Marconi in Potenza. I had the perfect guide-Chef Francesco Rizzzuti. So after a quick chit chat, a glass of Basilicata Moscato IGT 2009 from Terre di Orazio, Chef Rizzuti went into the kitchen to prepare the 'tour'.
He arrived with a beautiful dish that he calls gnocchetto di seppie and calamari-a little squid and cuttlefish dumpling, lightly fried and resting on a creamed pea sauce. He slowly poured just the right amount of chicken broth on top. His way of saying Welcome to Basilicata, Karen. Light, delicate...the theme for the day. A theme which continued when he presented his next dish Orto, which in Italian means vegetable garden. a plate of fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, and peas to name a few. Spring was evident here with with tiny yellow flower petals sprinkled on top.
My next wine was brought to the table-this time an Aglianico. L’Atto Cantine Del Notaio 2009 IGT. We continued along on our journey through Basilicata with a dish that I had been dying to try after publishing the recipe some time ago. Acquasale. On this plate sat a simple cube of day old bread and onions. This cube rested peacefully under a smooth turnip sauce. And sitting on top, a poached egg. All waiting to be showered with an onion broth prepared by the chef. A small dish of dried peppers was set on the table. Peperoni di Senise Cruschi –a classic. Beautiful sweet red peppers that had been dried, then lightly fried to make them crunchy, croccante. Peppers that were delicious when added to the dish, tasty when eaten alone as well.
Next, home made pasta-strascinati with asparagus, tiny diced guanciale, with a creamed fennel sauce. The chef added egg bottarga, to give this plate that extra boost, but once again, keeping it fresh…keeping it light, leggero. Candele con lamb soffritto was my second pasta assaggio, or taste, of the area. I had had soffritto before, but made with pork innards. Chef Rizzuti said that in Potenza, lamb can also be used. The pasta sauce, then, was a combination of lamb innards gently sauteed in a tomato sauce and topped with pieces of diced lamb. Once again, that crispy-crunchy sensation as I ate each bite. Cacciocavao podolico cheese was grated on top.
I was really enjoying myself as each plate was brought to the table. The colors, the aromas, the flavors, the use of fresh local products in season. Such as a tiny taste of roasted pork alongside a 'smashed' potato topped with olio di brace. Underneath-essence of Senise peppers. Another 'second': a cheese plate with cacciocavallo podolico and two pecorino cheeses, one aged a little long than the other. I found a small cherry in the middle of the plate. It wasn't just a cherry, though. It was a mostardo di cilegio. A spicy, piccante condiment.
Time for another Moscato-this time in the form of a dessert wine. Ambra Moscato IGT 2008 from Tenuta Eleano. The perfect pairing for my semifreddo with fresh berries. The perfect pairing for my chiacchierata, chat, with the chef. To ask him questions about the dishes, their histories, the products. To satisfy my curiosities on the how certain dishes were prepared, the ingredients, his techniques. And of course, to ask for a few more recipes on this region that has more than gotten my interest, but won over my palate as well.
Bella la Basilicata…
Antica Osteria Marconi
Via Marconi 233
Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Lunch only on Sunday