Every year in Paestum, in the beautiful area south of Naples called Cilento, a group of local mozzarella producers host an event called Le Strade della Mozzarella (Mozzarella Roads). I have never managed to attend and every year I read about it and see photos of amazing dishes and turn green with envy. This year, the group behind the event has actually brought the whole event to London (stopping in Paris and Geneva on the way). Obviously, I was not going to let this opportunity pass without making the most of it! My sister @troppobuono came over as she usually works with the consortium and was not only coordinating the London set up but also amongst other things, due to introduce some of the demos.
Unfortunately due to my day job commitments, I missed the very beginning of the event, which had a full on programme with some big names from the Italian culinary landscape; when I arrived at the Baglioni hotel in Kensington, the room was packed and Salvatore Salvo was busy making the real, the one and only pizza napoletana. Flour (Caputo, one of the sponsors of the congress), water, and a tiny amount of yeast followed by a long rest (over 20 hours); the result was amazing and gave many who guests the chance to savour real Neapolitan pizza without having to fly to my home town.
The pizza was followed by what I found the most innovative and intriguing dish of the day by chef Andrea Aprea of 1* restaurant Vun in Milano: ‘Sweet and Salty Caprese’, a modern and crazy take on the classic caprese salad, a dish developed by the chef for the congress itself. Light, shiny sugar bauble filled with the most ethereal mozzarella mousse, accompanied by corbarino and piennolo tomato coulis (more on these later on) and some fresh mozzarella cubes. A seriously incredible dish. Chef Aprea followed with a savoury dish which looked beautiful: a single Pastificio dei Campi pasta shell, filled with ricotta di bufala (buffalo ricotta), a little bit of mozzarella (of course) and the darkest, richest ragou sauce I have ever tasted. Deep, intense, bursting with salty flavours it married the creamy ricotta and the starchy pasta at perfection. I think I need to book a weekend in Milano just to eat more of Chef Aprea’s food.
Following on, perhaps the strangest tasting of the evening: buffalo milk “gelato” proposed by master ice-cream maker Simone Bonini, owner of Carapina in Florence and Rome. I enjoyed it however I am not entirely sure I would pick this as an ice cream flavour during a summer stroll. It had texture and had a subtle mozzarella flavour. Proud sister moment, Bonini was introduced by @TroppoBuono.
The secret of the original Ragù Napoletano was then ‘revealed by Giorgio Scarselli, Il Bikini, Vico Equense’, and sadly I missed out on this tasting. I am on a mission now to secure a jar of this ragu’ as judging by what everyone was saying, it’s worth trying for sure.
Finally, Signora Maria Rina of Ghiottone restaurant in Policastro took the stage and demo’d her Panzanella. Not only I have been eating at her restaurant since she opened in the late 70s, I have had the pleasure of trying her dish before but it was nevertheless exciting to see how much people loved it all around me! A modern, creative take on this ‘pauper’s dish’ using Cilento’s healthy, delicious Mediterranean ingredients (olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil).
Between demos, we all had an opportunity to meet producers from Campania region and Cilento area and taste their products. I felt at home, as I am familiar with most of them (of course, being from this part of the world). Wines from Cantina San Salvatore, flour from Molino Caputo, pasta from Pastificio dei Campi, mozzarella all the way from Paestum, peppery, aromatic extra virgin olive oil from Muraglia and 4 variety of tomatoes from Corbarino. We loved in particular chatting to Giuseppe Acciaio who had a few jars of these beautiful varieties on display. We all tried them and some of us even managed to smooch him enough to give us a jar or two. They are sweet, full of flavours and delicate and I can’t wait to use them with some pasta.
The first London Mozzarella Roads event was seemingly a success. There were a lot of people from the food & catering scene (including chefs Locatelli and Koffman), food bloggers, journalists and the products we were able to taste were of extremely high quality. Here’s to next year’s Mozzarella Roads!
More photos from the event: