Monday, June 27, 2011

Saturday in Pizzeria - Antica Pizzeria Pepe - Caiazzo (Ce)

Franco Pepe and his brother, Antonio.

Summer…Saturday…Pizza…It is a definite must.  A time to be with family and friends at the table., relax, talk about your week, be together. That togetherness that Southern Italy does so well. And on this particular sabato sera, our appointment was in Caiazzo, in the Caserta province. An appointment at Antica Pizzeria Pepe, located in the corner of Piazza Portavetere.

Fireworks greeted us as we arrived, common for this time of year. There is always some type of local festival. No reservation…not on Saturday. Franco Pepe suggested that we arrive before 9 pm…after that, our clients pretty much run the place, he told me jokingly over the phone. We chose to sit indoors, so that we could watch the kitchen at work, but there were plenty of tables outside in the piazza for clients who wanted a pizza al fresco…out in the open. Indoors, outdoors…we were all here for one reason. To enjoy a pizza prepared by the Pepe family.

 Pizza prepared as it has been for three generations. With dough prepared by hand. Like Franco’s father and grandfather. By hand, so that way he can tell..can feel when it ready. Franco, who told me that it is essential, particularly for the new generation of pizza makers to be able to taste, smell, feel the products. From San Marzano tomatoes to mozzarella. Touch the flour…get acquainted with it, understand it. Understand that making dough on a hot dry day is much different from a cool humid one. And this he does by hand, every day. Like his father and his grandfather.

Four diners at my table. Four pizza lovers. The menu is simple, basic, but with everything that you could want on a summer Saturday night. Orders placed, orders arrived. A pizza with prosciutto cotto. Classic. One that screamed territory….a margherita with nero casertano. A prosciutto made with the famous black pig found only in the Caserta province. A friend ordered al bianco with funghi porcini-porcini mushrooms with mozzarella cheese, no tomato sauce. And last but not least, to my left, a pizza arrived. No, not a pizza. A calzone. One stuffed with escarole salad, olives, and anchovies. It arrived to the table like an oversized party balloon. Then, when a knife was placed into it, it exhaled, letting out air and sharing amazing aromas, amazing flavors.

Aromas and flavors that intermingled with the conversation, the laughter, and the occasional fireworks.

And intertwined with that amazing spirit. That spirit of Campania.

Found on a Saturday evening…in pizzeria…

Antica Pizzeria Pepe
Piazza Portavetere 4
Caiazzo (Ce)
0823 868 401
Open Tuesday through Sunday, evenings only.

A Taste of Tramonti - Az. Agricola Tenuta San Francesco

Not far from Amalfi and Ravello, there is an area known as Tramonti...Tra-between...monti-the mountains.  And it is here where you'll find Tenuta San Francesco.  A winery that produces wines using grapes native to this historic part of Campania.  Grapes such as Falanghina, Biancolella, Aglianico, Piedirosso, Pepella, and Tintore. I had been there a couple of times before, but never in the spring. l  I took some friends to meet owner Gaetano Bove who took us on a tour of his Tintore vineyards.  We got up close and personal with vines that were over 250 years old!

After a tour of the cantina, we sat down for a wine tasting over a dinner feauturing products and recipes from the area..  Wines tasted; Tramonti Bianco 2010, Per Eva 2008, 4 Spine 2007, and E'ISS 2008. A real taste of the territory...Good food, great wine, and great company...

Another relaxing evening in Campania...

Azienda Agricola Tenuta San Francesco
Via Solficiano 18
Tramonti (Sa)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sun...Sea...Bikini - Vico Equense (Na)

It was easy to fall in love at first sightBikini Complesso TuristicoA lido hugging the Sorrento Coast.  Wih the perfect view of Vesuvius.  Spectacular sunset.  Soft music and good food.  It would have been almost impossible not to.

But what about by day?  Could this enchanting location by the sea have the same effect ‘with the lights on’, so to speak.  Owner Giorgio Scarselli thought so, so he invited me to return a week later.  After my school girl’s crush had worn off and get a real good look at his beach, his restaurant, his Bikini.

His beach has been in his family since about 1952.  It started out as a simple place to hang out.  Back in the day, Giorgio’s father told me, there wasn’t even water to take a shower.  Donkeys would climb up the cliff and bring water down so that sun bathers could take a shower.  Times have obviously changed.  This lido has gone from 3 employees to nearly 84 between the beach, restaurant, and various events held at Bikini.  Grown with a philosophy that the Scarselli family has of not offending the environment.  They understand and respect that Bikini is the entrance to the Sorrento Peninsula. One of the first breathtaking images seen from the road along the coast.  Bikini blends in with its environment, dressed in beautiful green leaves, browns from the various woods used in the decks and various structures that embrace the beach.  And the pinks, reds, whites, and light purples of the flowers in full bloom. A place where up to 600 beach lovers could spread out comfortably on their beach chairs, relax, and swim in a beautiful blue sea which was awarded one of the prestigious Banderia Blus given to Italy by the European commission.  A lido completo, complete with all the creature comforts including a newsstand, bar and snack bar.

But for those who are looking for something a little ‘extra’ at meal time, you need to go up.  Up a trail that leads you through nature, through a fresh green garden and takes you to Bikini’s restaurant.  A restaurant that has been around since 1980. Giorgio, also a chef,   pays attention to every detail of his restaurant.  A quick chat with Chef Domenico De Simone, a stroll through the kitchen, and then we sat down to lunch on the terrace overlooking the mare.  Bikini’s menu  features fresh products from their garden and the sea right next to their beach.  You may order a la carte, or try one of their two degustazione offerings which give you a little taste of everything.  We had the on entitled ‘La Nostra Proposta’ which began with the starter panzarotti stuffed with smoked ricotta on a bed of cubed tomatoes.  Then two appetizers: crudo di pesce (fresh raw fish fillets) in tomato water  with black olives, fennel, and candied oranges and perla di dentice (snapper) with stuffed smoked ricotta with vegetables and semolina.  So far so good, I thought, especially served with Fiano di Avellino 2009 DOCG by Ciro Picarello.  Time for the first courses and I was served two fresh colorful selections.  Fresine with clams and shellfish with a little saffron and a comforting ravioli filled with creamy potatoes and squid topped with fava beans. We decided to change our wine…stay in Campania…stick with Fiano, but this time Quintodecimo 2009. Second course?  Grilled mullet with escarole and grilled vegetables. Time for dessert, baverese (Bavarian cream) with orange and white chocolate and a fresh berry sauce. 

Giorgio was called away for a moment, so I sat alone reflecting over a glass of Moscato di Basalice 2009 from Masseria Parisi. I thought about how beautiful this part of the coast is.  How Bikini can be as enchanting by day as it is by night.  On a beach chair, in their restaurant.  Or even during their upcoming season of Food and Wine on the Rocks, a series of evenings that Giorgio has scheduled to be held on the scoglie…on the rocks.  A glass of wine or spumante…a light meal.  And once again, that amazing sunset that captivated me a couple of weeks earlier.

So, Bikini by day…love?  I don’t know, I smiled to myself…Maybe I have to come back.  Try out Food and Wine on the Rocks, next weekend, just to be sure…

You know what they say…the third time’s a charm!

13.900 km Strada Statale Sorrentina 145,
Vico Equense (Na)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cool Recipes for a Hot Summer - Il Peperone by Chef Ernesto Iaccarino of Don Alfonso 1890

Photo by Ennio Calice
La complessità con un piatto sempliceChef Ernesto Iaccarino’s mantra. Simple ingredients, but complex. Like this recipe he shared with me that uses red and yellow peppers - perfect for the summer.


Tuna Mousse: 400 g tuna in oil (already drained),40 g carrot,10 g celery,20 g leek, 120 g egg white, 3 sheets gelatin,40 g extra virgin olive oil

Pepper sauce: 400 g yellow pepper,cleaned, 50 g onion, 100 g vegetable broth

Pepper gelatin: 200 g yellow pepper, 2 g agar

Pepper caviar: 200 g red pepper, cleaned, 3 g agar, 2 l vegetable oil

Olive powder: 500 g pitted black olives,100 g muscovado sugar

Creamy cod: 400 g of chopped cod (baccalà), 50 g potato, 20 g onion, 1 clove garlic, 100 g milk

Cod Emulsion: 200 g of codfish skin, 50 g cod pulp 300 g extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, chili pepper (to taste).

Crunchy cannoli : 300 g rice,100 g red pepper (already cleaned)

Additional ingredients: green chili, fried parsley leaf, flavored breadcrumbs, salmon eggs


Drain the tuna to eliminate most of the oil in which it was stored. In a bimby, shred the vegetables, add the tuna and then the gelatin(which has already been soaked and dissolved, possibly in a little fish broth). Once this base has been adjusted to taste with salt, in a container, incorporate the beaten egg white, taking care to mix thoroughly without leaving any lumps of egg white, but without disassembling it. Pour into a plate and let rest for at least 2 / 3 hours.

In a frying pan, soften the onion without browning, sauté the green pepper, which has been cut into small pieces, add salt and add the broth little by little. Cook covered over medium heat. Once cooked, blend it all together in a food processor adding a little tapioca, if necessary

Run the pepper through a centrifuge. Adjust the salt, incorporate the agar ( 2g. for every 200 g of juice) and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Let it lightly foam, spread well on a flat plate and let stand in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. At this point you can cut it.

Run the pepper through a centrifuge. Adjust the salt, add the agar ( 2g. for every 200 g of juice) and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Let it lightly foam . Meanwhile, put the oil in the freezer, so that it gets as cold and dense as possible. With the help of a syringe, make balls that fall in the cold oil, but do not stick to each other. Once solidified, drain and rinse

Soak the olives in cold water for a couple of hours, so that they will lose some of their bitterness. Drain well and place them in a shelf dryer at 60/70 °. When they are dehydrated, run them through a mixer for a short time, then dry again. Obtained a dry powder by mixing well with moscovado sugar oil in proportions of 3 olives to 1dl of sugar.

Cut the potatoes into cubes, sauté the garlic in oil, and remove. Sautè the potatoes, add the onion (cut julienne style) followed by the fish, which has been cut into medium-sized pieces. Once it has warmed up a little, add the milk and cook covered over low heat. Once cooked, cream with the help of a whisk, adding more oil if necessary, pepper, salt and chopped parsley.

Emulsify (at no higher than 70 °C) all the ingredients, making sure to stir from time to time. After a couple of hours pass through a fine sieve and press down well. Allow the liquid obtained to rest so that it separates. Set aside the oil, which will be used again, for making a mayonnaise, using it as a base instead of an egg, the same thick liquid obtained by cooking the cod, and separated from the oil as it rested.

Overcook the rice in plenty of water and the peppers (which have been cut into large pieces), Blend in a Bimby to obtain a cream, add salt, spread on a sheet, dehydrate for about 20/30 minutes 65 ° C. When it is still wet cut with round pasta cutter, wrap in well-oiled metal finish cylinders and dry for 30 minutes. Remove fry in oil at a very high temperature.

Other ingredients
Slice open the green chilies, remove the seeds and then fry at 160 degrees for a few seconds, just enough time to soak and separate them from the skin if it seems too thick. Heat in the oven right before serving. Fry the parsley at a temperature of 140/150 °C

Sauté the breadcrumbs in oil flavored with herbs and garlic. Salt and let cool in a single layer so that they do not remain humid.

Directions for plating
In a square dish, with the help of a brush, make two strips of yellow sauce that run down the side borders. At the center of the plate place the mousse cut in the form of a circle, cut and lay the gelatin(cut in the same shape/size) on top, adding the fried parsley on the top. Just below the mousse, placed parallel to the lower side, set the green chili which has been warmed in the oven. Just above it, set the cannoli stuffed with creamed cod. Garnish the cannoli with salmon eggs and a sprinkling of olive powder. On the side place a scoop of the emulsion, some bubbles of pepper caviar and the breadcrumbs on the top part of the plate.

Photo courtesy of Ennio Calice

Friday, June 17, 2011

Amazing Appetizers- Peas in Three Textures, Caciottina Cheese, Orange, and Marinated Prawns by Chef Umberto De Martino

Another amazing appetizer offered to me by Chef  Umberto De Martino of Ristorante Marina Grande in Amalfi….Pairs perfectly when served on the terrace overlooking the beach…

This is a dish that reminds me of my childhood. Peas were never missing at home in all forms and ways in the kitchen. Caciottina is, in essence, the cheese that I love the most. And prawns? I personally can eat them prepared in any way imaginable, but I love them raw. And to complete this dish, the aroma and acidity of the orange acts as a thread which links me back to the past. –Chef De Martino

Ingredients for 4 people:
500 grams of peas, 2 oranges, 8 medium sized prawns, 4 caciottine (a cheese made with fresh cow's milk) 30 gr. each,5 grams of smoked salt , salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Shell the prawns and marinate them for half an hour with the juice of an orange, a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Peel the peas and save the skins which will be fried in oil to make the pea chips. Take half of the peas and boil them in salt water for 5 minutes. Cool rapidly in ice water, then blend in a blender until creamy smooth and shiny. Add salt and pepper. Add the remaining raw peas and  pour the mixture in a large glass. Place the caciottina in the center, add the marinated shrimp and finally the chips. Complete with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, the smoked salt and piece of freshly peeled orange.

Ristorante Marine Grande
Viale della Regione, 4
84011 Amalfi (Sa)
089 871129

Italian Version

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Amazing Appetizers-Octopus Salad with Cream of Chickpeas and Rosemary by Chef Carmine Mazza

Here’s a dish from Chef Carmine Mazza of Il Poeta Vesuviano perfect to kick off my summer recipe series. An octopus salad with a twist.

2 Octopus ‘verace’ at least 500 g, 200 g dried chickpeas, 1 clove garlic, 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, bread

Clean and blanch the octopus in plenty of water for about 20 minutes, cool and cut into very thin pieces, season with salt and extra virgin olive oil and set aside. Soak the chickpeas the night before in a pot with water and a pinch of baking soda. The next day, rinse well and cook the chickpeas. In a frying pan, sauté a clove of garlic , add the chickpeas and continue to cook with the rosemary. Puree the chickpeas, adding salt and oil to taste, and spread the cream a plate. Add the octopus, a sprinkle of toasted bread crumbs, and a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Il Poeta Vesuviano
Viale Europa, 42
Zona Leopardi
80040 Torre del Greco (Na)
081 883 26 73

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A' Pizza by the Sea- Bikini, Vico Equense (Na)

I wanted a pizza...and I knew just where to go. Bikini Complesso Turistico - Vico Equense (Na). I wanted to go for a pizza...A' Pizza...a first of its kind event hosted by Stefano Bonilli and Maurizio Cortese of the blog Papero Giallo. They  invited the best pizzaioli in Italy. All ready to share with a large crowd of pizza lovers their famous specialties.  Down by the sea. With breathtaking scenery. A light breeze. In the company of the music of Norah Jones and Bob Dylan.
I wanted a pizza. A pizza from a pizzaiolo like Enzo Coccia, who I am always happy to see. And a slice of his San Gennaro hit the spot. Anchovies, tomatoes, basil, garlic and olives. A slice that was flavorful, appetizing, and aromatic. The perfect kick for my tour through the stands, which were just heating up, so to speak, as the sun was setting. I saw Franco Pepe. We chatted for awhile as he made a pizza with scarole and olives. And what can I prepare for you? How about a pizza with prosciutto di maiale nero from Caserta? Ok! Gino Sorbillo and his team were pushing out pizzas with an amazing speed. A pizza with piennolo tomatoes and basil pesto…another with pasta from Gragnano and grated cheese…another with cannelloni beans. Ernesto Fico, my ‘maestro’ during the world pizzaiolo championships offered me his famous pizza fritta. Pizzas and paninis from Salvatore Salvo, Marzia Buzzanca, Giancarlo Casa, Gabriele Bonci, and Pierluigi Roscioli were hard to resist as well. Pizza by the meter? Of course! Luigi Dell’Amura’s with fresh tomatoes. Fresh from the oven. The wood burning ovens and copper fryers spread throughout the boardwalk of Bikini.

The apperitivo chosen for the evening? A cocktail mixed by Enzo D'Alessandro using his Nucillo and chinotto. A nice match for any of the other offerings available such as a bruschetta with eggplant and tomatoes provided by Osteria E' Curti, the classic prosciutto made with male nero casertano from Luciano Di Meo, and Le Campestre's Conciato Romano cheese to name just a few.

Beer or wine? Or both? Paulaner and Terre del Principe's Roseto del Vulture.

Dessert? I had some basil and tomato ice cream from Carapina.

Una festa sulla spiaggia...A beach party. One with the classic formula; good friends, good pizza, and good fun.

Italian Version

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lunch da Don Alfonso 1890 - Sant'Agata sui due Golfi (Na)

I knew that when I decided to visit Don Alfonso 1890, I wouldn’t be the first. I wouldn’t be breaking new ground. I wouldn’t be travelling to a place that no one has heard about. I wouldn’t be the first to take photos of their dining room, kitchen, and new menu. I wouldn’t be the first to sit down with the chef afterwards and talk about the recipes. I wouldn’t even be the first to visit their wine cellar full of nearly 25,000 bottles of wines from all over the world.

No, this wouldn’t be a trip for the latest ‘scoop’. This was personal. For me. A journey to satisfy my curiosity. To sit down and experience a lunch at a two star Michelin restaurant. Something which, for me, does not happen every day.

So off I went. Off to Sant’ Agata sui due Golfi located about 9km from Sorrento. Stop and go traffic the minute I exited at Castellammare di Stabia. More stop than go, but that was to be expected this time of year. It was a gorgeous day, a pleasing drive, spectacular scenery.

I arrived, parked my car in their garage, and walked into a little piece of paradise known throughout the world as Relais Don Alfonso 1890. Standing in the driveway that separates the reception area and the restaurant, I was immediately greeted with a smile and a ‘can I help you?’

I have an appointment with Mario Iaccarino…was my answer. I was told that he was on his way. In the meantime, I could have a seat, an aperitivo…and relax after my drive from Naples.
The beautiful spring colors that I had seen on my drive earlier where on full display in the dining area. Pinks, reds, yellows, and greens resting in the sunshine which shone through the windows next to my table. A table with a perfect view of the kitchen. Chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino’s kitchen decorated in beautiful Mediterranean blue and green hand painted tiles.

Apperitivo? Sommelier Salvatore Di Meo offered me a glass of Ca’ Del Bosco Franciacorta which I could sip while I took in the scenery looked over the menu. A menu with choices ranging from Don Alfonso classics to revisited recipes. It was hard to choose, but with a little help from the staff, my order was sent to the kitchen where Chef Ernesto Iaccarino was waiting. And with a smile from the kitchen window, he sent out his benvenuto; a cream of chick pea soup with an octopus carpaccio resting on top. Right after, another ‘starter’…a mozzarella soufflé with a side of tomato sauce and oregano. I appreciated this welcome as I looked over the Don Alfonso’s wine list. A book that the sommelier student in me was dying to browse through. Don Alfonso is famous for their cantina with prestigious wines. A wine list that I studied, asked questions about, absorbed throughout the afternoon.

But as far as what to choose for my meal, I turned to head sommelier Maurizio Cerio who, after I mentioned that I would like to ‘stay in Campania’, promised to take care of me. He did so by beginning with a glass of Greco from Paestum. A 2010 vintage from Az. Agricola San Salvatore that arrived with a plate of smoked Mediterranean yellow tail. The light pink color of the fish enjoyed its contrast with the colors of the sauces on the side; wild orange, and a fennel seed and grapefruit mayonnaise. There was even a small green ‘oyster’ salad leaf that I was told to eat at the end to refresh my palate.

My choice to sit near the kitchen window was designed so that I could observe the kitchen in action. So I could watch Ernesto Iaccarino weave around his kitchen staff, tasting, testing, directing. And when he gave the ok, my next appetizer was sent to me; deep fried lobster with a sweet and sour sauce, a dip of citrus fruit, and a julienne of spring vegetables. (note to self-ask the chef about this one) Di Meo was back, this time with a new glass and a new pairing for my lobster. A beer from Birrificio Sorrento. This artisan beer was brewed with lemon peel, so it was a nice refreshing choice, served in a frosty cold glass.  Then a dish of cous cous with stewed octopus with a small cup of foam of provola cheese and cinnamon.

Time for a break, I walked around outside taking pleasure in the scenery and silence, when I bumped into Mario Iaccarino. A full morning full of meetings, the usual for Mario, but that didn’t stop him from taking the time to talk with me as he joined me back in the dining room. And joining me here as well was a glass of Cupo Fiano di Avellino IGT 2008 and a plate of tasty morsels of ricotta cheese in a gurnard fish consommé with an infusion of verbena, lemon zest and nettle. Shortly after, Iaccarino sent out a dish of spaghetti with broccoli, codfish, and a buffalo from Paestum carpaccio with a white turnip and blue fish sauce (note to self-ask the chef about this one, too).

I reflected on and appreciated the presentation of each dish that was brought to me. The play on colors, the blending of flavors, the attention to detail by all members of the staff. This harmony continued with my second course, a light dish of red mullet sprinkled with caper powder. Each bite size piece of fish was spread out on a white dish that seemed more like a palette. A palette with drops of rucola and an aglianico sauce. Dessert? And why not? Armonia di fragole e kiwi, strawberries and kiwi. Ciao Salvatore. At this point, I was brought a dessert wine made with Aglianico and black cherries. Elixir di Bacco, Viticoltori Polito.

Lunch at Don Alfonso. A dining room filled with international diners. Tourist from all around the world. Diners, who like me, were curious…wanted to be in this dining room, taste the dishes that many are talking about. Guests, who were treated with hospitality, attention, and care from each member of the staff, the Don Alfonso team. At least three times Chef Alfonso Iaccarino came to my table to see how I was. But not just me. Every diner was important to the chef. Important to the sommeliers. Important to the waiting staff.

My meal was over, my adventure wasn’t. I asked Mario if I could stroll around the grounds, take some photos. He suggested that I check out the pool, visit the cooking school.  Karen...and later, I’ll take you to Ernesto.

Ah, Ernesto…Mario’s brother and the son of the father/son team that runs Don Alfonso’s 2 star Michelin kitchen.

I did have a few questions. And about a dozen compliments to pass on. He looked pretty busy, though. I wasn’t the only one that day who wanted to ‘meet with the chef’. He was even in the midst of a photo shoot.

But, once again, a smile from the kitchen window…this time followed by a gesture that said ‘come here’. Inside the kitchen. His kitchen where he gave me a quick tour of his work area, presented me to a few members of his team, and then it was off to converse over his lunch.

I learned many things during my conversation that afternoon. How important it is for the Iaccarino family to use fresh ingredients, fruits and vegetables in season. Many from their own organic farm, Le Peracciole, located in nearby Termini. A place that provides the olives they use for their own olive oil, the lemons for their own lemon liqueur.

That Don Alfonso has restaurants in Hong Kong, Morocco, and on the mega yacht Jackie Onassis.

That Chef Iaccarino likes to add a light touch of Asian flavors to his Mediterranean menu to add a touch of fusion between the continents.

That he also understands the importance of leaving some classic recipes just that-classics.

I discovered that it took nearly a month of blind taste tastings for the right combination for his delicate batter used for my lobster appetizer.

I discovered that the little details make the difference.

Like my plate of spaghetti I had earlier. A plate Iaccarino said was pensato, sentito, fatto-thought about, felt, made. A plate tutto pancia, istinta, made using his instincts. The right pasta-spaghetti from Gragnano. Cooked al dente-firm. Codfish slowly cooked at a low temperature. Buffalo meat sliced thinly and served al carpaccio underneath. Fresh sautéed broccoli leaves. Grated toasted bread crumbs… a sprinkle of pine nuts. Here, Ernesto told me, was complexity with a piatto semplice

Semplice…simple. The Don Alfonso formula was just that. Complex but simple. An intricate blend of simple, clear cut details that worked hand in hand to make Don Alfonso 1890 one of the leading restaurants in the world.

Simple. From the ingredients used in the kitchen to the flowers on the table.
Genuine. From the heartfelt service provided by the entire waiting staff…to the smile from the chef from the kitchen window…

Curiosity satisfied…well, almost. Maybe I need to go back. To check out their suites. Have breakfast in bed or by the pool. Really delve into their wine cellar in the company of Maurizio Cerio. Take a cooking class or visit their organic farm…

I wouldn’t be the first. I wouldn’t be breaking new ground.
It would be other journey to satisfy my curiosity.

Don Alfonso 1890
Corso S. Agata 11
80064 S. Agata sui due Golfi (Na)
39 081 878 0026

Italian version

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What a Drink Experience ! -Città del Gusto Napoli

Barchef/Mixologist Sebastiano Pucella
We met one Thursday evening at Città del Gusto for a real drink experience. Sebastiano Pucella…barchef, mixologist with a creative mind and simpatico personality. We met there for one of Città del Gusto’s Thursday night Drink Experience cocktail nights. And it was here that I got a chance to watch Sebastiano prepare several cocktails step by step.

He started off with cocktails based on Negroni (gin, campari, and red vermouth). Unstructured Negroni-tini Evolving was the first. A velvety drink with cinnamon alcolato lightly sprayed on top. Next, Negroni with Orange Evanescent with a foamy topping. He made a Bevuta di Mela Annurca for me complete with fresh apple, mela, juice that he makes himself daily. Here, Sebastiano told me, is where the bar meets classic cooking. Lemon peel, cinnamon, and ginger were other fresh ingredients that he added to the mix.

There were a couple others he wanted me to see. Daiquiri Smokin Cammomila. Entertaining to watch Sebastiano light up and smoke tea in the decanter. And finally his Tobacco Connection, a revisited version of the classic cocktail French Connection from the 1940s.

A real drink experience because here,  I got the chance to get an understanding of what goes into to making a cocktail drink. And that evening I left Città del Gusto Napoli with a new appreciation for those ‘behind the bar’. Pucella didn’t have to toss glasses in the air or dance to music. He held my attention with his passion and his patience.

See you next Thursday….

Città del Gusto Napoli
Coroglio 104e
80124, Naples

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Amazing Appetizers - Seared Tuna with Poppy Seeds, Panzarella, and Buffalo Straciatella by Chef Umberto De Martino, Ristorante Marina Grande

Here's a recipe for a dish that I enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the beach at Ristorante Marina Grande in Amalfi.  I asked chef Umberto De Martino for the recipe and here it is:

Seared tuna with poppy seeds, panzanella and buffalo stracciatella.

Ingredients for 4: 400 g tuna fillet, 60 grams of poppy seeds, 12 slices of bread , 1 tomato, 30 g black olives, 20 gr. of capers, 2 basil leaves, 50 g burrata, salt, pepper to taste, 50 cl extra virgin olive oil

Roll the tuna fillet in poppy seeds, in order to form a crust. Sear in a hot pan for about 1 minute on each side,then allow to cool. Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes and toast in an 200° oven for 3 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in a bowl, add the olives, capers and basil, add the toasted bread and season with salt, pepper and oil. Spoon the panzanella (bread salad) onto the center of the dish, cut the tuna into slices and place on panzanella..Add a spoonful of buffalo stracciatella on the side. Complete the dish by drizzling a little extra virgin olive oil.

Ristorante Marine Grande
Viale della Regione, 4
84011 Amalfi (Sa)
089 871129

Italian Version

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vineyard Hopping - Mirabella Eclano (Av) - Quintodecimo

Turn right at the 3.7 km marker, then drive for about 7-800 meters. Professor Luigi Moio told me over the phone. You’ll see a vineyard…

You’ll see a vineyard, I thought, with a little smile…well, I am in Irpinia…

I continued driving…no vineyards, just houses, a narrow road, a tractor, and then, I saw it. Not just a vineyard. His vineyard in Mirabella Eclano. 8 hectares of Aglianico that belong to Quintodecimo, Professor Moio’s winery…his haven…his dream made reality in the heart of Irpinia’s Taurasi country. A dream that I had a chance to share for a few hours one sunny Saturday afternoon.

It was hard not to notice the fusion of colors around the winery. A winery that Luigi Moio, along with his wife, Laura Di Marzio brought to life back in 2001. Years after enologist Moio returned from working and living in France. A few years after he began working with wineries such as Antonio Caggiano, Marisa Cuomo, Terre del Principe, and Cantina del Taburno to name a few.

Quintodecimo – A winery, and I feel,a philosophy that Moio has had in his mind for quite some time. Ideas that have developed into a peaceful part of Irpinia where he has decided to grow grapes, make wines, and raise his family. A place where he could find harmony between man and nature.

A philosophy that I saw right away, subito, as I walked the grounds with Moio. His desire as a winemaker to be as close to his vineyard as possible. His home is no less than 50 meters from the clayey soil, rich in limestone. Perfect, for Moio’s Vigna Quintodecimo. A Taurasi Riserva DOCG that he has been producing since 2004. A walk through this vineyard and it was impossible not to stop and take a close look at the terrain, snap a few photos.

We continued walking down the hill away from Moio’s home/cantina and towards another part of his vineyard. The grapes here were the same, Aglianico. But major differences in the soil, not as clayey…a little tufo stone. A shift in sun exposition from north/west to south/east. I found myself in Terre del Eclano DOC territory. The vineyard that produces Quintodecimo’s base Aglianico.

Every now and then, Moio would adjust a few vines, toss a few stones, share a few stories. He pointed out some of the light equipment located in the vineyards used to monitor research on terrior. A study to analyze how factors such as soil and vineyard location can affect the grapes, and eventually a wine.

I continued to follow Moio through the vineyards, past a couple of renovated wells, and up towards the house. On the way, I noticed many aromatic plants such as roses and rosemary. Moio said that the presence of these plants was important, to attract insects, to keep that special balance with nature that he desired.

The next part of my ‘tour’ was the winery. And one way to enter is through a little area known as Piazza Quintodecimo. A light breeze met us as we approached. Perfect. Perfect because here is where Moio has planted a wide range of aromatic plants. Fruits such as blueberry, currants, raspberries, and strawberries. Perfect because these aromas drifted over and surrounded us. Aromas that reminded me of what would be found as I would bring my nose to a glass of Aglianico.

Into the wine tasting room. A splash of colors that matched the bottles, matched the labels of Quintodecimo’s wines. A spectacular view of the vineyards from windows next to the fireplace, which I'm sure would create an amazing atmosphere when lit on a cold winter evening.

Up until now, our conversation had been focused on Aglianico and Aglianico only. And from the window, I could see Quintodecimo’s latest vineyard a little further up the road from which we were earlier. Another Aglianico vineyard with a soil that was more fertile, less clayey. A vineyard where he could produce yet another Taurasi in which the aromas of fruit would be more concentrated, a little less tannic than Vigna Quintodecimo.

On top of the fireplace, on the mantle next to the reds, I noticed the whites. Campania’s big three…Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino. And where were these vineyards?, I wondered. Throughout Campania was the response. Via del Campo Falanghina IGT from 2 hectres of vineyards in Mirabella Eclano. Giallo D’Arles Greco Di Tufo DOCG from Santa Paolina (Av), and Exultet Fiano di Avellino DOCG from Lapio (Av). Another time, I thought to myself...I wanted to see the cantina.

The cantina. Moio showed me around from start to finish. He pointed out the equipment used to de-stem and press the grapes. Pointed out equipment that was pedal operated. Showed me the ‘yellow brick road’…the route that his white grapes take to become his white wine all with yellow tiles on the floor. From the press to the vats to the barrel to the bottles. His whites are ready no earlier than 18 months after the harvest.

I noticed red brick tiles as I glanced on the floor. The great ‘red way’. Yes…to the barrels, then the bottles. 18 months in legno then 6 months in the bottle for Terre D’Eclano. Twenty four months in barriqus and then 24 months in the bottle for Vigna Quintodecimo.

My tour continued through the cantina, to where Quintodecimo bottles, wraps, and then boxes their wines. Moio showed me his barrel room. His stash of earlier vintages that are no longer available to the public. His dream, his sogno. Then it was time to try his wines.

It was time to try Quintodecimo where they would best be appreciated, at the table. Over lunch served at the right temperature, paired with the right dish. I had a special opportunity that afternoon. To sip Via del Campo 2009 over a plate of spaghetti. A glass of Giallo D’Arles 2008 on a terrace with an astonishing view of the vineyards to one side, Luigi and Laura’s vegetable garden to the other. Terre D’Eclano 2007 and Vigna Quintodecimo with rabbit and tomatoes and a side of melanzane a funghetti.

Time stood still for me that afternoon. It was easy to be enticed, once again by Irpinia. It was easy to be enchanted by the vineyards, fascinated by the wines.

It wasn’t so easy, however, to say goodbye…so we left it as see you later

later in the season when the grapes are heavier on the vines…

and then maybe at harvest time...

and then maybe…

Via San Leonardo
83036 Mirabella Eclano (Av)
0825 449321

Italian Version