Un pranzo magnifico!
Fagottino con cicoria e caciocavallo con cream di ceci al profumo rosmarino
Puff pastry with chicory and caciocavallo cheese with cream of chickpeas, rosemary fragrance (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Be it a humble trattoria or a celebrated ristorante, I’ve experienced many great meals in Italy, but few were as memorable as the magnificent lunch I enjoyed at Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche during my most recent visit to Campania.
The restaurant is part of a small resort in the town of Summonte about a 25-minute drive outside the town of Avellino in the inland province of Irpinia. This locale is somewhat isolated, as you drive up a gravel road, finally reaching your destination 1000 meters above sea level. This is a lovely retreat from everyday life, as there are a few apartments for guests as well as a handsome equestrian center.
Chef Antonella Iandolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
I was invited to lunch by my friend Antonella Iandolo, whom I first met two years ago when I enjoyed her cooking at a restaurant in nearby Avellino. Sadly, that restaurant closed, but she is staying busy consulting and teaching and is now perfecting her craft at this lovely resort. (Two things to note about my friendship with Antonella: first, she wrote a brief essay about pairing Campanian wine and food for my upcoming book on Italy’s most distinctive wines; second, I am in love with this woman!).
While Italian wine is my primary focus, I’ve learned a great deal about the country’s foods as well, as one enjoys great wines with equally great foods throughout the country. The starting puff pastry course (pictured above) was excellent, as all the flavors combined perfectly; the cream sauce was quite delicate, allowing the chickpea flavors to shine; this was a very flavorful, subtle, delicious dish.
The wine paired with this opening dish was the 2010 Guido Marsella Falanghina (Benevento), which was a lovely match, as this medium-bodied white with its lime and kiwi flavors backed by very healthy acidity, had enough weight and character to support, but not overwhelm the cream and chickpeas. Marsella, whose winery is located very close to the restaurant, is a little-known producer outside this immediate district, which is a shame, given the extremely high quality of his wines.
“Hamburger” con gorgonzola e noci al profumo di aneto
Hamburger with Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, dill fragrance (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Two other courses were highlights of this meal. The secondi was a sensational dish that combined pumpkin, pepperoni, potatoes and a “hamburger” with Gorgonzola and walnuts. This was one of the most original dishes I’ve ever tasted, quite rich, yet also quite harmonious, with the gorgonzola providing quite a contrast to the pepperoni. The 2010 Guido Marsella Fiano di Avellino stood up to all the various flavors here and was an ideal match, especially with the vibrant acidity and distinct earthiness in the finish.
Piccola torta con uva sultanina arance e cioccolato con crema calda all vaniglia
Torte with egg, orange and chocolate with warm vanilla cream (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Finally, as I’m not one to turn down dessert, no matter how full I am (especially in Italy!), I adored the dolce that Antonella prepared, a chocolate panettone with vanilla cream sauce. The complementary flavors were sublime and the torte itself was as light as a feather – what a superb way to finish an amazing meal!
After the meal, Antonella asked me what I thought of her cooking as compared to what I had experienced two years ago (as if I would have anything but the nicest things to say!). I told her how much I enjoyed everything, summing up my thoughts by stating that her cooking had become “more refined.” She was quite pleased to hear that! Antonella Iandolo is quite a chef, with great talent and creativity and I think she will handle any challenge that comes her way in the kitchen .
Aldo Genovese, proprietor, Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A big thank you and complimenti to Aldo Genovese, owner of Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche for hosting this lunch and creating such a warm atmosphere at his dining room. He is a very wise man for hiring Antonella Iandolo as his chef!