Food & Drink

Endless Italy: Region by region, Top Chefs Share the Country’s Most Graceful Ingredients

Campania, by Franco Pepe

Home to Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, Campania is world famous for Mozzarella di Bufala, but the region offers so much more than that.

Franco Pepe

The first thing that comes to mind is the beautiful Conciato Romano, which is probably Italy’s most ancient cheese. It is magic: after the sheep, goat or cow milk is coagulated, expert hands press it to create the shape and then garnish it with condiments, and finally age it in terracotta vases. It develops a scent of alcohol and mature fruits, as well as an almost spicy persistence. We use it in our Mastunicola pizza with a figs preserve from Puglia, some Caserta Black pork lard and Matese oregano. Of course, we can’t forget to mention tomatoes: in my pizzeria I use many of them such as the San Marzano, the Piennolo (a sort of small natural candy growing under Mount Vesuvius), but the one I particularly care about is the Pomodoro Riccio by La Sbecciatrice. It is a very ancient variety, which grows in the area of Piana di Monte Verna; it is very resistant to heat and its balanced taste make it the perfect tomato for my Margherita Sbagliata – literally ‘wrong margherita’ sauce. I could speak for days but to conclude, I must talk about the Crisommola, which means apricot in Neapolitan dialect. In the Vesuvius area, we can find more than 70 different varieties of indigenous apricots with the most bizarre names. They have an incredible range of aromas, textures and flavors, from intense sweetness to complex acidic bitterness. I use them to make jam, paired with fresh ricotta, hazelnuts and dehydrated Caiazzo olives in my fried dessert pizza, the Crisommola.

Restaurant: Pepe in Grani (Caiazzo)

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