Monday, April 24, 2017

Jam Session at the Table- Il Saturnino Ristorante, Ischia (Na)

One of the best things about hopping around for a post for my blog, is that magical moments pop out  of nowhere.  Like last month while I was rolling  in Ischia with Ivano Veccia to meet our Instagram contest winner.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to stop by Chef Ciro Mattera's restaurant Il Saturnino in Forio d'Ischia.

Chef Ciro Mattera
Mattera was preparing to open for the season so he figured it would be a great opportunity to warm up the stove tops!  Here's a look at what went down!

Silver scabbardfish filled with hake roe and marinated red cabbage.

Bonito fish with oil, lemon and mint emulsion.

Crunch cod on, velvety onion and fava beans.

Fish fillet on cold fennel fondue and friarielli.

Mattera's dishes delicately represented the spring season teamed up with the sea that could be seen outside the restaurant's window.  It was a great afternoon, I must admit.  A chance to relax a bit before I needed to catch the ferry back home.
Also a chance to chat with amica blogger Valentina Scotti, a true Ischitana and chef Ermanno Nicoella.  Scotti and I managed to convince the chef to hop into the kitchen for an invention test featuring some of the ingredients that Mattera had served us at lunch for an impromptu' primo piatto.

Scotti and Nicolella

Fedelini pasta with a creamy spring onion sauce, friarielli greens, fava beans and peas tossed together in a pan with  silver scabbardfish.

A perfect pranzo!

A presto

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!