Friday, July 18, 2014

If I had a Yacht...Assaggini di Summer with Chef Peppe Guida at Yacht Club Marina di Stabia, (Na)

We met a few months ago ish.  An April evening  where he was the guest star in a small kitchen at a winery in Quarto that evening.  Chef Giuseppe (Peppe) Guida  called me into that kitchen to try an appetizer while we waited for the the rest of the dinner guests to arrive.  A fried cauliflower zeppola with butter and anchovies.  I'll never forget it, I wrote about that evening here.
Since then, I've bumped into Guida on a couple of other tasty events like here and here.  So ami I  Guida-ddicted?  Maybe.  I needed another fix, so to speak.  A meal prepared by the chef in his own kitchen...on a normal day, not during a grande event.  A lunch where the chef could prepare his specialties con calma.
That opportunity came last week when I went to visit the chef at his summer home; Yacht Club Marina di Stabia, where the Michelin star chef spends his summer giving his restaurant Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa a well deseved break.
From the terrace,  there is a beautiful view of the sea, and on a clear day, the entire Sorrento Peninsula from Castellammaredi Stabia all the way to Punta Campanella. Even the isle of Capri.  A windy summer lunch at Yacht Club Marina di Stabia, one of the biggest marinas  in Europe.  Where yachts, mega and mini, from all over the world dock while they spend a part of their dolce vita vacation in a part of Italia that I have called home for years.
I don't have a yacht, but I was   ready for a special summer lunch.
I began with a wine that the chef  produces himself.  A small quantity which can only be found at his restaurants.  A blend of Piedirosso and Sciascinoso grapes from a vineyard in nearby Vico Equense, where he calls home.

Then it was full speed ahead to try some of the  specialties that were featured on the a la carte menu that afternoon.  An afternoon full of assaggini di summer beginning with a colorful benevenuto.  A fried anchovy stuffed with mozzarella cheese. and a yellow bell pepper sauce.

Then appetizers which included a caponata di baccala':  lightly sauteed cod with olives, moistened day old bread, tomatoes and marinated eggplants.

Crudo di pesce; once again that day old bread this time soaked in tomato water.  In this plate there was just about everything, from tuna to mussels. Clams to anchovies, squid and amberjack fish.

Fish played a starring role n the next delicate but powerful plate...pasta mischiata with lightly sauteed amberjack as well as thinly sliced raw fish of the same name.

The next pasta dish which is a summer classic.  Guida's version of spaghetti with zucchini.

This was followed by an assaggini of a dish that is a take on the famous caprese salad with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes.  Guida added a tender piece of fish to complete the dish.

I couldn't go away without tasting his famous desserts which included profiteroles filled with lemon cream and topped with a strawberry sauce,  his sugar coated potato zeppole and coffee ice cream.

If I only had a yacht...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PizzaNonStop - Enzo Coccia's Pizzaria La Notizia (Na)

Summer in the city.  In Naples, at least one evening a week must include a pizza. And on this particulare evening on this particular week I decided to drop in and salutare, say hi, to maestro pizza maker Enzo Coccia at Pizzaria La Notizia.  Coccia showed no sign of jet lag from a recent trip to Shanghai, China where he and his team served as consultant for a new pizzeria there.  He was eager to show me photos and videos that he had in his Samsung Galaxy from his recent adventure.  Pictures that he has yet had time to share with the world via the social networks and his web site.

Enzo Coccia

It was easy to understand why. Coccia's life is non-stop!
Coccia's place was already packed with a waiting list at 7:30 pm.  Very early for Naples.  Families, couples, old friends and new were greeted by Coccia one by one as they entered his house.  Coccia has two pizzerias, or as Coccia told me long ago, pizzarias. And as one place filled up, he was quick to pick up the phone to see if he could squeeze pizza lovers at his newest location just down the street.
It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of the evening, especially since my seat was right next to the banco where I could see pizzas flying in and out of the forno by Coccia's first class team. Here the word  team = a well oiled machine.  Pizzas for the dining room...pizzas for take-away.

I was there to try the Pizza Sorrento, one that I had seen a few days before on Facebook.  One that practically whispered try me..try me. This one was all about summer with fresh anchovies, black olivers, sweet yellow Piennolo tomatoes, chives, basil, and fresh garlic.  The touch of class was when a drizzle or two of orange infused extra virgin olive oil from the Sorrento Peninsula.

I was sure that I had space for one more.  I was able to snag Coccia and ask his advice.  He suggested a stuffed pizza - his Calzone Sirena d'Oro.
What's it stuffed with? I wanted to know.
Ricotta (buffalo milk) Campana DOP, basil, grated pecorino cheese, speck IGP, and  zucchini flowers sliced a julienne which had been previously sauteed with  extra virgin olive oil.

Could I handle it?

Oh, yes!

The line outside of the pizzaria was increasing.  No problem, Coccia every now and then would send out assaggini, small slices of pizzas to keep his waiting guests happy.

I was ready to leave, but not before dessert.  Coccia's saltimbocca with Nutella! (Though, to be honest, I asked for a doggy bag - no more space! )

Evening over, but for many it was just beginning.  As I left, my space was being prepared for the next guests of the evening.  Guests who, thanks to the staff of Pizzaria  La Notizia, quickly become family and friends.

"Pizzaria La Notizia
The place where Enzo Coccia warmly welcomes his friends"

Alla prossima, Enzo

Pizzaria La Notizia
Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio, 53-55
 80126 Naples
039 081 714 21 55

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Dreams are Made of...Melanzane al Cioccolato - Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Na)

There are some people who believe that every dream has a meaning, a hidden message, or can predict the future.  But there may be only one person who can interpret my  latest sogno.  Chef Alfonso Caputo of Taverna del Capitano.  That's because in  my last dream, the parts that I can remember, featured his dessert that I tried  a year ago ish.  His melanzane al cioccolato...his chocolate eggplants.

Last summer I had it in his Michelin star restaurant after a top class lunch with a view of the sea from my table by the window.  In my dream, however, I was relaxing on a beach lounge chair underneath the restaurant on their pebbly lido.  On my lap a plate of chocolate heaven.  Headphones in my ears with Jamariquoi's Little L was the soundtrack to my fantasy.

You know how dreams are.  They come at you al improviso, all of the sudden.  No explanation as to why. So what does one do when one has a dream like this?
Write the chef and ask for the recipe...

And it is:

Melanzane al Cioccolata
For 4 people:
4 eggplants, 300 g of sugar, 0.6 l of water with Tahiti vanilla beans and lemon

For the filling
300 g ricotta, 150 g of sugar, orange and lemon peel

For the topping
100 g dark chocolate 70%, 100 g of fresh cream 30%


Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Boil the water and  sugar . Put in  the eggplant and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat  and allow to soak for 24 hours.

For the filling: Mix the ricotta cheese (from Mt Lattari if possible),  with sifted sugar and citrus peels. Let it  rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Dry the eggplant, remove the seeds and fill with the filling. Roll and allow to stand for 1 hour.

Prepare the sauce by melting the chocolate into the cream until you have a smooth sauce.

Slice the eggplants into discs and arrange on a plate. Pour the sauce around and garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Sweet dreams...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vineyard Hopping - Pompeii (Na) - Mastroberardino Winery

Nearly 4 years have passed since I parked my car in front of the gates to the ruins of Pompeii.  It was a warm October day during the harvest  and  I was there to witness the 10th harvest in Mastroberadino Winery's vineyards located inside the ruins of that historical city.  Back then I was just breaking into the wonderful world of wine blogging, so I took meticulous notes, soaked in on all of the technical information during our tour of the various sites located throughout the city.  I soaked in the colors of the season, the leaves, the grapes, the workers in their blue uniforms picking Piedirosso of the vines.  I wrote about it here in October of 2010.

This visit was just as breathtaking for several reasons.  With a few more years of vineyard experience under my belt, I was able to appreciate the hard work, risks, and satisfaction that the winery has gone through since they began this journey back in 1996.  I was able to note the differences in how the grapes reacted in various sites throughout the ancient city. How Aglianico reacts to the alberello or free standing training system,.  I spent more time alone through the rows of vines, often leaving my small group which included a wine and food blogger for Sweden who was visiting this site for the first time.  From a distance, I could hear agronomist Antonio Dente explain the various phases of the project, the grapes, the history of the vineyards, and pointing out vines such as Aglianico grapes that had been grafted onto Piedirosso vines back in 2007.  I was surprised at how much I remembered from my trip a few years back.

The devotion to maintain the spirit of the project in conjunction with the archaeological superintendent of Italy while at the same time, produce a quality wine is impressive.  This project  would make the entire ancient city come back to life showing international tourists how life was like back before that fateful night back in 79 AD.

And since our group was international, we decided to leave the vineyards and join the tourists who came to visit Pompeii that hot Monday afternoon.  It was hard not to get caught up in the spirit and excitement of the small groups being led around the city, stopping to fill up their bottles of water, looking for a bit of shade under the sun, the oohs, the wows, the aahs...


Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer in a Package - Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, (Na)

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen of 2 Star Michelin restaurant Don Alfonso 1890. It was the Fourth of July, but instead of red white and blue, I noticed a wide range of summer colors.  Colors  such as green, red, dark violet, and yellows from the fruits and vegetables that had arrived earlier that morning from the restaurant's Agriturismo  Le Peracciole in nearby Punta Campanella.  And though it was quite warm in the kitchen, my mind went instantly back to a cool  mid spring morning last year when I had the chance to visit the farm with chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino.  When I had a chance to see for myself the pride and dedication that the family places in producing delicious organic produce.  Produce that would arrive in their kitchen, be placed in the capable hands of the kitchen brigade, and be turned into  magnificent looking and, more importantly, magnificent tasting dishes.
During my kitchen tour, I stopped several times at the appetizer station, where I met Kiama Joel, chef responsible for antipasti. He and his small team were putting together a serious array of summer vegetables that later would make it to my table. I watched as he put together one plate in particular with paper-thin cucumbers surrounded by a vanilla sauce...

along with fresh basil mixed with ricotta.

Next up, three little packages of summer, each wrapped in a red bell pepper.  The packages included zucchini a scapece  (marinated zucchini), melanzane al funghetto ( eggplant with tomato sauce), and fresh green beans.

 To give the dish a little kick, horseradish ice cream and red beet chips.

This plate has everything!  I overheard sous chef Nicola Pignatelli share his thoughts on the dish with Iaccarino.  He used words like morbidezza, croccantezza, sapidita', dolcezza...

He took the words right out of my mouth...