Monday, October 29, 2012

Fantastic Firsts - Fettucce with Colatura di Alici, Walnuts, and Lemon - Chef Giacomo De Simone - Hotel Le Axidie (Na)

I'm a big fan of Southern Italy's primi piatti. Earlier this month I had a chance to try this fantastic first prepared by Chef Giacomo De Simone during my lunch at Hotel Le Axidie.  This dish feature  colatura di alici from Cetara,known as anchovy sauce/juice and lemons from Sorrento.  Here is the recipe for 4.


280 gr fettucce pasta
200 g walnuts from Sorrento
Colatura di Alici from Cetara
extra virgin olive oil
One untrested lemon from Sorrento
One  clove of garlic


Brown the garlic in the oil, add the previously walnuts and sauté in a saucepan.
Cook the pasta according to directions, and when it is firm,  add to the saucepan.  Toss together, adding a little of the water from the cooked pasta.  Add a little anchovy sauce, grated lemon zest, and serve.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sunday at Rizzuti's - Frank Rizzuti Cucina del Sud, Potenza (Pz)

Via Potito Petrone 42 – Largo Pasquale Uva...85100, Potenza (PZ).  
Google Maps...Bing...Tom Tom.
No matter where I plugged that address in, it gave me the same news: Driving time, two hours, more or less. Those two hours would take me out of the Campania region,  into Basilicata and straight to Potenza.  Two hours for a not so typical lunch at  Chef Frank Rizzuti's Cucina del Sud.  A trip that I was more than happy to make since neo Michelin Star Rizzuti opened up his new place back in March.  A trip that would continue my Lucano cooking education which started over a year ago courtesy of the chef.  And give me a taste of Southern cooking - Basilicata style.

Chef Frank Rizzuti
I was greeted with a smile by Rizzuti and he showed me around his new place.  An elegant black and white interior with splashes of bright welcoming  colors here and there.   A little hint on what my lunch would be like...elegant delicate flavors with vibrant colors.I opened the menu and read the following phrase...
An invitation, that when translated is an invitation to come in, be comfortable...feel at home.  An invitation that I was ready to accept when the chef sent out his of his signature dishes...a classic from Basilicata; Acquasale.

Acquasale: Egg, turnip greens, and Senise peppers  
Or his Sottobosco lucano, undergrowth ...a delicious dish of flavors from the forest, flavors from the earth.  Tartufi, mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. All surrounding a slow cooked quail egg.

Sottobosco Lucano
One more antipasto assaggio...Rizzuti sent me a lamb hamburger with ketchup he had made from Senise peppers.  A pepper that finds its way to many of his dishes.  On the side, an gnummariedd (lamb interiors) ice cream.  

My first courses were ready.  I tried four different specialties beginning with the light delicate flavors of fresh ravioli with crema di bufula in a beef broth.

Then a plate of fusilli with turnip greens (now in full season) and anchovies.  Rizzuti lightly sprinkled a bit of powdered Senise peppers on top.  

With each plate, I noticed an increase in the intensity of flavors.  Like my third pasta dish; roasted lamb tortelli and caciocavallo podolico cheese grated on top.

And perhaps my favorite of the day; semolina cavatelli with Porto Santo Spirito prawns, beans from Sarconi,  and foie gras. 

Sticking with the delicate flavorful theme, Rizzuti chose one second course.  Something that I had never tried before.  A tender plate of roasted pigeon with a side of turnip greens, a carrot, and olives from Ferrandina.

Dessert?  Of course.  Beginning with a predessert of crema di latte, tomatoes and vanilla...

then continuing with...


variation of chocolate

lemon assoluto

millefoglie with ice cream

piccoli pastries

An intense aternoon, full of flavors from the south.  Some light...others intense.  All balanced.  All representing the South...Sud...Frank Rizzuti's Cucina del Sud.

And all worth the 2 hour drive on a Sunday afternoon.

Via Potito Petrone 42 – Largo Pasquale Uva
85100, Potenza (PZ).  
 0971 45506 / 320 6665608

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Pizza with Ciro...

Ciro Salvo
Ci vediamo in pizzeria?...Ciro Salvo's last words to me after we spent the afternoon together last July.  An ice cream, a walk around the port, and a visit to an organic garden.  But pizza?  Not that day.  It was Ciro's day off. So, I'd have to go visit him at Masse' in Torre Annunziata about 20 minutes outside of Naples. There I would be able to observe Ciro at work where he feels most comfortable.  So a couple of weeks after his trip to Tokyo to teach Japanese pizza makers the art of Neapolitan pizza, I braved the Torre Annunziata Friday night traffic to have a seat next to Ciro and his brand new pizza oven.

A glance at the pizza menu and I instantly saw how Salvo's desire and continuous search for the best products have made their way to this little corner of Torre Annunziata.  Peocrino cheese DOP, conciato romano cheese from Le Campestre extra virgin olive oils from the Cilento region, a variety of tomatoes such as San Marzano, Piennolo from Vesuvius and tomatoes from Gragnano.

I must of changed my mind 3 or 4 times before I finally decided upon a pizza al bianco (without tomatoes) with porcini mushrooms and sausage.  My son, David, knew instantly what he wanted ...Salvo's famous marinara.

While waiting for our pizzas, I took the opportunity to chat with Ciro while he worked.  We talked about his time in Tokyo, his upcoming trip to Torino for the event of the year ; Salone Internazionale del Gusto in Turin, Italy where he would lead a seminar on Neapolitan pizza, and an upcoming 3 week course in Rome at Gambero Rosso's Cooking School.  A busy schedule for anyone, especially one who was about to become a father for the first time (his daughter is due any minute ;-) ).

Ciro was in charge and I enjoyed watching the rythym he had established between extendingd the pasta dough, adding the toppings, and then passing it over to Gennaro Salvo who was ready to place it into the oven. His mia Ferrari...he said with a smile. An oven designed and constructed by Forno Napoletano.  60 seconds more or less was all that was needed to transform a pizza dough topped with products hand picked by Salvo into an amazing Friday night dinner.

The moment arrived.  Our pizzas were ready.  A simple marinara with tomatoes from Gragnano...garlic, evo from Cilento DOP, and oregano...

A pizza with fior di latte from Agerola,  porcini mushrooms, and sausage from Agerola...

Top quality products paired with Salvo's famous pizza dough.  His latest version is left to rise for around 20 hours.  A mix of flour ("O"), water, salt, and yeast...and that special Salvo touch backed by years of experience adds up to the softest pizza crust I have ever eaten....

Like slicing into a cloud...

Ci vediamo in pizzeria?  Yes, Ciro...Again...and again...and again...and again....

Corso Vittorio Emanuel,429
Torre Annunziata (Na)
081 536 3382

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Serendipity - Rossella' s Biscotti alle Mandorle - Cantine Di Meo (Av)

Wikipedia: Serendipity means  a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.  

I took a group of friends to one of my favorite wineries last month ...Cantine Di Meo in Salza Irpina (Av).   I introduced them to Roberto Di Meo...we toured the grounds, the cantina, and sat down to a wine tasting in the comfort of his restructured farmhouse.   Fiano di Avellino  , Greco di Tufo, Aglianico, and Taurasi were tasted, discussed and appreciated during an amazing buffet prepared by Di Meo, his wife Rossella, and an amazing staff..  At the end of the evening the 'unforgettable assaggio'  was a simple cookie with almonds.  Here's the recipe...

550 g of unsalted almonds, 250 g. of sugar, 1 package of vanilla, 4-5 egg yolks.

Chop up the almonds.  Add the sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks and mix well.  Place the mixture onto a cookie sheet by using a pastry bag. and bake at 180 degrees Celcius (about 356 degrees Fahrenheit) until golden brown.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Pepe in Grani (Ce) - A Quick Peek at a Dream

Vieni...I want to show you something.  Words spoken to me by Franco Pepe, Maestro pizza maker and friend during the lunch break at his pizza lesson last fall.  A few minutes, a few photos, a quick peek at his dream.  Pepe shared with me his dream of expanding.  Of leaving the pizzeria that his family has been running for three generations, and open a new one just a stones throw away. He had his eye on a place in Caiazzo's historical district.
And on a computer screen in a back office, Pepeshowed me photos and  talked to me about a new space...a new that would invite the enotourist into Caserta and  into Caiazzo to discover a territory rich in culture, wine and of course, try his pizza.  I saw photos of work in progress.  A dream three stories high that would include a bed and breakfast.
A bel sogno, a beautiful dream...But it would be an enormous undertaking...full of bureaucratic red tape,,,ups...downs... criticisms...and compliments.  A more than full time job that Pepe, his wife Rita and two children would have to tackle as well as continue to carry on with running an already popular pizzeria and travelling to various events in cities such as Milan, Chicago and Las Vegas.

  About a month ago, I went to see Franco in Caiazzo.  And over a few slices of my favorite pizza with prosciutto nero casertano  Franco told me that his new location.,Pepe in Grani,  was ready to open.
I'll let you know...

A couple of weeks later he sent me a text message inviting me to the grand could I refuse?

I wanted a quick peek...

A peek of Franco and company at work...doing what he loves...hands deep in the dough...

A quick peek at the new locale...

 and a quick bite to eat,,,

As the night grew older, I said a quick goodbye to Franco on my way out the door....a quick double kiss and a quick promise to return...con calma....

Pepe in Grani
Vico S. Giovanni Battista # 3
81013 Caiazzo (Ce)
0823 862718

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Vineyard Hopping - Vendemmia Season - Mastroberardino Winery (Av)

September in in Campania.  Record high temperatures...little rain.  So I shouldn't of been too surprised when I checked received a call from  Antonio.  He wanted to know if I volevo fare un giro...go for a ride.   Antonio Dente  is the agronomist/grapegrower for Mastroberardino Winery.  And a giro with this winery is an invitation to hit some of Campania's most breathtaking vineyards.

Tomorrow we'll be harvesting Greco at Montefusco....he continued.  

Perfect! I said/shouted. So, Saturday afternoon, September 28th,  my giro with Mastroberardino began, like it had so many times in the past, in a silver grey SUV discussing grapes, territory, wines, and everything else under the Irpinian sun.  Mastroberardino usually harvests their Greco in the latter half of October, when it is a tad bit cooler.  But an intense summer sun bumped the schedule up a couple of weeks.  

We pulled up in  Montefusco, a little slice of Irpinian pie high on a hilltop, with spectacular views, cool breezes, and one of the top counties for Campania's Greco Di Tufo DOCG.  Mastroberardino has a few vineyards here, as well as nearby Santa Paolina that they were willing to let me tag along during this important time of the year.

 I hopped at of the SUV and took a stroll through the rows of white...the Greco grapes that were ready to be picked to become one of their three Greco wines...their Greco di Tufo DOCG, Vignadangelo Greco di Tufo DOCG, and their top...Novaserra  Greco di Tufo DOCG.

Montefusco...Santa Paolina...Greco territory.

Watching...walking... experiencing the hard work and the excitement of vendemmia season....And I wanted to experience touching the leaves on the vine, tasting the grapes waiting to be picked, running my fingers through the soil.  I noticed bunches of dried grapes on the ground.  Grapes that had been plucked off the vine earlier in the season to reduce the quantity but improve the quality of those left behind.

After a couple of hours in the sun, it was time to go to the winery...or so I thought.   A quick hop to Pietradefusi, Dente decided.  He needed to check on the Aglianico vineyard there since the winery was scheduled to harvest the grapes for their Lacrimarosa IGT Rose'.  

I was invited to taste a couple (I already had :-) ) and note how sweet they were.  Brix 23 I was told.  A high level of sweetness and once again, a testimony to the hot summer that hi at a particular time during the maturation period bumping up the harvest in Irpinia.  Again, the grapes on the ground showing the importance of tending the vineyard the entire year...

Last stop Atripalda (Av) where the winery is located. It was here where I caught up with a busy winemaker Massimo Di Renzo who was deep in the action of not only the arrival of the Greco grapes which I saw earlier, but Coda di Volpe as well as must and fermentation in progress from Mirabella Falanghina vineyards.  

I did my best to keep up with Di Renzo...the excitement of harvest system took on a different rythm...a different beat.   

Ah...the cantina during harvest season.

But that's another story...