Sunday, February 23, 2014

50 Kalo' di Ciro Salvo Opens in Napoli - On the Sunny Side of the Street

I may have skipped a little as I exited the garage where I left my car about 50 meters or so from Piazza Sannazzaro in Mergellina (Na).  From a distance I saw the sign, the umbrellas, the tables.  But wait, maybe I'm jumping head, going too quickly.  Let me back up just a bit. Let me explain what put that spring in my step as I headed to the sunny side of the street.
The 'official' announcement was made little over a month ago.  Probably the biggest announcement in Naples enogastronomic history in a long long time.  Expected and desired by many, myself included.
Pizzaolio Ciro Salvo would be opening his new pizzeria 50 Kalo' in Naples on the 13th of February.
Those outside of Napoli may not understand the excitement.  So here's a  little background in a nutshell. Salvo is from Portici, about 25 minutes from Naples.  His family has been making some of the best Neapolitan pizza for three generations, ever since his grandmother opened up a small but respectable pizzeria in 1968.  Salvo,  36 years old young, got the pizza making bug while working side by side with his dad in the family's business.  It was in 1996 when Ciro decided to make this world his own.  Since then, he has been working, researching, concentrating on making the best pizza ever; beginning with the pizza dough,  obviously the products that he puts on top, as well as the wood burning oven that he puts his prized creations in.  Those outside of Naples may have not noticed the vera Neapolitan pizza boom that has erupted not only in Campania, but throughout Italy.  Top pizza makers, including Salvo have focused on quality, quality, quality.  But Salvo?  He has silently spent the past 3 years ish working in Torre Annuziata, but it was just a matter of time.  After appearing on the cover of Gambero Rosso magazine back in July there was no turning back.   Napoli wanted/needed him here.  In their own backyard.  In their own piazza.
My first visit to this sunny side of the street, though, wasn't only to taste a Salvo special.  I must admit, that for the past couple of years, I, too, have been a pizza foodie, a pilgrim, so to speak, driving an hour ish to taste one of the top pizzas in Italia. (Now the drive would take 20 minutes or so, depending on traffic)
No, I was on a different type of mission.
Ciao, Maurizio!  Auguri! I said as I greeted Maurizio Cortese.  Cortese, at the door as he had been   long before the pizzeria's opening serving as Salvo's consultant, confidant, friend.  It was fitting that Cortese was at the door since he was responsible for organizing an event where I tried my 'first Salvo'.  A simple marinara with top quality tomatoes, amazing oregano, and Salvo's soft as a cloud pizza dough.

 (I wrote about that afternoon here).
Ciao Maurizio! I said, trying my hardest not to blurt out Where's Ciro??!!? I wanted to congratulate Salvo as well. I couldn't help but think back to an afternoon one summer in Portici with Salvo where he shared with me his background over an ice cream and a walk through his friend's organic vegetable garden
There was a long list of things that I wanted to do that afternoon.  Check out the wine and beer  list:  A list full of Campania wines, many that I have visited in my  vineyard hopping rounds; La Sibilla, Fattoria La Rivolta, Agnanum, Az. Alepa, Villa Matilde to name a few.  Then the beer.  An intense and enticing collection.  (I asked Cortese for his advice since beer is not my strong point)

I wanted to check out the 50 Kalo's interior which I had only seen previously in photos...sleek, modern.  An interior which could seat up to 80 customers, another 40 outside.
And since I was there, ok.  Why not try a pizza.  I took a seat next to the window.  One strategically located where not only I could see the pulse of the piazza outside which connected Fuorigrotta to Mergellina, but with a perfect view of the banco where I could watch pizzas in action.
Pizzas such as the one I ordered - a favorite - 'nduja di spilinga.  A pizza made with San Marzano DOP  tomatoes, fior di latte from Agerola, hot spicy 'nduja from Spilinga (Calabria, where they like it hot), fresh basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil produced by Don Alfonso 1890.

Or my son's favorite, who, fever and all, wanted to try his Salvo favorite - la marinara - a true test of excellence.  Once again, San Marzano tomatoes, this time paired with garlic, and I mean garlic,  from Ufita, oregano from Mt Alburni, and Don Alfonso's extra virgin olive oil.

Yes, this trip had one last  little mission. To enjoy my pizza  seated at a table under a photo that I snapped of Ciro,  one evening over a year ago, while he prepared a pizza for me.

Piazza Sannazzaro, 201/b Naples
081 192 04 667
Open for lunch and dinner (closed Tuesdays)
Reservations aren't accepted

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Calle dei Campi di Gragnano Pasta, Tomato / Basil Gelee and Buffalo Milk Mozzarella DOP Fonduta

A few weeks ago,  I received an invitation to participate in “Pasta Bufala e Fantasia! Reinventa la tradizione” this year's food blogger recipe contest sponsored by Le Strade della Mozzarella and Pastificio dei Campi .  This year, the contest looked assai interesting because besides being asked to use pasta and mozzarella di bufala DOP in our recipes, we were asked to incorporate 'the latest technology'.  After a little research and some creative daydreaming, I came up with my entry:

Calle dei Campi di Gragnano, Tomato / Basil Gelee and Buffalo Milk Mozzarella DOP Fonduta

Difficulty: 2 (In a range from 1-4)

Ingredients for 4 people

200 gr Calle dei Campi di Gragnano pasta.
260 g of  sliced San Marzano tomatoes ( Since they are out of season, I used canned and drained the extra juice)
75 gr of chopped basil 
350 grams of mozzarella di bufalo dop
200 ml of cream
350 ml of milk
150 ml of water
22 g (4 1/5 teaspoons) of agar agar powder
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste


For the tomato sauce gelee.
In a saucepan, add a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Saute a clove of garlic in the oil.  Remove the garlic.  Add the sliced San Marzano tomatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes. Salt to taste.  Remove from heat and blend it using a immersion blender until smooth.  Return to the stove top, and add 50 ml of water and 10 grams of the agar agar powder ( 2 teaspoons).  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  After a few minutes, remove from heat and pour into a mold.  I used a rectangular glass dish, about 14 cm x 14 cm x 4 cm.  Place in the refrigerator to cool and set.

For the basil gelee.
Chop up 75 grams of basil.  ( I had some frozen basil on hand saved from the summer ).  Saute a clove of garlic in a small saucepan.  Remove the garlic.  Add the chopped basil and 50 ml of water.  Cook for  5 minutes, stirring often. Salt to taste. Remove from heat and blend to get a smooth mixture.  Place a tablespoon aside to use for drizzling later.  Return to the stove top, add another 50 ml of water and 12 grams (2 1/2 teaspoons ) of agar agar powder.   Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  After a few minutes, remove from heat and pour into the mold on top of the tomato gelee.  Make sure the tomato gelee has set before pouring the basil mixture.   Place in the refrigerator to cool and set..  After it has set, bring to room temperature.

For the fonduta:
Place the mozzarella in the refrigerator overnight so that it will lose some of its extra water.  Slice into small pieces, then blend it with the milk and cream until smooth.  Heat over low heat the stove top, stirring constantly so that it does not boil for about 20 minutes.  Add salt if desired (it depends on the sapidity of your mozzarella di bufala, and your tastes, of course).

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water.  Though the box says for 13 minutes, I wanted the pasta very al dente so that it would stand up on the plate, so I decided to drain after on 11/12 minutes.  

Plate preparation:
 Using a piece of uncooked calle dei campi di gragnano as a cookie cutter, cut the gelee into  pieces.  I suggest you dampen the pasta first so that the gelee will not stick to the pasta cutter.  Spread out the fonduta on a dish using a ladle or large spoon. Arrange the pasta and gelee on top of the bed you have created with the fonduta.  Drizzle a little olive oil and some of the basil mixture that you conserved earlier.  

Buon apetito!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

When Amici Get Together - Amici per le Padelle - Piazzetta Milu', Castellamare Di Stabia (Na)

Una serata dedicata al gusto dell'amicizia...
That is what the invite said.
6 talented chefs.  6 talented friends who promised us an evening out  , with amici for una serata of good food wine and good company. I stepped out last Monday evening an headed to Piazzetta Milu' in Castellamare Di Stabia, about forty minutes ish from Naples.  I stepped out on a cold Monday night in February  to celebrate  friendship.  Amici per Le Padelle is what this band of brothers calls themselves.  An idea thrown around one late evening via WhatsApp.  An idea to share their passion for cooking,  to get together in one kitchen and stir it up, so to speak...

The evening began with an appetizer from Chef Antonio Petrone...

Totanetto di paranza stuffed with friarielli greens, smoked provolone cheese, and fondue with poatatoes from Montoro.

Next, Chef Rocco De Santis....

A crispy fried egg with a whisper of cauliflower, truffles and a creamy caciocavallo cheese sauce.

Chef Mirko Balzano...

Tortelli pasta stuffed with octopus in a roasted Montoro onion broth.

Chef Marco Laudato...

Rice in a genovese sauce.

Chef Cristoforo Trapani (host chef)...

Secreto di Patanegra with potatoes, red peppers, and black truffles.

And Chef Cristian Torsiello...

Mandarin sorbet, licorice,with a reduction of  milk and sour cream.

In an era of TV programs where competition among chefs is portrayed as fierce and downright ugly, it sure was refreshing to see another side of the coin.

Alla prossima get together!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

When Fiano Came to Napoli-Snapshot of a Territory with Cantine Di Meo and Chef Gianluca D'Agostino

I remember that afternoon as if it were yesterday.  A Sunday afternoon in Salza Irpina (Av), late October 2013.  After a few hours in Roberto Di Meo's Fiano vineyards 'helping out' with the harvest and taking photos, it was time to sit down and relax.  Relax with a glass of wine and enjoy a buffet potluck pranzo prepared by Di Meo, his wife Rossella, and their friends.   It was over a glass of one Di Meo's latest creations, a Fiano spumante metodo charmat that the idea hit.  And without missing a beat I asked Roberto if we could do a Snapshot together...his Fiano in Naples.  And I knew just the place.
Veritas Restaurant.
Veritas, besides being one of the top restaurants in Naples,  had the right ambiance, I felt, to recreate that afternoon in Avellino.  Cozy, compassionate, comfortable.  In the kitchen, Gianluca D'Agostino a young chef with a sack load of experience.  A Neapolitan with strong ties to Irpinia. I was more than confident that Gianlu' could pull out a menu that would pair perfectly with the wines chosen for the evening.
The evening. Tuesday evening, January 28, 2014.
The wines - we decided to focus on Fiano di Avellino but in 3 different representations of the varietal.  A wine tasting not to judge...but taste...
In perfect Snapshot style.
My photos on the wall. Fourteen black and white snapshots of the Fiano vineyards that surround Di Meo's winery in Salza Irpina.  Snapshots taken during the harvest in October of 2013 and during the planting of 10,000 new Fiano vine cutitngs in November of 2013.

Our evening began as casually as that Sunday afternoon a few months earlier.
Squid with creamy cauliflower, a sprinkling of  coffee, curly escarole and smoked herring...
 paired with Alessandria Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2010. (Vinified traditionally then aged for 12 months in stainless steel, 12 month in the bottle before being released.)  

First Course:
Gnocchetti pasta  with cabbage, cotechino and squid...

 paired with Cole dei Cerri Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2005 (Selected grapes, aged 10 months in barriques, then 10 months in the bottle before released)

Second Course:
Salt cod with a chick pea and torzelle soup  topped with cruschi peppers....

This was paired with a wine that many of us were waiting for.  
Selezione Erminia Di Meo Fiano di Avellino DOC 2000 This was the  official presentation this wine which will be available in a couple of months (After careful manual selection in the vineyard and meticulous grape selection upon arrival at the winery, the grapes are vinified with maceration for two days with the skins at a low controlled temperature. Aged for 14 years in stainless steel and the bottle)

Pear stuffed with ricotta cheese and chocolate, peperosa, and amaretti cookie crumbs.  
This  dessert along with a dish of fantastic chocolate pastries were paired with a Di Meo classic.  We stepped away from Fiano and headed towards Taurasi with  Ratafia’ di Nonna Erminia. Raftafia’ is made from a family recipe that has been lovingly passed down for generations. 

Taurasi wine infused with a special variety of leaves and herbs, and then aged 2 years in barrique before being bottled.

Overall the evening was relaxing.  A chance to blend wines, fine dining, and photography-three of my favorite passions.  A chance to discuss the wines, the territory, the pairings.  Impressive the freshness of the vecchia Fiano Selezione Erminia Di Meo Fiano di Avellino DOC 2000 ,   Interesting the label on the bottle; simple straight forward..  Delicatissimo D'Agostino's codfish.  Elegant Cole dei Cerri Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2005.  Delightful the tartufi chocolates paired with  Ratafia’.

The evening ended.  As casually as it began.  As casual and relaxed as that Sunday in Salza Irpina...

Snapshot accomplished.