Pietramare: great pasta and other delicacies

Chef Alfonso Crescenzo from Campania enhances the best Calabrian food in a resort in Isola di Capo Rizzuto, with accomplice Giancarlo Marena...

19-09-2017

Fresh egg tagliolini pasta, black “hooked” truffle from Pollino, red prawns from Capo Rizzuto, sauce of Norman butter and Parmigiano Reggiano vacche rosse. A delicacy by Alfonso Crescenzo at Pietramare, in Isola di Capo Rizzuto (Crotone)

Photogallery

Our dinner at Pietramare in the photos by Tanio Liotta. The appetizers: fake tomato (hiding a juicy tartare of albacore), toast with sardella, 'nduja and red onion from Tropea, fried bread with a dome of octopus sauce, another toast with cream of potatoes and capers and lobsters. An excellent start...
Parmigiana di melanzane
Foie gras, apple juice and pan brioche: the dish isn’t beautiful but delicious. The fake apple of foie gras is covered in chlorophyll, red prawns from Capo Rizzuto, powdered crustaceans, reduced apple cider
Mackerel marinated with citrus fruits, glazed in honey and vinegar, mousse of pine nuts and fresh vegetables. Very elegant

And the winner is… If there was an Academy Award for the best pasta, we would give it – let’s say in the “Best pasta of the summer of 2017” category – to Alfonso Crescenzo, chef at Pietramare Natural Food inside Praia Art Resort, in Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Crotone. We were crazy for his Fresh egg tagliolini pasta (with Senatore Cappelli flour), black “hooked” truffle from Pollino, red prawns from Capo Rizzuto, sauce of Norman butter and Parmigiano Reggiano vacche rosse. In fact this was one of the peaks – not the only one – of an excellent dinner in a beautiful place. The chef from Sarno, in Campania, has pasta in his DNA: so the Spaghettoni di Gragnano cacio e pepe, mullet tartare, red onion from Tropea, wild fennel and celery aroma (the cheese is Pecorino di Cutro) were also luxurious. Food is an excellent reason to praise Pietramare. There are more.

Alfonso Crescenzo and Giancarlo Marena

Alfonso Crescenzo and Giancarlo Marena

Dining room service is another. It’s run by a great professional, Giancarlo Marena, a great sommelier also born in Campania, in 1979, but with a strong international experience. Today he works between Italy and New York [where he imports Italian products through his Gmd import]; this cosmopolitan vocation is evident in the wine list… and not only that because they also have some 90 sakes, a personal passion of Marena, which he also uses to make fantastic cocktails and to pair throughout the meal, as well as an aperitif: we had one with sake mixed with Roger (a bitter produced in nearby Montalto), then a liquor made with sake, cherry, apple and Japanese whisky; and another one mixed with Franciacorta bubbles, Japanese white tea and sweet smoke.

Then there’s the place. Praia Art Resort is in Praialonga di Isola di Capo Rizzuto. The coastal scenery in front of the vast Ionian Sea is enchanting, surrounded by the bush and the aroma of myrtle and mastic tree. The beach is only 20 metres away. These days you can still enjoy the last of the summer sun, perhaps lying down on the hammocks emerging from the water like pile dwellings. A perfect representation of relax, which will increase: next year, they’re opening a nice spa, with 10 new rooms.

Back to the food. Crescenzo, born in 1978, is a humble and passionate chef, «I always start from tradition. My mother and grandmother were housewives and would make pasta and potatoes». His first worry is that he has to «present real flavours from authentic products». He’s at Pietramare since 2015, after a long cursus honorum that made him travel across Italy, and beyond: like Santa Caterina in Amalfi, San Pietro in Positano with Alois Vanlangenaeker, Georges Blanc in France, Pino Lavarra at Palazzo Sasso in Ravello as sous chef, Tonino Mellino at Quattro Passi,  Trussardi alla Scala(«The last 12 days of  Alfio Ghezzi, then Andrea Berton»), Il Rigoletto with Gianni D’Amato, Terrazza dell'Eden with Enrico DerflingherSt.Regis in Beijing, «where I met Marena», and even 3 years sailing on board an exclusive yacht owned by Russian Lukoil.

Alfonso Crescenzo

Alfonso Crescenzo

He says: «I come from a family of farmers. When you grow up in the streets, in Sarno, it’s easy to lose your way. Cooking somewhat saved me. After school, my parents were worried, because they were working hard in the fields and I could have made bad friends. So they forced me to find a job. I remember well, it was the year I had my Holy Communion. They sent me to a pastry shop. I started washing tools but I was short. It was hard to get to the sink. I earned 2 thousand lire per week but I soon learnt the meaning of hard work. I’ve never stopped working, in the afternoon and on holidays, until I became a professional».

From time to time he goes back to Campania, «I like sharing experiences with housewives. I’d like to open a place of my own in Sarno, an agritourism, facing the challenges of a very peculiar place, considered a place for ignorant farmers, in the best case». But he loves Calabria too, «here I have access to excellent products». Lamb, for instance. Vermituri. Fish from the Ionian Sea, fantastic. Red pepper. Wild artichoke. Onion from Tropea, «I have a dish in which I serve stewed onion with egg and vanilla salt. And I use it in the Genovese sauce, which changes because bronze onions are sweeter, red onions are more aromatic». Potatoes from Sila, «I make  Pipi e patate, a classic».

Then there’s fiorone truffle from Pollino, «When I taste it I wonder how can it be that a region with such delicacies is so still». Red prawns from Capo Rizzuto, «as well as “violetto”…». ‘Nduja. Bergamot, citron and chilli pepper. He uses it even in a lovely panettone, which we tasted in August because it’s good all year round: aren’t the recent best producers of the Milanese cake from Campania, after all? Born in the province of Salerno, Crescenzo thinks that products differ, but with the same concepts and techniques, you’re still presenting the Mediterranean area. «In Calabria there’s everything». And at Pietramare you feel great.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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Photogallery

Our dinner at Pietramare in the photos by Tanio Liotta. The appetizers: fake tomato (hiding a juicy tartare of albacore), toast with sardella, 'nduja and red onion from Tropea, fried bread with a dome of octopus sauce, another toast with cream of potatoes and capers and lobsters. An excellent start...
Parmigiana di melanzane
Foie gras, apple juice and pan brioche: the dish isn’t beautiful but delicious. The fake apple of foie gras is covered in chlorophyll, red prawns from Capo Rizzuto, powdered crustaceans, reduced apple cider
Mackerel marinated with citrus fruits, glazed in honey and vinegar, mousse of pine nuts and fresh vegetables. Very elegant
We’ve already mentioned the tagliolini...
...and the spaghettoni. «I went to the port, once, and a fisherman brought me mullet from the gulf of Squillace. Fantastic. Everyone cooks it as a whole, I make a raw sauce»
Seared scallops, spugnole, courgette flowers, pea sauce, squid ink, carrot air
Lamb from Marchesato, apricots, asparagus, caviar of smoked aubergines, cherry sauce. The cutlet was excellent, the stewed thigh roll could be improved
Chocolate mousse, licorice, silver leaf, raspberry meringue
Cream of milk, crustoli with vinocotto and citrus fruit mousse. Crustoli are the Calabrian equivalent of Campanian struffoli