Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Snappy Snapper -Chef Antonino Montefusco, Terrazza Bosquet, Sorrento (Na)

New menu - the day after.  I was sitting with Chef Antonino Montefusco in the dining room of  Terrazza Bosquet, next to the window with a spectacular view of Marina Piccola and Mt Vesuvius on the far distance.  The chef and I were discussing the new menu and checking out the pics that I had taken the night before.  Then we arrived at this set.  Montefusco's snapper.  His snappy snapper I have decided to call it.  Beautiful to look at, fantasticaaa to eat!

Let's break it down just a bit.  On the right - snapper.  Montefusco's snapper delicately wrapped in a   mountain lard crust.  In the middle? A pesto made with sea fennel  that the chef and his brigade harvested themselves from the nearby county  of Massa Lubrense. 

A pesto that also included a few almonds as well as pecorino cheese.  On top?  Snails.  To the left, a chili pepper sauce that was ...spicy.  No something more....


Friday, November 22, 2019

'Are You Ready to Rombo? ' - Casa a Tre Pizzi, Mergellina (Na)

Thursday evening, Casa a Tre Pizzi in Mergellina, Naples.  A small, chic young restaurant not too far from one of the most popular boardwalks in Campania.  Around 10:20 pm my second course arrived at my table.  A fish dish that caught my attention – pun intended.  Chef Gianluca Farina’s rombo.  Rombo in English is turbot.  A fish, Farina shared with me, that is not served often in Neapolitan cooking.  Farina’s version is prepared al vapore – steam cooked.  Steam cooked and dressed in beautiful fall colors.  Let’s take a closer look –

Earthy flavorful celeriac root in two versions/textures - raw and puree…

Razor clams…

And a sauce made with three types of Japanese seaweed.

If I remember correctly, I even reached for a piece of bread to  perform one of my favorite Neapolitan rituals – the scarpetta, which means using bread to soak up the remaining bit of sauce on your plate.

A fish dish fantasticaaa!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Are You Ready? Ready Ravioli , Chef Antonino Montefusco, Terrazza Bosquet, Sorrento (Na)

Here it is - Chef Antonino Montefusco's little black box.  Inside, an assaggio of one of his first course dishes served to me one late October evening at Terrazza Bosquet.  Ready Ravioli is the name of this dish.  A dish created this past summer when Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento hosted Ferrari's Calvacade 2019.  Montefusco, the hotel's Executive Chef, was met with a challenge.  He needed to create a gourmet menu for 200 guests that could be served and enjoyed veloce...quickly.  The theme was the 1960s.  Montefusco thought long and hard.  The guests would be moving on to Capri, so why not give them a taste of the famous ravioli caprese, but with a Sorrento twist? The traditional recipe calls for ricotta, but Montefusco wanted to share his Sorrento and opted for a cacciota from Sorrento- aged 2 days.  The dish, served then, and now on the Michelin starred restaurant's menu is as follows.
First - a dish with a San Marzano and cherry tomato sauce arrived at my table.  The sauce includes a swirl or two of cacciota cheese and majoram. 

Next - that little black box - filled with ravioli.  The box is a play on the ready pasta that certain pasta producers have put on the market. Montefusco's ready ravioli with a cacciota cheese filling. The ravioli is cooked, then fried, then placed in the box until it is ready to be added to that amazing tomato sauce. 

A Do it Yourself first course that is not only complex and flavorful...

It is also fantasticaaa!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Piccante yet Piacevole, Chef Domenico Iavarone, Jose Restaurant, Torre Del Greco (Na)

Quest'anno il primo piatto di zuppa forte e' tuo...appena la metto su ti scrivo

This year the first dish of zuppa forte is yours ... as soon as I prepare it, I'll write  you...

A message to me from Chef Domenico Iavarone of Jose Restaurant in Torre Del Greco.  A message to me with a promise.  A promise that this year I will be able to try his zuppa forte - his version of the classic humble Campania spicy soup.

To be honest, I had been waiting for this invitation for  2 years.  This particular specialty is not always on Iavarone's menu.  It's a seasonal dish with a history dating back to as far as the 1800s.  Prepared during the cold months of late fall and winter.  So it pops up from time to time - a fuori menu or special of the day. The dish is prepared with pork entrails, tomato concentrate, peppers, and lard.  It's a spicy thick soup, designed to keep one warm, full, and happy on a budget.  It's served between bread sandwich style, as a soup with thick crusts of pane, or with pasta - usually bucatini or spaghetti.  It has many names as well - zuppa forte, zupp’ ‘e suffrittcioffrittozuffrittosfrionzola.

Then, one late October afternoon, Iavarone sent me another message -

 Domani e'  pronta... It will be ready tomorrow.

Twentyfour hours later, I sat down at a table for one in the packed dining room of Jose Restaurant.  The weather was unusually warm that Sunday afternoon, the 27th of October,  so after speaking with Maitre Sommelier Pasquale Marzano and Sommelier Salvatore Maresca, we decided to pair a Campania white wine that had depth and structure to pair with Iavarone's zuppa...

The wine arrived - a Falanghina Beneventano from I Pentri Winery.

and so did Iavarone's zuppa forte.

The chef's version is a little lighter than the original family recipe - his father is a butcher, by the way.  Instead of lard, the chef uses extra virgin olive oil to cut back on the calories.  He also added a light and creamy yogurt sauce...pasta of choice?  Spaghetti.

As I was finishing up the last mouthful, I felt my body temperature raising just a bit.Piccante ma piacevole - spicy yet pleasant...


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Amazing Appetizer , Chef Domenico Candela, George Restaurant, Naples (Na)

La Venere di Botticelli

I decided to treat myself to a night out.  Get dressed up and go out to an elegant restaurant in Naples.  You know, enjoy the city by night.  I chose George Restaurant , who less than a week earlier received a prestigious Michelin Star.  Quite an accomplishment for a restaurant that has been open for less than 2 years.  This was my fourth visit to George, and I was familiar with several of Chef Domenico Candela's signature dishes - but not none that were on his Spasso Sensoriale tasting menu rich with new specialties for the fall/winter season.   Spasso Sensoriale which could be translated as a sensory/ sensual stroll.  Dishes pleasing to the eye and palate like this appetizer that Candela entitled La Venere di Boticelli - after the painting The Birth of Venus painted during the Italian Rennaissance by artist  Sandro Botticelli. 

The theme comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a very important oeuvre of the Latin literature. Venus is portrayed naked on a shell on the seashore; on her left the winds blow gently caressing her hair with a shower of roses, on her right a handmaid (Ora) waits for the goddess to go closer to dress her shy body. The meadow is sprinkled with violets, symbol of modesty but often used for love potions.   (

Candela's Venus is a scallop carpaccio caressed by a cauliflower puree, bergamot, lychee sauce and Siberian caviar.  

Botticelli's Birth of Venus can be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  Candela's?  Much much closer - in the splendida sala of George Restaurant.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Fantasticaaa Fantastic Firsts - Chef Cristian Torsiello, Osteria Arbustico, Capaccio (Sa)

Chef Cristian Torsiellp
During the drive to Osteria Arbustico that Saturday, I was hit with everything from bright sunshine to strong winds and heavy downpours.  My drive to the Michelin starred restaurant located in Capaccio took me past the seaside where the waves were high, rough, and just a bit frightening.  A bit frightening, but honestly, a little exciting, since I was on my way to taste the cuisine of Chef Cristian Torsiello. A trip that I haven't made in over a year.

As I pulled into the parking lot of Royal Hotel Paestum, where the restaurant has been located for nearly two years, the rain had stopped.  This gave me just enough time to dash into the lobby and make my 1 pm reservation.
As I was led to my table and was treated to an aperitif and some amazing appetizers, I was curious as to what was going in the kitchen.  I always am.  So with the chefs permission, I entered inside Torsiellos spa del cibo.  His kitchen where the chef, and two trusted members of his brigade were at the pass preparing his risotto - perfect for the fall season.

I watched attentively as Marco Zoppicante and Giueppe Scala plated risotto with buffalo milk cheese, roasted onion and black truffles. 

Giuseppe Scala and Marco Zoppicante

The aromas that arose from this dish were fantasticaaa...

Next up,

a mixed pasta minestra with turnip tops, clams, basil, and lupini bean foam.

Two dishes, a creamy risotto - a flavorful minestra, which  I must confess, had me reaching for the bread basket to sop up the fabulous flavors that Torsiello had shared with me that afternoon.

Did I say fabulous? 

I meant fantastic!

Friday, November 8, 2019

An 'End of Season' Fantasticaa - Il Faro Di Capo D'Orso, Maiori (Sa)

Chef Francesco Sodano

I had been watching the calendar for a few weeks before I decided. Before I decided whether to make a reservation to head back to Maiori, to Il Faro Di Capo D'Orso. I had an excellent opportunity to check out Chef Francesco Sodano's menu at the beginning of  the restaurant’s 7-month season. (Take a look here) Sodano, the determined, enthusiastic 31 year old chef who took over as executive chef of this Michelin starred restaurant (a star earned back in 2005) after Chef Pierfranco Ferrara left at the beginning of the year. A serious challenge for Sodano, but if he was in any way worried, he sure did not let it show in his dishes. In fact, he came out running with a menu that has a style solo Sodano , original, different to what the restaurant's longtime clients were accustomed to.  A menu with dishes such as Ricordo del un viaggio in Peru/ Memories of travels in Peru, Risotto with fermented capers, burnt lemon and codfish roe,  milk and cereal, and his delicious and divertente shave the chef.   
Service in the dining room was top level also, thanks to young maître sommelier Bonny Ferrara whose creativity results in some awesome and  unusual pairings to go along with Sodano’s menu.
However, that was then.  Since last April, all eyes on Maiori. What would happen with the season? Sodano knew we would all be watching...and we were. That was motivation but not a distraction to push ahead with the season. Spring turned to summer, summer turned to fall. Ups and downs like all restaurants go through. Changes in the kitchen and dining room staff - including the recent departure of Bonny Ferrara. Luckily, more ups than downs. A 15/20 % increase in business, positive reviews not only in the press, but also in guides such as l'Espresso and Gambero Rosso. They  also received high recognition for their breadbasket. A special honor, particularly in Italy where bread is a key staple in the dining room table.

So, yes. I had been watching the last few months, but it was not until the last minute that I decided to head back to Maori and get one last closer look. I chose Friday, 1 November, lunch service. The first day of the 3 day All Saints holiday weekend. A couple of days before their last service of 2019. A few days before the release of the 2020 Michelin guide.

Si, the season was winding down, but that didn't mean that the momentum at the restaurant was at a standstill. On the contrary. Sodano and his brigade, which includes his older brother Salvatore, were already looking ahead towards spring 2020. Therefore, I was in luck! I not only had a chance to try some dishes that broke out after my visit, but Sodano let me try 2 new dishes that would be on his menu when the restaurant opens up again in the spring.
Let’s take a look…

Sodano's colorful and flavorful fried pasta disc to be eaten with your hands, please...

Dumpling made with grano arso aka burnt grain - stuffed with smoked buffalo milk cheese and buffalo steak tartare.

Taco with beef, fermented cucumbers and mustard.

 Wafer with bonito teriyaki and yogurt.
Wonton with duck thigh confit, sumac, and fermented plum compote.

A lot of work goes into these tiny bites
 Like this one...
A mozzarella handkerchief with its serum.  

 Instructions?  Roll, dip, enjoy...


Two premieres

Shabu- Shabu. A dish with strong Asian roots, which the chef presented for me at the table. Amberjack ventresca marinated with salt and teriyaki was the seafood of choice and I was instructed to dip it into his infusedsmoked tea for a few seconds, which would slightly poach the fish and help it to lose some of its fat but not the flavor.

I'm a big fan of Sodano's tartare dishes - next season his menu will include this dish.  Dry aged piedmontese tartare, raw patella, fermented shiitake powder, and a salted lemon compote.

First courses
Linguine, carrots and garum. Garum - a fish sauce that dates back to ancient roman times. Before the anchovy sauce that nearby Cetara is famous for. Sodano's garum includes anchovies and mackeral. Very flavorful with Sodano’s choice of carrot. Thursday confession, I have never had carrots with my pasta...this dish was spectacular.

Another pasta dish that he wanted me to try was his sfoglia pasta with miso, marinated pesce castagna aka brama brama, sconcigli and green peppers.

Second course -

Snapper with an oyster emulsion, sorrel and fermented vegetables in rice bran.

Then the decision for dessert...which one? Just one? How about three!

Spiced coffee, pumpkin and robiola cheese...

Mai dire mais - translated never say corn. crunchy caramel popcorn, a salty butter ice cream, sweet corn bread. For me it brought back memories of home. (!)

Milk and cereal…(!)

Ossidazione di pina colada - coconut ice cream, oxidized pineapple, a sponge made of rum (cool) vanilla and lime. (!)

Petit fours, which included Sodano’s, shave the chef.

Wine pairings were done by sommelier Michela Barchetti which included Campania wines such as Radegonda Pallagrello Bianco by   Aia delle Monache...

Puntacroce Bianco Costa D'Amalfi by Raffaele Palma...

Quartara Fiano by Lunarossa Vini.

Barchetti, who along with server Antonio Cannoniero demonstrated their expertise in the dining room.

After lunch, before I headed home, I sat down with Sodano to tape my podcast on line here in Italian and talk about; you know...anything and everything.

Sodano seemed satisfied. Did I mention before that he was determined? He is ambitious; it shows in his words, his actions, and his menu. His dishes are a reflection of the man himself, which includes the tastes, experiences, likes and loves from his time in places such as Peru, Los Angeles, and London. We are tired, but happy, Sodano shared. He was looking forward to a break, which he plans to spend some of that time in Madrid working as an intern with the prestigious chef Angel Leon.
I wondered, though, if  Sodano was worried about the upcomingMichelin guide? Would all the hard work that the the  team be rewarded with a confirmation? He surely couldn't take it for granted. He’d have to wait, like we all would, for the morning of the 6th of November when the news would be broadcasted live.

Well, as my schedule /and poor wi-fi connection would have it, I missed the live feed. Curious assai assai, I sent a message to Sodano.

Allora? Well? I asked. 

Presa- got it ! was his response.

Antonio Cannoniero, Chef Francesco Sodano, Michela Barchetti, Chef Salvatore Sodano