Sunday, May 24, 2015

Welcome to Maxi- Maxi Restaurant, Vico Equense (Na)

I can't remember the last time I say so many hues of blue in one place.  Clean blues mingled with crisp whites greeted me as I entered the reception area of Hotel Capo La Gala. It was an early Thursday evening, I was at the gorgeous 5 star hotel awaiting to be accompanied to the Michelin star Maxi Restaurant to meet Chef  Domenico Iavarone and try some of his stellar dishes. The trip to meet the chef  included a trail with fantastic views of the Sorrento Peninsula, the sea, and the seashore. Colorful blues were joined by other crisp sunny colors mixed with bamboo and wood.
Upon arrival, at the end of the dining room I saw the chef along with key players of the dining room staff to include Maitre Giulia Tavolaro and Sommelier Alfonso Somma.  Each with a smile that said Welcome to Maxi!
A quick look around, then into the large colorful kitchen where I met the rest of the chef's brigade and chatted a little bit about the gourmet restaurant Maxi open in the evening, Nerea - their casual restaurant open for lunch, as well as the breakfast service.  It was clear to see that  the entire staff takes pride in each part of the food chain - not just the Michelin star restaurant.  And with that, the chef suggested that I head to the Capri Bar just below for aperitif.  I may just get a glimpse of that famous Vico Equense sunset he added as he looked out over the terrace.

Chef Domenico Iavarone

Capri Bar:
Home to cocktails, light snacks, and  swimming pool. It was here where I met head barman Michele Savarese. I told him I would like something easy before dinner.  He brought me his colorful cocktail The Siren's Land.  Siren, who in mythology, were known to be beautiful half woman/half bird singing beauties.  The beautiful colors created their own little palette on my small white end table as I began to enjoy the appetizers for the evening.

The sun had almost set, unfortunately the sunset was hidden behind the clouds.  That didn't matter. I decided to join the other guests at Maxi.
At Maxi, when the weather permits, guests dine outside at intimate candlelit tables.  An intimacy that is contagious, complete with low voices paired with a relaxing atmosphere.  I looked over the menu, which is a reflection of the chef's love of ingredients from the local territory blended with his gourmet touch. A gourmet menu which was not intimidating for an international clientele who packs the hotel season after season.  One could choose a la carte or decide to go for the tasting menus such as Vanessa (an appetizer, 2 first courses, a second course and dessert) or  Bianca (2 appetizers, 2 first courses, a second course and a dessert).  The tasting menus even offer a different glass of wine paired with care by sommelier Somma.

The light at the table was halfway between dusk and night bringing out the colors that only Maxi could give.  My benvenuto, my welcome...

Montanara with tomato sauce

Potatoes, squid ink, and grilled octopus

What better benvenuto - once again hitting on the strengths of Campania - tomato sauce, seafood...welcome to Maxi.

Appetizers: colorful and flavorful changing the mood of the evening - flavors became more intimate it seemed as the candlelight at the table fused with the overhead stylish Maxi lamp that hung above each table.
 Appetizers such as the chef's totano squid and potatoes - a classic dish presented here in style.  Potatoes cooked in the same water which prepared the squid, absorbing the rich flavors of the sea.  Topped with purple potato chips for not only a contrast in color, but a crunch as well.

Appetizers such as the chef's tuna with artichokes; crunchy and creamy style.  Not only a taste of territory, but a taste of the spring season as well.  A sprinkling of caffe' to make it special was greatly appreciated.

Candlelight greeted the next couple of dishes.  First up, linguine with a puttanesca sauce.  Listening to Maitre Tavolaro explain the dish was almost as exciting as trying it myself.  The puttanesca sauce was in reality a tomato gazpacho, she shared, giving an interesting contrast in temperatures between hot and cold.  The dish was made complete by the addition of flavor sea snails.

The next pasta dish -  Maxi's homemade tortelli pasta stuffed with the last broccoli greens of the season with clams and shrimp.

The second course was fish and chips.  But not your simple pub food.  We were at Maxi and the chef's chip were lightly fried, then baked for 48 hours at a low temperature.  These chips delicately covered the fish of the fish and chips- red mullet sided with romaine lettuce, radishes and Maxi' mayonnaise.

My relaxing evening was drawing to an end.  Hotel guests were heading to their room.  I, instead did not want to leave.  Not just yet.  There was a certain kind of welcoming silence.  The sound of the waves, the colors, the candlelight worked together in harmony.  But for me it was time for dessert and I decided on chocolate.
A dessert listed as cioccolato, noccilo, e arancia.  Chocolate, nocillo liqueur and orange.  But it was so much more.

That and a coffee with Iavarone before I faced up to the truth.  I needed to snap out of this colorful welcome to maxi dream, head back to my car, and back to reality.
I was reminded by Iavarone that I could always come back.  There were still a few of his dishes that I had't tried, then summer was on its way - that meant new products, a new menu.  And then there was the wine cellar that I wanted to get a peek at.

Then there was still that sunset that I missed out on thanks to hazy weather.

Welcome to Maxi...

To be continued.

Maxi Restaurant
Via Luigi Serio 8
Vico Equense (Na)
081 801 5757/58

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