Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In the Kitchen Contest! Andiamotrips and Chefs Lino Scarallo, Vincenzo Guarino, and Domenico Iavarone

Ask any chef about  their inspiration behind some of their signature dishes and their answer is always the same. All are tied to a special childhood memory. I noticed this during several conversations with Michelin starred Chefs Lino Scarallo, Vincenzo Guarino and Domenico Iavarone. So the chefs and I became curious. That curiosity sparked an idea for a contest. An In the Kitchen Contest!

We are curious to know what your favorite dish of your childhood is.
We are curious to know that special memory behind it.

Share it with us on the entry form below for  the chance receive the following:

• A lunch or dinner at Palazzo Petrucci in Naples, Italy
• A lunch or dinner at Il Pievano Restaurant in Gaiole in Chianti, Italy
• A lunch or dinner at Jose’ Restaurant in Torre Del Greco, Italy

The winner will be chosen by a jury composed of chefs Lino Scarallo, Vincenzo Guarino, Domenico Iavarone and myself.

Deadline to enter is 6 May, 2017

So what are you waiting for?  Click on the entry form below!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At the Table with Ciccio - Casa Vitiello, Tuoro (Ce)

Francesco Vitiello
Last Saturday began as some usually do.  I slept in late, a little grocery shopping, and a lot of housework. So around 1 pm, I needed a boost. I needed to recharge my battery, so to speak.  So I headed out to Tuoro, Caserta - precisely to Casa Vitiello- to pop in on Francesco, aka Ciccio, Vitiello to see what he has been up to.  And yes, to try a pizza or two.

Saturday afternoon - lunch.  The only afternoon that Casa Vitiello is open for lunch.  Since I love late pizza lunches, it was perfect!  I arrived around 2 pm under a unusually scorching spring sunshine.  Perfect!  I needed to recharge.  I sat at a table right outside the front door, under a huge umbrella, with a perfect view of the ragazzi of Casa Vitiello preparing and serving a large array of pizzas for the packed pizzeria.

I ordered a beer, because during a Saturday lunch at Ciccio's, a beer pairs perfectly.  Ciccio suggested a craft beer from La Terra di Lavoro, Senz a Pensieri - loosely translated as without a care.  Exactly!

I looked over the menu - excited about the choices.  Then I heard the magic words Karen, I have some new pizzas that aren't on the menu.

So Ciccio and I shared a little pizza degustazione- I tried three slices along with the staff paired with a cold craft beer and some cool conversation.

Pizza number one -

Roasted artichoke, Provola from Agerola, and lonzarda ham from the prized Caserta black pork.

Pizza number two -

Cream of asparagus, fior di latte, egg mimosa, and grated  Laticauda sheep cheese on a hemp pizza crust.

Pizza number three -

Mozzarella di bufala DOP, puntarelle, roasted garlic cream, anchovies from Cetara, essence of extra virgin olive oil on a hemp pizza crust.

Just what I needed.  But we weren't finished!  The lunch crowd had left, so Ciccio decided to do a little mozzarella testing.  Yes, at times he does use mozzarella on his pizza instead of fior di latte.  It is important to Vitiello, though, that the cheese is not too wet causing problems during cooking. Problems that can make the pizza crust damp or nearly soaked.  And no one wants a soggy pizza! One solution to fix that problem is to slice up the mozzarella and let it drain for a bit so that it loses about 60% of that excess liquid.

Another possible solution may be found in the mozzarella that I had a chance to share with Vitiello and company.  A mozzarella that is drier - the pasta di mozzarella - Vitiello explained. You can almost taste the buffalo, he added. No buttermilk added.  None at all.

So, three new pizzas, a great cold beer, and an impromptu mozzarella cheese tasting.  Enough to recharge my battery until my next visit, which I'm sure would be sooner and not later!

Grazie, Ciccio!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behind the Scenes - Chef Domenico Iavarone, Jose' Restaurant, Torre del Greco (Na)

Chef Domenico Iavarone 

A series of messages and phone calls over the past several months between Chef Domenico Iavarone and I  always included an invitation: come by and take a look at what’s going on.  I must admit my curiosity nearly killed this cat. 

Iavarone, after collaborating with chefs such as Gennaro Esposito (Torre de Saracino)  and Oliver Glowig (Capri Palace), and a few seasons at Maxi (earning him a Michelin Star), the chef decided to make a change.  To start a new adventure opening up a brand new restaurant in Torre del Greco – Jose’ Restaurant.

I have had the honor to visit the chef a couple of times there – the restaurant is scheduled to open soon.  It is incredibly interesting to see and hear about what goes into opening up a new place.  The struggles, the victories, the frustrations, the challenges, then the satisfaction of saying – Ecco! We’re nearly there! 
Nothing like Restaurant Start Up, believe me.

My last visit was last Saturday.  The chef was fine tuning the menu, taking part in a photo shoot for his press kit, and also explaining each dish to the dining room staff.  

Any chef worth his salt knows that a well informed staff is crucial.  The staff took notes, asked questions, and tasted each dish.

Dishes such as…

Eggplant and mixed salad.

Uovo al purgartorio - poached egg in tomato sauce with shrimp.

Asparagus, sweetbread, and scampi.

Octopus in a celery and spinach soup, potatoes, and  crumbled biscotti from Agerola.

Me?  I was taking it all in.  So involved in the action that I didn’t eat.  Iavarone noticed, so he whipped up a quick appetizer –  tortelli pasta topped with fried artichokes and a cynar sauce.  

I took my little prize package, headed out to the garden and enjoyed it in the company of daisies in this amazing villa – Villa Guerra- with Mt Vesuvius in the background.
I was ready to leave, so I headed back into the villa to say goodbye to the chef.  Not before dessert! Iavarone said with a smile.

Okay- if you insist!

Raspberry and chocolate!!!

In bocca al lupo –Chef!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Carciofola Arrustuta - Garden Fruit, Ischia (Na)

I think I have been to the island of Ischia more in the past 6 months than in the past 23 plus years that I have been in Italy.  And each time that I visit the green island, I discover something new thanks to my amici veraci like Ivano Veccia and Pasquale Raicaldo

Giuseppe Giovan, Iano Veccia, Pasquale Raicaldo

A stroll through the picturesque neighborhood of Ischia Ponte became an impromptu’ opportunity for an aperitivo, an aperitif.  And since it happened to be one of the early primavera, spring,  \weekends, it seemed natural to stop for an artichoke aperitif.  Roasted artichoke- carciofo arrostito, or as they say in Ischia, carciofola arrustuta

The location was not a swanky bar or restaurant.  But a clean, colorful fruit and vegetable stand.  We arrived around one pm one sunny Saturday afternoon alongside dozens of others who could not wait to try Peppe Giovan’s bbq magic. Location - Garden Fruit - Ischia.

Giuseppe Giovan

Peppe's recipe is simple but special…

He begins with a Roman artichoke and cleans the leg. He then thinly slices a little garlic and Italian parsley.  He opens up the artichoke, adds salt, the leg, and parsley.  Sometimes a little pancetta! A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and then wraps it all in aluminum foil.
Straight to the grill – head down – for about 20 minutes – flips it over – opens the foil.
Peppe adds a little more oil and tests to see if the carciofola is done by using a simple toothpick and years of experience.

Paired with laughter, smiles, a fantastic neighborhood, and a promise to be back soon.  The perfect pre aperitif aperitif verace!

Street food on the street!!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Saturday Shopping, Macelleria Maggiore, Pimonte (Na)

An invitation to go shopping one Saturday morning by Sous Chef Giuseppe Romano took me by surprise.  It took me by surprise, but also sparked my curiosity.  You see, Romano wanted to invite me the small town of Pimote, his hometown, straight to his local butcher – Macelleria Maggiore.
Not just his butcher, but THE butcher for many of the top restaurants up and down the nearby Sorrento Peninsula.  I was about to find out why.

Sure, I’ve always known about how important the quality of the products are for any chef.  But to be honest, my focus was usually on top seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh local seafood.  I rarely thought about the importance of the right butcher – until that Saturday morning just a couple of weeks ago.
There I was greeted by Gino Donnarumma  who was ready to walk me through his family’s butcher shop.

Gino Donnarumma
First stop, the back room behind the counter where his brother Lello was cutting up steaks.  I listened closely as the brothers pointed out the differences in cuts, spoke about the differences in flavors between the sexes of the cattle and the maturity.  A little complex, but interesting.  Some info can be found here.

Lello Donnarumma

We talked about the importance of fat in a good piece of steak that I’d like to throw on the grill, in contrast to a beef cutlet that should be practically fat free. 

But a butcher is not just steak!  Chicken of different colors and sizes can be found behind the counter. A couple of examples? Donnarumma pointed out a large yellow-skinned free range bird that would be perfect for a chicken cacciatore thanks to the fat that would be released during cooking.  A younger smaller bird is the type that I can find at my local rotisserie chicken stand.

It was time to head downstairs to the cantina.  To the area where Donnarumma’s family makes their salamis and other products that need to age in the cool fresh, natural environment.

 Products like pancetta.  I got a look, and made a video.

Though the video is in Italian, you can easily see the process.  Donnarumma cuts off the extra pig skin from the pork’s stomach. (This is done since this pancetta will be placed in its intestine, then packed in a plastic net – not sown up).  Afterwards, rolled up, the ends cut off.
Then unrolled, he places the ends inside the stomach..  Then time to spice it up with fennel seeds from the Amalfi Coast, pepper, and red chili flakes.  Donnarumma rolls it up again, stuffs it into pork intetstine, then again into a plastic net.  Next, the pancetta is tied and trussed. 

And there you have it!

 While there, I got a quick look at Donnarumma preparing sausage for a local restaurant.  A very busy morning- and it was only noon! 

Chef Romano, Donnarumma, and Chef Gerardo Garofalo

Back upstairs, the butcher shop was crowded, so Gino joined his brother and his mom behind the counter.  But not before I could thank him for his time and a look into his magical wonderful world.

Grazie, Gino!