The perfect way to get to know each other. That is what I believed as Chef Mirko Balzano, Laura Guarino and I enjoyed a glass of Aglianico (frizzante, due to fermentation in the bottle) by Ciro Picariello. The perfect way to begin an afternoon in Mirabella Eclano.. overlooking Aglianico and Fiano grape vines, olive orchards, in the garden of Guarino's renovated farmhouse which her family has called Villa Assunta for nearly 4 years. A place deep in the heart of Irpinia. A team who believe in the territory, believe in its people, and believe in its products. A young chef. A young entrepreneur. A young restaurant. Villa Assunta... Mesali Guide... page 64. A place that maybe I had seen before. Maybe I had imagined a place just like this. In a dream of settling down in the country.
I followed Chef Balzano into the kitchen for a look around and watch as the apperitivos were being prepared. Right away I noticed how important attention to detail and presentation is important to Balzano. Presentation that introduces you to Balzano's dishes. Introduces you to Villa Assunta. After a few photos, I quickly went to my table and just imagined, that each dish was little gift, designed and prepared especially just for me.
A glass of Fiano spumante from Montesole shared the table with small little packages. A pizza fritta with fresh tomato sauce and basil. A single tube of pasta filled with a potato and celery cream, topped with a tomato. Bruschetta in a tazza of caffe'. Then there was fried polenta, eggplant with tomato, baccala' tartar with a light fresh celery sauce. A shot glass with a fried green pepper. Fried in a light batter that I imagined was designed especially for me.
Laura poured me a glass of Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2007 Ciro Picariello. I skimmed through the menu, but then decided that it would be better to let the Chef decide my lunch for the day. Let Balzano continue to present his little packages prepared 'just for me'...
We moved onto the appetizers; polpetta schiacciata di melanzane, crema di ricotta, lime e menta/a fried eggplant ball stuffed with pancetta, parmagiana cheese and basil. On the side, cream of ricotta, lime and mint. Then a dish that I was ready to try a dish which I tried back in July. Hamburger di crudo di vitello Irpino con cuore di pomodoro e maionase all'oglicorola. This hamburger, with its flavorful sauce was sided with tiny french fries. Tiny thin slices of potatoes lightly fried in Guarino's olive oil. Fried, I'd like to believe, especially for me.
Especially for me. Just like I'm sure that Balzano's plate of ravioli decorated with my favorite colors stuffed with prosciutto and panna was designed for me. How did he know? And how did he know which were some of my favorite fruits such as kiwi, cantaloupe, and melon plated around capocollo di maiale rosolato con salsa mou.
Laura came with a little cup. A little cup of tiramisu. A little cup that was the beginning of my personal dessert parade. A parade that included a colorful dish of ricotta and nutella. Tiny little spoonfuls of Balzano's desserts. All for me, I'd like to believe.
Just like I'd like to believe that their wine cellar and wine list full of wines from Irpinia were hand picked and selected especially for me. Aglianico, Fiano in the midst of wines from all over Italy and the world.
After lunch, a stroll around the garden. A walk across the grounds. A chance to chat with Guarino and Balzano. It was the perfect way to end my afternoon at Villa Assunta.
In a place that I was now convinced had seen before. In a dream full of little packages...packages of Campania...
Via Capo di Guadio, Mirabella Eclano (Av)