Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fantastic First, Jose' Restaurant, Torre Del Greco(Na)

The last week or so hasn't felt much like summer.  Just about every afternoon about 3 pm or so, the sky has turned from a sunny bright blue to a menacing dark grey accompanied with a quick thunderstorm.  
A taste of autumn in the summer.  

Like this first course dish that I had for lunch on Jose' Restaurant's patio.  Looking over Chef Domenico Iavarone's summer menu I found a first course that grabbed my attention.  The chef's signature dish of pasta mista with flying squid, potatoes, and a green olive/parsley pesto sauce.

When I think of pasta and potatoes, my thoughts instantly go towards the cooler months.  For me it has become a comfort food that I usually prepare at home on the weekends for my son and I.  My version is no where near the gourmet version of Iavarone's so I decided to order it as part of the liberta' tasting menu.

The dish arrived to my table around 2:45 pm.  Just as the clouds in the distance were turning grey, just as a few rolls of thunder were picking up. 

The dish arrived - a simple plain white ceramic bowl to not distract from the fantastic colors on display.  Fork to the left, spoon to the right. That silver spoon was my utensil of choice.  A perfect choice to ensure that I could scoop up pasta along with soft warm cubes of white and purple potatoes and flavorful flying squid without leaving any of the super sauce behind. 

A few minutes later, I'd finished.  A few minutes after that, the clouds came closer and I decided to move inside before the afternoon shower - a quick light rain actually.  A touch of the summer.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Zi Nannina A' Mare, Ischia Porto Ischia (Na)

Chef Enzo David

Ciao Enzo! See you for dinner at 9? 
My message to Chef Enzo David, Zi Nannina A' Mare one steamy August evening. 9 pm may seem late - but no!  I'm in Italy, it's the summer, and this is how we roll.

My recent visit to Ischia included a summer dinner in the garden of Zi Nannina a Mare, in perfect view of the class, with a bellissimo soundtrack of summer lounge music.  And though it was hot and quite humid that evening, it didn't distract me tanto from the chef's summery degustazione/tasting menu that David had in store for me.  Let my serata stiva/midsummer night  begin.

After a quick look at the wine list, I decided on a white wine from Ischia - Forestera from Cenatiempo...on of my favorite wineries on the island.

Then the meal began.  A summer parade of dishes that not only balanced flavors and territory, but were pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.  
Chef David's benevenuto...

Spaghetto, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red chili , and with grue dl cacao from toasted fava bean and raw shrimp.

Then David treated me to two appetizers;

Curly thin zucchini stuffed with burrata, amberjack sashimi, and little bursts of salt, lime, and olive oil courtesy of the chef's mojito cocktail pearls.

Then the chef pushed the envelope with his next appetizer presenting  flavors that were a little, well, piu forte/stronger.

Raw and cooked red prawns  marinated in ginger with a cream of provola di Agerola cheese, and crispy artichokes on top.

David's fantastic first stars classic Campania flavors suited up for the summe.  Pasta alla genovese features beef that has been slow cooked alongside yellow onions. Chef David's version for 2018?  

Fresh tortelli pasta filled with mascarpone cheese, spring onions and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  On the side tender  slow cooked beef (7/8 hours) and Provolone del Monaco cheese. 

Moving back to the sea, David decided to take me to Sorrento.  Tonno a Surriento, the name is a twist on a classic Neapolitan songTorna a Surriento/Come back to Sorrento.

Tonno means tuna and that is the star of this dish.  But it also features products from the peninsula including roasted daterini tomatoes, lemons, and basil.

Bellissimo!  Ready for the desserts!
First stop a predessert with predessert - spicy strawberry - with a syrup which includes  schzeuan pepper, lemon, campari. 

 All of this on a matcha green tea meringue crunvle and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The end...or almost.

The main event- creamy pistachio ice cream, ground cocoa,  Cervia salt, and  passion fruit.

Before the night was over, before I headed back to my hotel, I had a chance to chat with the chef...about his dishes, his  past,  present and future.  A chance to hang out while he plated up  a few little desserts to tie me over...

Desserts, though despite their size, still combined the passion, attention and dedication that I noticed during the entire evening...

Grazie, Chef!  A presto!

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Mare/A Tavola! Ristorante Ida, Barano, Ischia (Na)

And what if I get off at the wrong stop?  I wrote...
Impossible, responded Ivan (Maresca).  Maronti is the last stop!

I was seated on a window seat on the air conditioned Linea 5 bus heading from Ischia Porto towards Maronti.  And during that 20 minute or so bus ride, I found myself shooting off a few Whatsapp© messages to Ivan Maresca. He along with Angelo Pesce were expecting me at Ristorante Ida, the tavola to Bagno Ida's mare.

A simple  bus ride , but that didn't seem to calm down the butterflies that were accompanying me on the  way.  Though I haven't been to Ida before, I felt as if I had already hung out with the team since I am a faithful follower of Pesce and Marsca's Instagram Stories© and Facebook© live posts.  Check the latest out here.

 The bus stopped at the small piazzetta of Maronti and I along with everyone else got off and headed towards the beach. Maresca's instructions included to make a left and they'd be the third restaurant on the beach.
Arrivata!  I headed straight to the tiny kitchen to say hello, chat a bit, then check out the catch of the day.  Today codfish in the house!

I'd hook up with it lunch time.

I had a couple of hours or so to check out the beach.

A Mare! The Pesce family has been running this slice on the sand  since 1959 which not only includes the ristorante, but a bar and private beach as well.  It didn't take long for me to feel at home, and those butterflies?  Well, they flew away a long time ago.

1:15 pm, lunchtime. I headed into the restaurant, but before sitting down in the dining room featuring that cool sea breeze and floor fans, I decided to head back into the kitchen.  Nearly 100 degrees F, but that didn't matter.

 Chef Angelo Pesce

Ivan Maresca

Chef Angelo Pesce was preparing spaghetti with fresh shrimp and he didn't mind taking the time to share a couple of tips and suggestions on how to replicate the dish at home.

At this point I was more than hungry.  A Tavola!
A small pitcher (or two) of white wine and peaches added that touch of home.

Beginning with the appetizer of the house - and since we were a mare...

Marinated anchovies, green sauce and Campari orange gealatin;
Lemon marinated castagna fish (from the sea bream family), bonito (marinated three times) and wild salmon on marinated red onion and lemon;
Silver scabbard fish parmigiana  with olive oil powder;

Pistachio shrimp on buffalo ricotta cheese;
Tuna tataki with burnt eggplant sauce;
 Stuffed anchovies with provola with citronette dressing;
Salmon fried in airbag flour on orange sauce

This was just the beginning.  It seems as though the world knows about my love for spaghetti, so Pesce sent out a hearty serving of the house specialty.  Spaghetti alla Ida.

This dish has been a popular menu item for quite some time and I could easily see why.  Clams, cuttlefish, toasted pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and lemon make this dish one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time.

A piece of bread or two to soak up the flavors that remained on the plate.

Remember that cod fish that I met in the kitchen earlier?  Well, it arrived next.  This time filleted, breaded and lightly fried.

It shared space on a beautiful sea green ceramic dish (made by Maresca's mom - Anna Barone) with seasonal vegetables such as green peppers/frigitelli, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes.

As I was eating, I noticed the environment around me.  Diners like me who were sitting down to full lunches, or those who preferred tomato salads, bruschettone, or  the popular zingara sandwich.

Dessert? I was asked?
How about some fruit? I suggested as I eyed the peaches that had been soaking in the house wine for at least a couple of hours.


Clockwise from the top - Andrea Di Iorio, Pesce, Me, Carlo Di Scala and Maresca
Grazie Ivan for the 'end of service selfie!!!