I'm not sure why, but the morning of my visit to meet Chef Giuseppe Daddio of Locanda delle Trame, I was a little nervous. A few butterflies. Come to think of it, I had a little trouble sleeping the night before. Why? I've known the chef for awhile...well, kind of. I have published a few of his recipes on my blog over the past few months. But officially, we had never met.
I decided to fix that. I made an appointment with the chef at his restaurant in Caserta for a Sunday lunch. An appointment to sit down, try some of his dishes, and figure out what was up with all the butterflies.
Sunday lunch , served on the terrace. A glass of spumante asprinio from I Borboni.and a very light breeze to help combat the heat that afternoon. A glance at the menu. A menu that opens with a note from the chef. And skimming over the page, this phrase jumped out at me, E' vero l'occhio e l'offatto sono sempre importanti ma non principali rispetto al palato...It's true that sight and sense of smell are always important but not principle in respect to the palate. And with that thought, I was about to begin a day at the chefs table. I had a full menu to choose from including 3 choices in the degustazione department; Seta, Tra Terra e Territorio, Lino Mare, and Ricett’Iss di mare Terra e Territorio. I chose the first…Daddio’s selections that would lead me through Campania with dishes rich in products from the terra…land.
As each dish was set on my table I began to think about the chef’s note on the first page of the menu…The presentation and aromas of each dish was appealing in their own way, but what was interesting to me was the palate. The mozzarella that was paired with basil inside of a lightly fried scallop for my starter. The breadstick crumb coating wrapped around the fried rabbit chops for my appetizer. A coating in which reminded me of my grandmother. A coating with flavorful spices that were balanced…had that equilibrium that Daddio later told me was so important. And on the dish, on the side-a San Marzano tomato, that when lightly pressed released a sauce that worked well with my rabbit chops, as well as the homemade breads on the table.
Importance of gusto, flavor…importance to satisfy the palate. Daddio gave me an assaggio of two different pasta dishes. A ravioli-mezzeluna. Light. Light in its ricotta filling with a touch of lemon. Light with its choice of accompaniment of tiny slivers of roasted peppers, a sprinkling of tomato powder and extra virgin olive oil bruciato. Gusto, flavor -important in his maccheroni with a pork and vegetable sauce. Gusto, flavor-there in the steak roasted in herbs. In my two desserts. . A warm apricot and chocolate tart with a side of hazel nut ice cream. Coconut granita with pineapple and raspberries.
After lunch, while stretching out on the nearby wicker sofa, waiting for the chef, I realized something. That at some point during the meal, those butterflies disappeared. I was much more relaxed. Ready to talk to Chef Daddio. Ready to talk about his 15 concepts in cucina. His award winning cook book, Ricett’ Iss. His professional cooking school Dolce & Salato. Ready to talk about his experiences in restaurants such as the Cristallo in Cortina, Badrutz’s Palce Horel in St. Moritz, Capri Palace, Hotel Eden and Dwine Restaurant in Rome just to name a few. Ready to hear about his television appearances, past and future. Questions. I had plenty.
And as I listened to Daddio that afternoon in the terrace of Locanda del Trame. As I listened during our tour of his cooking school in nearby Maddaloni. Over a caffè and babà at Pasticcieria Lombardi. I listened and those butterflies returned. But they weren’t the jumbled worried nervous breed. They were butterflies, caught up in the excitement, caught up in the enthusiasm, caught up in the passion of a chef who has accomplished so much at the young age of 35…and is not looking to stop anytime soon.
I finished my cafè, my babà, and mentally I was planning on when I could come back to visit again. A cooking class in the fall…a visit at Christmas during pannetone season. Another visit to Caserta. Me and my butterflies…
Via M. Fiorillo, I (Località Vaccheria)