via SS. Pietro e Paolo, 8
Marianna Vitale has recently turned 30. Young but independent, right from the start – if you think that in this country children grow glued to their greying mothers. Some time was necessary, however, for her to connect her childhood instinct to the adult desire of being a chef. When she was a kid, she observed people constantly sitting at the table, in their ever open Naples' house, in Porta Capuana, just off the coach station. «I was always hungry, and had few toys», she recalls. So she enjoyed stirring saucepans and casseroles following the example of her grandmother. And that of her father, a chef by profession «who twenty years ago already prepared very contemporary dishes».
The pangs of the kitchen gnaw even when the official mission is to study. Marianna graduated in Spanish literature and her first job was to illustrate, to foreign tourists, every gorge in San Gregorio Armeno and Decumani in a language Neapolitans typically find familiar. And in the same corner of piazza San Domenico, in 2008, the turning point materializes: Lino Scarallo calls her to gain some experience, working for one year in the kitchen of Palazzo Petrucci. «He's a great worker, with a low profile and a sole objective: nourishing». From him she learns the contours of a simple cuisine, of territory. Soon her ambition drives her to transfer this into her own project. And not just her own, but her husband's too, for in the meantime she marries Pino Esposito, a kind sommelier from Quarto. It is here, in the difficult heart of the Campi Flegrei, that in May 2009, between the sulphur winds of Pozzuoli and general skepticism, they open their restaurant, Sud: «I knew the road would be difficult, but I didn't know how much so». In effect, less than expected: in November 2011 the first Michelin star arrived.
The «totally unexpected» acknowledgement arrived in truth at the peak of two years of constant word-of-mouth: there were people coming from Milan or Reggio Calabria for the day, just to try the colourful cuisine of this young woman who bustles with fifth quarters and humble ingredients with regality. An oxymoron open on gradually widening sections of the world, as in the recent fascination with the Southern Mediterranean area. It's like a running train that doesn't appear to be ending in Quarto: «I'd like to celebrate the Campi Flegrei in a larger and more dignified place. Even if it might take me 10 years». Of course, the reader will agree that this will certainly happen sooner. Waiting for the day, she's getting more and more awards: she's been voted the best Italian ladychef according to both Identità Golose and Guida de l'Espresso 2015.
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes.
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All the young stars awarded this week at the Triennale in Milano when presenting the Guida ai ristoranti di Identità Golose 2022, now online
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