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Dine Online Holiday Guide 1999

Ristorante Antiche Sapori in the Bay of Naples

Our Italian correspondent Vincenzo d'Antonio discovers, to his delight, a spontaneous approach to the use of home grown produce...

Editorial note. We've left Vincenzo's charming Italian-English as close as possible to the original. I hope you'll find, as I did, that this is a wonderfully evocative account of simple but civilised gastronomy. [Editorial intrusions are in square braces]

Vico Equense is a small town; it's the gate of the Penisola Sorrentina.

I cannot tell if Vico Equense is a sea town or a mountain town! Vico Equense is rich of 13 hamlets. The upper of these is more than 500m above the sea; the lowest is right on the sea and there you can swim from May until October. Sant'Andrea is hamlet on a green hill.

ANTICHI SAPORI restaurant has only a very large room with twelve tables and you see through the windows to the kitchen and the two chefs. Alfonso (the owner) and his brother-in-law. Andrea, a very young man, who looks after the wine list.

In summer, dinners are eaten al fresco on a large terrace. Dining under moon and stars you appreciate the wonderful place overlooking the dark sea, both far and near at the same time. In this season, but in summer too if you like, we begin our dinner with salami and bacon made from home-grown pink pigs. Together with the salami and bacon Alfonso offers fresh cow cheese named fior di latte, "the flower of milk".

Our problem is which wine we must drink for beginning. We solved it with Lettere, a fresh and young red made by Vine of Vesuvius, very close to this land. Someone tells Lettere is the answer of Southern Italy to Lambrusco. I agree and I like both enough but not so much as I appreciate our more robust red. And so we go on, and Alfonso offers delicious tagliatelle con carciofi. A dash of milk, I suppose, makes as smooth as silk this dish.

You know, it's difficult to search a wine that's good for carciofi, so we're drinking Lettere still: bottle becomes empty, of course! Which kind of place is Vico Equense, do you remember - Sea or hill? I translate in food language: fish or meat?! And, still: which wine, white or red and so on, which white, which red?!? I like to set and solve these problems for they are happy problems!

The solution: Ricciola!

Ricciola is a very good fish. Ricciola likes to be eaten in crazy water (we say acqua pazza). It means oil, water and sweet and small tomatoes named spungiti. This variety of tomatoes named spungiti grow only in low hills close to Vesuvius and they suck from ground the fires of Vulcan! Ricciola in crazy water needs a lot of bread because nobody escapes from the temptation to wet bread in mad water: one ricciola, one bread, one ricciola, one bread, and so on. Yes, and wine? We drank, after my choice, Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Canayli by Cantina Sociale of Gallura, Sardinia. It won an important award and, really, it's a very good wine, excellent with this kind of plates of fish.

If you forget sea side of Vico Equense and you look at the hills, you're eating pork. Salsiccia with friarielli. Friarielli is a dark green vegetable We like to cook friarielli with a lot of hot oil and, almost as the cooking ends there's becomes marriage between the salsiccia and the friarielli.

[Editor: My good friend Stefano Bonafé head chef of Grissini London informs me that Ricciola is a Mediterranean seabass and that Salsiccia with friarielli is a pork sausage with a type of broad bean.]

We met at the table a surprising red wine coming from Tuscany by Vine Sangiovese: Formulae '96 produced by Castello di Brolio Ricasoli. Wonderful, better than a normal Chianti.

After fish, of course, we like to see the cheese platter. Following tradition, without running away with new proposals, we preferred several small morsels of Parmigiano Reggiano, washed down with a wine from the South: Puglia, an important Castel del Monte Vigna del Pedale Riserva '96 produced by Torrevento.

Cakes, sweet cakes. We are in the house of the lemons. So, delizia al limone. It's a small cake, like a half ball, with a lot of lemon cream. We don't want limoncello to accompany delizia al limone: it's too common! We found an excellent dessert wine: Moscato di Trani by the same producer of the red wine we drank with Parmigiano Reggiano. This Moscato of Trani is named Dulcis in Fundo. Really, thanks to this Moscato, we wrote a happy end to our dinner.

Map of Sorrento Editor's Note: [I like the sound of Dulcis in Fondo it sounds like a place on the North Downs in Surrey called Honeysuckle Bottom! I asked Vincenzo about the cost of his meal at Antiche Sapori, and whether there was a menu, or if Alfonso just brought dishes spontaneously, like a dinner party at a friend's place!]

"You can have a good lunch, or dinner, with 30 US$ without wines. Every bottle of wine in my story costs about 6 US$; certainly, not more than 7 US$.

There isn't a Menu. The Menu is to listen, not to read. The Menu is a son of the sea, the soil, the meats of the day."

Name of the restaurant: ANTICHI SAPORI
Address: frazione Sant'Andrea
City: Vico Equense, 34 km to Naples.
Phone number 0039 818 016 371.
Closed on Wednesday.
Vincenzo D'Antonio February 1999

Useful Links:
Ristorante Nonna Rosa also in Vico Equense
Vico Equense web site

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