Di Costanzo takes Ischia back

In the lush and green Dani Maison, the former two Michelin chef stars picks up where he left: flavours

10-06-2016
by Federica Carr
Rabbit and smoked buffalo mozzarella ravioli by Ni

Rabbit and smoked buffalo mozzarella ravioli by Nino Di Costanzo, one of the best dishes at Danì Maison, new venue on Ischia island, headed by the chef who left the helm of Mosaico at the Terme Manzi hotel in April 2015. Many new dishes but also many classic dishes, which gained him two Michelin stars

“You need to go back, turn right and after 300 metres take the steep road to your right and you’re there” a kind lady explains. It is not the easiest thing to find the new restaurant that Nino Di Costanzo, two Michelin stars at the now closed Mosaico in the Hotel Terme Manzi, opened a few days ago in his home island of Ischia. We locate the place though, and after a couple of turns that gives us a few more grey hairs, we arrive at Dani Maison.

The greenery of the island enfolds the hill where the chef and his family live, and where he now also runs his business, after a few months traveling around the world cooking for the fashion house Kiton. And Nino himself welcomes us in the stunning garden he created: flowers, Mediterranean scrub and plenty of herbs interspersed by art pieces which echo the sea and the Campania traditions (including a giant red horn which deflects bad luck). “Here in Ischia the civic numbers change constantly…taxi drivers are already quite unhappy with me” - Nino apologises, when we appear a little overwhelmed by the trip up here. In fact, you drive up from number 4 but the business card marks 28.

It doesn’t really matter, as stepping into the gardens feels immediately as being in a peaceful oasis. The sunset lights flicker all over and the Epomeo’s scents provide a striking frame and are alone worth the journey. The atmosphere here is magical, we are surrounded by lemon trees, olive groves, fruit orchards and further down, the Mediterranean sea; basically the larder Nino uses to create his dishes. The terroir, so important for his philosophy, becomes a single unit with the Dani Maison.

Lamb, aubergine parmigiana, chard pie and potato lasagne

Lamb, aubergine parmigiana, chard pie and potato lasagne

After taking in the landscape with an aperitif, we move indoor to the dining room. A lot of anticipation to see how the chef has evolved since the Mosaico times, and how he has made this place his own, where, it is obvious, he put his heart and soul.

Despite being open for a few days only, the place is full. Only 4 tables in the main dining room, is furnished in a contemporary way with traditional touches (a large Pulcinella is painted on a wall) and two more tables for two right under the pass. The kitchen is small but perfectly formed: we can’t see how many cooks are working but they are all in perfect harmony despite the reduced space (we’re certainly not in the Mosaico kitchens). The service is almost flawless, surely there is a little bit of anxiety given the expectations before the opening.

BACK HOME. Nino Di Costanzo in his brand new restaurant (photo ilgolfo24.it)

BACK HOME. Nino Di Costanzo in his brand new restaurant (photo ilgolfo24.it)

If anyone is thinking this is something new, a change of direction, disappointed they will be. It almost feels like not a day has gone by since Nino left the Hotel Manzi. He picked up right where he left, carrying on with the same creative process and train of thoughts. The classics are still on the menu: Pasta… e patate (potato pasta), Vietato fumare, sempre (no smoking, always!) but more dishes are added, always with Campania region at the heart. Eye and mind are confused: amongst the amuse bouche, Bread butter and anchovies tastes exactly like we remember as kids but looks like a tiny black tube.

The perfection in the flavours and presentation is his trademark, no doubt about it. The Neapolitan Risotto with stuffed peppers flavours has the warm tones and yellow and red and the precise aromas of the Neapolitan tradition. The Fumarole (geysers), homage to the local Maronti beach, marries scene and taste: a delicate cod fillet cooked table side by the steam generated over hot stones, while the fragrance of the herbs used envelopes the table.

The restaurant has a magnificent garden, surrounded by the Mediterranean flora

The restaurant has a magnificent garden, surrounded by the Mediterranean flora

The glass case in which the delightful petit fours are served is accompanied by a miniature wooden chest of drawers which those who ate at Mosaico will surely recognise. Crockery, cutlery, glasses, the olive oil trolley and the mineral waters menu, we’re definitely in the Di Costanzo galaxy.

After the meal, Nino thanks us for dropping by. We walk through the garden, now shrouded in the Ischia night, and the ride home doesn’t worry us anymore.

Danì Maison
via Montetignuso, 4
Ischia
Isola di Ischia (Naples)
+39.081.993190
around 90 euro per person