Thursday, October 29, 2015

4 Hands Dinner with Chef Giulio Coppola and Chef Antonino Maresca, La Galleria Restaurant, Gragnano (Na)

Chef Antonino Maresca and Chef Giulio Coppola
I decided to accept Chef Giulio Coppola's invitation to attend a cena a quattro mani that he would be hosting at his restaurant in Gragnano.  Ok, chef, I'll  accept,  but under one condition.  I asked the chef if it would be possible for me to sit in the corner of the kitchen instead of at a table in the dining room,  I mean, the kitchen would be the best place to be to see and feel the excitement of the evening.  I really wanted to witness the sparks and chemistry between  Chef Coppola and his guest for the evening, top pastry Chef Antonino Maresca.
And so there I sat, and stood, and watched, and tasted, and quietly asked questions, and tasted again as the evening went from the aperitif to the final dessert.
Here's what went down....

Potato croquettes, fried puffed packages of ricotta and cigoli, rice sartu' with pumpkin squash, and cream of tompimabur and gorgonzola with dark chocolate shavings.
Chef Coppola

Amouse- bouche:
Potatoes, anchovies, and white truffles.
Chef Coppola

An amazing spread of breads: whole-wheat sourdough focaccia with tomatoes, thyme and spring onions; a 'rustic' baba' with salami and provolone del monaco cheese; a puffed pastry pizzetta with potatoes and onions, a savory cornetto with olives and anchovies, classic ciabatta bread, and chestnut honey bread sticks with olive salt.
Chef  Maresca

Rosso di Sicilia red shrimp with escarole, zolfino beans and cotechino sausage.
Chef  Coppola

First course:
Ravioli with turnips, cuttlefish, caviar, and fennel consomme.
Pasta al Pomo
Chef Coppola

Main course:
Steamed  cod with celery, annurca apples, and walnuts.
Chef Coppola

If it's bubbly I'll take otherwise  I'll desist...
a tarallo made with yellow tomatoes
Chef Coppola
Granita made with lighlty fermented strawberry grapes and muscat.
Chef Maresca

If you forget me...sfogliatella.
Cannoli sfogliatella style, ricotta, citrus jelly, puffed semolina, cinnamon ice cream, cherries and candied fruit.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Chef Maresca

Chef Maresca also prepared a delizia di limone, which I was unable to get a shot of, but I did get a shot of his amazing goodie bag of his caprese cake and pastieria.

The kitchen? I chose well.  The place to be, with other amici such as chefs Giacomo De Simone, Dominico Stile, and Vincenzo Piacento.  

Chefs Giacomo De Simone, Domenico Stile, and Vincenzo Stile

The place to be to hang out, see what it takes to put together a serata diversa like this one.  
The place to be to absorb all the action...and maybe, just maybe...snag another piece of focaccia....

Monday, October 26, 2015

SporcheMaBuone - The Southern Spirit Alive in Sannio (Bn)

The 15th of October.  I remember it well.  It had been raining pretty hard the night before, actually, it was still raining as I dropped my son off at school.  I silently cursed the large puddles in the parking lot at work as I hopped, skipped and jumped around them.  I didn't know that at the time, about an hour away in  Sannio (Benevento province) thousands were experiencing a tragedy  greater than a little traffic on the highway or a few large puddles in the parking lot.  They were experiencing mudslides, river banks overflowing, vineyards and livelihoods destroyed  if not seriously damaged.  Among those affected was the large cooperative Cantina di Solapaca.  Mud entered into their warehouse covering up to 80,000 bottles of their Falanghina del Sannio, Barbera, Greco, Aglianico, and Fiano wines.  80,000 bottles covered in mud.

But the south has a special spirit.  A spirit that with hard work and innovation, a situation as negative as this can bring a community together.  The cooperative decided to put these bottles on sale as an effort to break even instead of suffering huge loses on the wines sold.  The campaign, which began last Thursday, is called SporcheMaBuone! - Dirty but good.  I decided to pay a quick visit and purchase a case or two.  When I arrived last Saturday with a group of friends, the winery was quite busy.  Customers from all over came to show their support for not only Cantina di Solopaca, but the hundreds of families who are part of the cooperative.
I headed straight for the bottles covered in mud.  Crates and crates of them.  The mud was still fresh.  A case of falanghina, please. 

Purchase made, I turned and watched the crowd.  A crowd full of men and women, old and young who were determined that though they were down, they sure weren't out.  A crowd of regular customers, who were giving their support any way they could - anywhere from buying wine in bulk or shovelling mud.

Sotto questa corazzo di vetro abbiamo conservato il frutto della terra che ha provato a spazzarci via...

Under this glass breastplate we have preserved the fruit of the earth that had tried to wipe us out ...

Forza Sannio!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fierce Fabulous Frittura - Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata Sui Due Golfi, (Na)

A visit to Don Alfonso 1890 towards the end of the season has become a new tradition that I have come to look forward to in the short period that I have known the Iaccarino family.  A study of the elaborate menu is an opportunity take a look back/try again/revisit dishes you know, ones you'd like to try again from the current season or maybe a favorite from seasons past. But last Saturday, my eyes caught a menu item that I was unfamiliar with.

One listed as a Ricetta Classica - one that has been on the menu for ages due to its popularity for being fantastically tasty.  Calamaretti, gamberetti, ed ortaggi in leggera frittura con maionese di barbabietole or slightly fried baby squid, shrimp, and vegetables with beet  mayonnaise.  That I had to try!  So when it was just about time for this dish to arrive, I peeked through the side window of the restaurant's kitchen  It was there that I saw Chef Ernesto Iaccarino carefully choosing one by one which fried goodies were deemed worthy to be put on the plate and eventually leave the world famous 2 star Michelin restaurant kitchen.
Seeing that he was satisfied, I made my way back to my table to wait.

Right away I was given a large platter of squid, shrimp and vegetables fried tempura style.  Light and crispy with just the right light touch of seasoning.  On the side, a small dish of purplish pink beet mayonnaise.  One that I could not resist dipping one or two fried zucchini and onion rings in.
Over and over again.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fantastic Firsts - Paccheri alla Genovese with Salt Cod, Chef Marco Rispo, Aromatica, Milan

As you may have noticed by reading the last couple of blog posts, I was in Milan last week.  And although I was there for just under 24 hours, I made sure I got a chance to try some Campania cuisine even though I was far from home.  Lunch at Aromatica, located inside Expo 2015 gave me just that chance.  Chef Marco Rispo is originally from Naples area and his roots showed as he presented his take on a classic Neapolitan dish - Pasta alla Genovese.

The chef's choice of pasta was paccheri.  He served the pasta with a genovese sauce made with sweet Coppery Montoro Onions. He could have stopped there, but he added a foamy flavorful sauce made with salt cod (morro), spinach, and a sprinkling of dried raspberries.

And that's what made this first fantastic.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Neapolitan Pizza- Enzo Coccia's New Adventure

Pizza Maestro Enzo Coccia
A few months back, I received news that pizza maestro Enzo Coccia was about to present his new book.  A book which would explain the production process of Neapolitan pizza - step by step - scientifically- like it had never been presented before.  This book took two years to complete alongside with Paolo Masi and Annalisa Romano of the University of Naples Federico II. When I contacted Coccia about where I could pick up the book, he suggested I wait a bit.  The Coccia team was working on an English translation.  Ok.  This made sense to me since Coccia's Pizza Consulting firm, which has been training pizza makers  and opening pizzerias worldwide for about 15 years.
I waited, and one day in late September I received a phone call.  A phone call from Coccia letting me know that the book was ready and he had plans to present it to an international audience during Expo 2015 in Milan.  Why don't you come along? he asked.
He didn't need to ask twice.  On a cool and rainy October evening, I sat alongside with Coccia at the Slow Food Theater to share his experience with a packed house of pizza lovers, enthusiasts, and curious bystanders.

Coccia began to speak about his book.  A brief description of its contents.  How its mission, so to speak, was to map out the artisanal process.  The importance of the basic ingredients; water, yeast, salt, and of course, time.  The importance of quality products and how the need to protect them.  Products such as San Marzano tomatoes, which although a DOP product, has unfortunately been marketed around the world with tomatoes produced from places as far as China and being sold in the United States.

Products such as fior di latte, a cheese that is also permitted on Neapolitan pizza, but unfortunately, unlike mozzarella di bufalo PDO (protected designation of origin) , has not received any type of classification to protect the cheese of its geographically origins or the consumer of the guarantee of where the product comes from.

Coccia felt out the crowd and realized that many were unfamiliar with the specifics of Neapolitan pizza.  So he involved the crowd in his discussion on leavening and cooking times.
I even had a chance to give my impressions on the book, focusing on the trouble shooting guide which comes complete with photos, possible reasons why a particular defect may occur, and changes to consider during the production process.
An exciting question/answer period included several people who desired that Coccia open up a pizzeria near them.
Coccia smiled.
So did I. Somehow Coccia turned that cool wooden theater in Milan into a warm environment.  Similar to his Pizzaria La Notizia back home in Naples

The Neapolitan Pizza  by Doppiavoce Edizione is available online.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fantastic Firsts - Tortelli Cacio e Pepe, Chef Andrea Aprea, Vun Restaurant, Park Hyatt Hilton, Milan

A quick trip to Milan earlier this week gave me an opportunity to meet Executive Chef Andrea Aprea at the Michelin star Vun Restaurant located in the Park Hyatt Hotel.  Chef Aprea - who's from Naples - made me feel right at home with a selection of delicious dishes from his Travelling Between North and South tasting menu .  Like this fantastic first -  tortelli pasta cacio e pepe.

The dish arrived served on a set of spoons resting on a bed of black peppercorns. Homemade pasta topped with aromatic caramelized onions.  Eat it in one bite, I was told. I did.  A mouthful of comfort and warmth.  A flavorful broth with pecorino cheese and onions.

Perfect for that cool rainy autumn evening...


Friday, October 9, 2015

13 October at Expo 2015 in Milan - 'The Neapolitan Pizza' - A Scientific Study by Enzo Coccia Paolo Masi, and Annalisa Romano

Master Pizza Maker Enzo Coccia (Pizzeria La Notizia/Pizza Consulting) has opened up yet another chapter on Neapolitan pizza.  La Pizza Napoletana, a book published in Italian and released this past summer has been translated into English.  Coccia worked for 2 years alongside Paolo Masi and Annalisa Romano of The University of Naples Federico II to produce the first scientific guide to the artisanal process of pizza making-Naples style.  The book, The Neapolitan Pizza, published by Doppiavoce, will be presented  in Milan at Expo 2015 in the theater of the Slowfood Pavillion on the 13th of October at 6 pm .  I have been asked to participate during the presentation presented by Slow Food and Ferrarelle
See you at Expo 2015!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Game of the Stars, October 11, 2015, Collona Stadium (Na)

Love for children, for sport and  cuisine  is the Neapolitan golden trio that is the backdrop of a very special event, "The Game of the Stars", which will be held on October 11 at 17:30 at the Collona Stadium in Naples.

Two teams will hit the field for one great cause- to raise money for the patients and families of Santobono Pausilipon Children's hospital in Naples and the Golden Dreams Project. A project designed to improve conditions in the hospital and make the environment more suitable for children.
Chefs versus sports journalists. Chef Lino Scarallo will lead a 'brigade' of big names such as Edoardo Trotta, Gennaro Esposito, Michele Deleo, Mario and Francesco Sposito, Andrea Migliaccio, Tonino Mellino, Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino, Puccio and Nicola Fischietti, Paolo Barrale, Renato Martino, Salvatore Elefante, Pasquale Palamaro, Alfonso Caputo, Salvatore Bianco, Peppe Aversa, Peppe Guida, Luigi Tramontano, Paolo Gramaglia, Vincenzo Guarino, Mimmo Iavarone, Salvatore La Ragione, Antonio Dipino, Maurizio Somma, Franco Ferrara, Raffaele Vitale, Giovanni de Vivo, Gli Amici per Padelle: Rocco de Santis, Marco Laudato, Cristian Torsiello, Antonio Petrone, Cristoforo Trapani, Riccardo Faggiano, Michele Martino, Mirko Balzano, Enzo and Cristian Piccirillo. Sport figures include Raffaele Auriemma, Carlo Alvino, Carmine Martino, Paolo Del Genio, Mimmo Malfitano and Gianfranco Lucariello. 
        The event is organized by SOS Hospital supporters Santobono Onlus in collaboration with Wstaff, Millestampe Ltd. and Work Wear, with special  participation by the City of Naples, the SPorts Department, the Italian Red Cross Provincial Committee of Naples and the Firemen  Command of Naples.
        To inflame the audience of fans an exceptional star, Daniel "Decibel" Bellini, the voice of the Sanpaolo, which will lead the evening.
      To participate, ticket donation of 10 Euro is required.  For more info, click on the website La Partita Delle Stelle.