Friday, May 10, 2013

Spingtime in Paradiso- Don Alfonso 1890

Chef Ernesto Iaccarino
Flashback, summer 2011.  A small white van pulls up to the small narrow driveway that lies between Don Alfonso's Restaurant and their cooking school.  I remember   Chef Alfonso Iaccarino, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt and a pair of hiking boots, getting out of the van and opening up the back doors. Two dogs hop out as he reaches in and pulls out one of the dozen or so crates full of fresh figs.  Very fresh.  I was told by a friend that Chef Iaccarino had just returned from one of his daily trips to the family's farm 5/6 km away.
You've never been? I was asked..
No...I answered...Not, yet...
Back to the present ish.  Spring in Campania.  And for the third year in a row I was preparing to visit i miei amici  at Don Alfonso 1890.  I couldn't help but think back to that summer in 2011.  The white van.. The dogs.  The fresh figs.
I had to visit the farm. Azienda Agricola Le Peracciole to be exact.  Six hectres of paradiso hugging the coast. About a ten minute ride from the restaurant.

Chef Ernesto Iaccarino
I was pretty  lucky that Sunday morning, my driver, Chef Ernesto Iaccarino became my self appointed tour guide.  He pointed out spectacular views of the bay of Naples and Salerno.  As the road became narrower, he pointed out the various vegetables that were in season or starting to grow.  Like the amazing artichokes that flourish on a steep hill facing Capri.

Or wild sage with their amazing aromas and beautiful flowers...

Once we parked the car, we walked through the farm and saw Spring at work. It was hard to believe that this angle of paradise was practically abandoned until the family decided to take on the challenge.Here is where the family grows many of the fruit and vegetables for their restaurant.  From fresh zucchini to fennel.  From tomatoes to potatoes.  Olive trees supply the oil for their olive oil.
 Lemons grown here are used for their limoncello.  And of course, the artichokes.  That particular morning, Chef Alfonso Iaccarino was there with his pups to pick the artichokes that I had seen on my way into paradiso.
Chef Alfonso Iaccarino
On the way back to Don Alfonso, the chef shared a couple of artichoke recipes/ideas that I could use with one of my favorite veggies of the season.  I like them roasted with garlic, pancetta, olive oil, parsley and pecorino cheese.   The chef?  Alla romana - cooked Roman style on the stovetop with a little water, wine, parsley and mint.  Or his favorite; artichoke hearts thinly sliced and drizzled with lemon and olive oil (his of course!).
We arrived as the lunch hour was approaching. Just in time for an aperitivo in the garden before lunch and a chat with Mario Iaccarino, Maître de Maison and mastermind of Don Alfonso's dining room
A glass of Cadel Bosco Cuvée Prestige served in the shade.

Refreshing, since it was quite warm in the garden.  Or maybe hot was a better word.  Perfect ice cream weather.  Like Iaccarino's ice cream made with mozzarella di Campania DOP on a bed of a thinly sliced artichoke salad, and a tomato water gelatin.
mozzarella ice cream with artichokes and tomato water  gelatin
Then inside for a taste of some of the new items on Don Alfonso's menu.  The 2013 creations.
Beginning with a benvenuto...a welcome.  A spring onion stuffed with ricotta cheese, pine nuts, raisins, and chives.

 spring onion stuffed with ricotta cheese, pine nuts, raisins, and chives.
I enjoyed this flavorful antipasto while looking over the wine list.  But as usual, I decided to follow the advice of sommelier Maurizio Cerio.  He suggested that we begin in Campania with a glass or two of Fiano from a winery in the Benevento area, Azienda Agricola Cauterio.  This organic white wine, vintage 2010 would pair well with what the chef would soon be sending over to my table by the window Cerio promised.
Maurizio Cerio

Erba Bianca Fiano IGT 2010
Az. Agricola Cauterio
So what was next?  Two amazing appetizers, starting with a pezzogna sausage with pistachio, mozzarella, asparagus and black truffles...
pezzogna sausage with pistachio, mozzarella, asparagus and black truffles...
 Then? Then what Iaccarino calls the rediscovery of the fried egg with burrata and black truffles....
fried egg with burrata and black truffles...
Fried...not so much fried, but cuddled.  Iaccarino told me that the egg was cooked carefully, slowly (and I'd like to add lovingly) at a low temperature for about 25 minutes.

I was ready for a first course.  I am a big spaghetti fan, so  couldn't resist choosing spaghetti with mackerel  bread crumbs, pine nuts and candied onions.  Iaccarino added a sauce made with alalunga tuna and turnips.
spaghetti with mackerel  bread crumbs, pine nuts and candied onions
It was time to move in a new direction...from fish to red meat, so Cerio arrives with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile...Domaine Paul Bruno 1998.
Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Domaine Paul Bruno
How would this pair with Iaccarino's tenderloins (from Benevento) in bread crust with mozzarella, and pork cheek. Two sauces on the side; tomato and a spicy green sauce with anchovies and cucumbers?
tenderloins (from Benevento) in bread crust with mozzarella, and pork cheek
I think it paired perfectly...
Next up dessert...a plate of small pastries preceded by a sorbet made with fresh lemons...

lemons that I had seen a couple of hours earlier at Iaccarino's farm...

on 6 hectares which bask in the Sorrentino coast...

in a small angle of paradiso...

an angle of Don Alfonso 1890....

Don Alfonso 1890
Corso Sant'Agata, 11/13 
80064 Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi, Naples - Italy 
0039 081.878.00.26 - 0039 081.878.05.61

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