At least once a year, Cathy Whims, takes time out of her busy schedule to travel to Italy for newfound culinary inspiration. Upon her return, we get to live vicariously through all her delicious stories. Read on to discover what inspired Cathy during her Fall adventure in Campania, Italy.
Where did your culinary tour begin?
I joined Faith Willinger’s tour which began in the tiny fishing village of Cetara on the Almafi Coast. Cetara is a true working fishing village, not touristy at all. Faith invited celebrated chefs to come to Cetara for five days of cooking lessons.
What chef inspired you?
I loved learning how to make fried pizza from Chef Enzo Coccia of Pizzeria La Notizia in Naples. The pizza was surprisingly light and so amazing with organic San Marzano tomatoes from Mt. Vesuvius and the organic smoked mozzarella from the ancient city of Paestum. I’m excited to bring his technique to Oven and Shaker. I plan to return to Italy in the Spring for Enzo’s pizza boot camp! I want to master his crazy dough kneading technique.
Where else did you travel?
I was able to spend time in Naples and this time I fell in love with this crazy city. It was my second time there. Naples is intense and high energy, the history is amazing, the food incredible. L’Europeo di Mattozzi is my favorite for Sunday lunch or an evening pizza night out.
What was your most memorable meal?
I had an entire meal of anchovies at Pasquale Torrente’s restaurant Al Convento in Cetara. This fishing village is famous for their celebration of these tiny fish. Every dish was delicious. Pasquale’s bloody mary even had anchovy colatura in it!
Oh and the first night I fell in love with the dinner cooked by Rocco Iannone from Pappacarbone. Still dreaming of his raviolo caprese allo scarpariello.
What’s different about cooking in restaurants in Italy?
There’s not as much hierarchy. I love how over there chef’s call sous-chefs “collaborators”. That’s how it should be. It really is a collaboration.
What surprised you?
The water buffalo spa! We visited Tenuta Vannulo, the world’s greatest buffalo mozzarella producer in Paestum right across from the famous Greek temples.
It was amazing to see how well they treat their animals. It really was like a spa. They had these water jets that the buffalo could walk underneath for a shower and buffing machines they could walk under for a body massage. They can choose when they want to be milked themselves with these automatic machines and the floor of their stable is spotlessly clean.
Check it out here: http://youtu.be/bHuRSl50DdE
What were some of your favorite recipes that you plan to bring back to Nostrana?
Oh, too many choices! The pasta and chickpeas with anchovy colatura by Chef Berardino Lombardo was seriously so good we will be pairing it with olio nuovo we imported from this Fall’s harvest. So excited.
I loved the bruschetta’s we made with beans, escarole and peppers.
The candied tomatoes right out of the oven were amazing.
I had this really good potato dish that was very simple, pressed through a food mill for a fluffy texture.
What else inspired you?
The use of tiny fishes in so many dishes. Our culture is so focused on the big, overfished seafood. We should use more anchovies and sardines.
I loved learning at Fattoria Alvaneta, an agritourismo farm, about techniques to preserve, pickle and ferment vegetables to make seasonal ingredients last all winter.
How much pasta did you eat?
Oh…so much! I’m still stuffed. You can’t beat the pasta in Italy. Their artisanal small factory handmade pasta is the best in the world. The wheat is just different over there.
Cathy with Chef Rocco…