Saturday, November 21, 2020

Amazing Appetizer, Chef Domenico Iavarone, Josè Restaurant, Torre Del Greco (Na)


What makes a dish memorable?  Well, one that you remember a long time after you have tasted it.  One that, just by looking at a photograph, brings back the aromas, the textures, and the flavors of a dish fantasticaaa.  

That is the case for this particular appetizer that I had nearly 1 month ago at Josè Restaurant in Torre del Greco.  It was not my first time at this Michelin starred restaurant, but it was the first time for my son, David.  In fact, I often watched his reaction too the whole 'Iavarone experience'.  Like when Chef Domenico Iavarone's codfish appetizer arrived.  

David and I paused a bit before digging in.

One...two...three bites of baccalà.  Three bites of cod, charred spring onion, candied lemon and olives.

Three bites of goodness...that maybe ended too soon.  But then, what is an appetizer?  Aappetizer is a small serving of food — just a few bites — meant to be eaten before an entree, and often shared by several people. You can also call an appetizer an hors d'oeuvre. An appetizer is meant to stimulate your appetite, making you extra hungry for your meal. 

Mission accomplished...

Monday, November 9, 2020

Sousaku, 創作, Creation - Chef Giuseppe Molaro, Contaminazioni Restaurant, Somma Vesuviana (Na)



I first met Chef Giuseppe Molaro back in March 2019.  The chef had recently returned from Tokyo where he was the executive chef at Sensi, by Heinz Beck in Japan, where he earned the restaurant a Michelin star in 2017 - two days after his 31st birthday.  I met Molaro at an event (here)  where he prepared an amazing shitake mushroom risotto which I still remember.  What else do I still remember? The look in his eye, his determination, and his creativity.  All attributes that contributed to a dream to finally open up a restaurant of his own in late 2019.  Contaminazioni Restaurant.  A restaurant that is part of a ambitious project in his hometown of Somma Vesuviana in the Naples Province.  A restaurant where he could express his style of gourmet cooking backed up by years of international experience.

Then Covid hit the world causing Italy to shut down totally in March causing the project to grind to a halt...or maybe a hiccup.  June 2020 - restaurants opened up again facing many challenges and restrictions that change constantly.  And though it sure ain't easy - a recent visit to Molaro showed me what I had seen since we first met - that look in his eye, his determination, and his creativity.  

His  Sousaku, 創作, Creation.  A taste of Molaro's Japan in a box - nigri, sashimi, hosomaki and ramen. All in a box, available as delivery, or in my case, take away. 

The box - before we talk about what is in the box, let's take a look on the outside...Chef Molaro handed me a simple white box with words written by hand with a black marker by the chef's wife, Yu-Ki.

Chef Giuseppe Molaro

And what was in the box? I ordered 2 portions which included (per person) -

Sashimi (3 pcs: salmon, tuna, amberjack) Hosomaki (3 pcs: rice roll in Nori seaweed with tuna)

Nigiri (5 pcs: squid, salmon, tuna, sea bass, amberjack)


When you order take out, sure, you don't have the ambiance, the mise en place of a gourmet restaurant but that doesn't mean you can't play a little bit with what you have at home. Which I did.

How could ramen be served as a takeaway?? It is quite simple, actually. Molaro's broth was packaged in a vacuum sealed bag. I just needed to heat it u and add it to the tagliolini pasta, beef, and egg.

I would not be wrong if I say that all of us are definitely down with what has hit us this past year.  But that doesn't mean we have to lose that sparkle in our eye, our determination, and our Molaro.  And many many worldwide.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Pizza for Pranzo, Maestri Pizzaioli, Secondigliano (Na)


Though many in Campania enjoy going out to a pizzeria in the evening, I have always preferred a pizza for pranzo.  A pizza for lunch. I mean, I need to go when and where the pizza is good, where I feel relaxed, where I feel at home.  And though there are numerous guide books, lists and classifications on where to find the best pizzeria, I tend to ignore those.  Pizza is personal. I refer to ask a friend or two their opinion, and then check it out for myself.  That is how I found Maestri Pizzaioli.

Maestri Pizzaioli is a pizzeria nestled in a one way street  in Secondigliano (Na).  It has been serving pizzas to the neighborhood (and beyond) since 1955.  On my first visit - I've been several times in the last few months - I had a little difficulty parking.  Then I got up the nerve, and parked Neapolitan style.  Maybe you get the picture.  

The moment I entered I felt a casa.  I quickly glanced around. checking out the dining room.  Absorbing everything.  The photos on the walls, the trophies, the newspaper articles.  The conversations of diners at the tables nearby, the warmth of the pizza oven, the aroma of pizzas baking in the wood burning oven.  

Gaetano and Enzo Abbate

Behind the banco was Vincenzo Abbate aka Enzo, who along with his brother, Gaetano, are the second generation of pizzaioli. I quickly introduced myself and was directed to a table in the corner.  Perfect!  That way I could check out everything.

Enzo Abbate

A table in the corner has been my spot on my visits over the next few months.  A table where I tried several of the Abbate pizzas, which can be baked the classic way, or int o rutiello, which in dialect means in a deep dish.  

So, let's take a look at some of Abbate's pizzas that I tried - Abbate giving me the chance to enjoy 2 pizzas in one.

 Like this one, er, two.  on the left, the profumata.  Profumata, fragrant - with octopus, tomato sauce and fresh garlic.

On the right side - a margherita pizza made with red and yellow piennolo tomatoes.

Here's another 50/50 white pizza.

This time, let start on the right - with a 4 formaggi - 4 cheesy cheeses.

Then on the left, a white izza with porcini mushrooms and cicoli (pressed fatty pork).

Scrolling their menu, and also their FB page, it is hard not to be think/dream about what I will order on my next visit. My next pizza per pranzo at Maestri Pizzaioli.


 I need to go when and where the pizza is good, where I feel relaxed, where I feel at home.  

Nailed it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fantastic Firsts for Fall, Palazzo Petrucci, Naples (Na)

 Since the Palazzo Petrucci's move from the heart of Naples's centro storico, to the picturesque seaside of Posillipo a few years back, diners can't resist a table by the window to enjoy the view of the beach, the water, and Mt Vesuvius in the far distance.

Chef Lino Scarallo

I, however, usually choose a seat in the main dining room where I sneak a peek at Chef Lino Scarallo and his brigade plating up dishes.  I especially enjoy his first course pasta dishes and a recent visit one windy fall afternoon did not disappoint.  On that particular day, the Lino fai tu menu included the following fantastic firsts.

Candele pasta with veal, oyster mayonnaise, lime and pepper.  

Homemade tagliolini pasta with sea bass all'acqua pazza.  Acqua pazza is literally translated as crazy water, though it is far from crazy.  It is basically a cooking technique for fish which is poached with garlic, a bit of white wine, parsley and a few cherry tomatoes.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

World Pasta Day, October 25, 2020

 I remember when I first came to Italy back in 1993, I was amazed at how many varieties of pasta recipes existed.  I mean, I was used to spaghetti bolognese (what I soon learned was a Neapolitan no-no).  As time went on, I learned to love pasta - that fantastic first - that I write often about on my blog.  

Today, October 25th, is World Pasta Day.  An initiative that dates back to 1995 (read more about it here)  I decided to celebrate this year with a nice plate of pasta at home, and this video which is a quick glance at some of the amazing pasta dishes that I have eaten over the past couple of years, prepared by  by Campania chefs, of course.

Boun appetito and Happy World Pasta Day!

Friday, October 23, 2020

A Mouth - Watering Masterpiece a Tavola, Il Faro Di Capo D'Orso, Maiori (Sa)


Chef Francesco Sodano

About  a year ago, I sat down with Chef Francesco Sodano.  As I enjoyed dessert, the chef shared with me his thoughts and reflections of his first season at the Michelin starred Il Faro di Capo D’Orso.  Sodano also shared with me his plans for his ‘time off’.  Sodano loves to travel, and one of the many trips he had scheduled was a trip to Madrid – for work and pleasure.  It was on that trip to Madrid where Sodano, a contemporary art lover, visited the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.  There he saw, up close and personal, Pablo Picasso’s Trois têtes de mouton (Three Lamb's Heads).  His inspiration for a dish that was a highlight for me last weekend during lunch. 

3 pm, Saturday afternoon.  Chef Sodano was at my table when a mini version of Picasso’s masterpiece arrived.  He explained to me that this dish, his Three Lambs Heads, would be served in three parts.  

Let’s take a look…

Sodano's lamb loin. Loin aged 2 months in beeswax with sesame tofu, barbequed endive,  and oxidized cauliflower powder.  

Sodano's lacquered lamb belly, with  bergamot gel,  and sorrel.  This piece of lamb practically melts in your mouth.  I am still dreaming about that mesmerizing citrus aroma!

Sodano's lamb’s head.  And he means head in every sense of the word.  Everything that can be found in the head of the lamb, accompanied by an emulsion of pecorino and salsa verde all enclosed in soft bread fermented 48 hours in a siphon.

As I enjoyed the last bite of this third head, I looked to my right.  There was Sodano – reflecting.  Then he looked over at me to share memories of home.  Though Sodano’s version is for his gourmet diners, the flavors ofthis dish brought him back home, where it wasn’t uncommon to serve baked lamb’s head with herbs and spices. 

 So, a chef’s love for travel and art inspired this dish.  I couldn’t help but wonder  what other museum visits would would show up on his table in the future.

Well, said Sodano.....

We are going to have to wait until next season for that mouth-watering masterpiece.




Monday, July 6, 2020

Hello Mr. White - Kresios, Telese Terme (Bn)

Chef Giuseppe Iannotti
A little less than a month ago, I was watching an IannottiLAB IG stories live and thought to myself  - when was the last time I saw the chef face to face?  I was curious if he, Iannotti, had decided to change his style after the restaurant reopened post Covid 19 lock down.  His unique style, one that has earned Kresios a Michelin star. I typed in my question and hit send.  A few minutes later, Chef Giuseppe Iannotti answered my question.  No. was his response, and it really didn't surprise me.  Though many experts in the field had declared that Italy's fine dining restaurants would suffer because diners would want to return to more traditional menus, Iannotti has held his ground.  Why change?  If anything evolve.  Move forward - as Kresios has been doing year after year after year..  And with that, I went to the restaurant's website and reserved a table for lunch for 3 July - one month after his the restaurant reopened.
It had been awhile since I hit the road for Kresios, a mini oasis located in the heart of Telese Terme, in the Benevento province.  Awhile...yikes - nearly 3 years!  The drive was familiar and relaxing. I must have changed my mind about what to order as often as I changed the radio stations during my nearly 55 minute drive. A visit to Kresios is what I like to describe to anyone who asks me as an experience. An experience in the form of two tasting menus - Mr. Pink and Mr. White. Two menus who get their names from the 1992 Quentin Tarantino movie Reservoir Dogs.  

Two names, two menus - blind tasting menus.  Meaning that though you decide the menu, the chef decides what leaves the kitchen - what arrives at your table.  And like Tarantino's movie, which I have seen over a dozen times, though a menu item may look familiar - there is always something that hits you.  And hits you hard.

I arrived, was greeted at the gate by Maitre Sommelier Alfredo Buonanno

and put my mask on the table.  

I couldn't help but notice the small subtle changes in the dining room since my last visit - new tables to begin with - and of course, the masks.  Masks that we all have grown accustomed to over the last few months...masks that may have been uncomfortable for the Kresios dining room and kitchen staff, did not take away from the quality of service that I was expecting.

So, Karen...Mr. Pink or Mr. White?

Mr. White, I thought.  Bring it on.  

At that point, my lunch began with a series of 30 + items poring out of the kitchen one after the pairings?  I left myself in the hands of the very more than capable Bounanno - one of the best young sommeliers in Italy. 

Alfredo Buonanno

There were familiar items, favorites, surprises..
Let's take a look, in random order....

bread made with  two kinds of  flour type 1 and type 2, 72 hours of leavening and fermentation,  and baked  in a pan to keep the humidity higher !!

cannelloni with tomato ice cream, tomato powder, basil powder and parmigiano cheese.

Ooops!  Here is a fav!  Roasted chicken chip...

and a creamy creamy creamy potato bite....


ssshhhh...part 2!

 There were dishes, such as Iannotti's classic spaghetti allo scoglio. A pasta dish featuring 50 different fish in the sauce.  Fifty! A dish that I love and  could not help but think back to when Iannotti's right hand man Eugenio Vitagliano prepared it for me back in 2017.  This time with a mask.   

And a white wine paired especially for this dish!!! How cool is that!!!



Then a pastina for the little child in all of us...

Dessert....starting a kick off fantasticaaa!  A dish that I named Snow in July..featuring snow and falanghina del sannio cooked must.

As usual the arrival of the petit fours, the piccoli pastries signal that the meal, the tasting menu, has terminated.  That, however, does not mean that the experience is over.  A coffee, a stroll through the garden, a walk through the vineyards, a chat or two with the chef...

I took advantage of my time and discovered exciting plans that Iannotti has in store and will reveal soon - so stay tuned!

Oh, and in case you are asking why I didn't put many descriptions next to the pics...well.  Like a trailer to a film...there should be just enough to make you curious. And like any Tarantino film - Mr. White should surprise...and in some cases, shock matter how many times you may have seen it.  Like it did for me.  

Hello Mr. White...and buon pranzo!