Saturday, February 13, 2010


Lemons were always a precious commodity, exteemed for their fragrance, essentials oils and vitamin C; they were first planted on steep dry-stone-wall terraces at Maiori and Minori in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the early 20th century these lemons were even quoted on the New York Stock Exchange. Today the Costiera's pointed sfusato lemons - used to make limoncello liqueur - have been given territorial status (IGP). They are often grown in large limonaias built of chestnut-wood poles to guard them from the wind and frost.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Don Alfonso 1890, Sant’Agata sui due Golfi, the only italian restaurant "that would be worth boarding a plane to visit" (Raymond W. Apple jr.).
Americans of my vintage (b. 1934), weaned on the red-tablecloth food of the Italian south, were later taught that it was uncool, compared with the blander specialties of Milan and Venice. But we were also taught that in Italian cooking, the quality of ingredients is everything, and it is the south — the Mezzogiorno — that produces the juiciest fruits, the briniest clams and tuna, the best buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, and the world’s most sumptuous tomatoes, known as San Marzanos and raised near Mount Vesuvius, just south of Naples.
Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino (she of the zippy white patent-leather boots) grow herbs, lemons and peaches, artichokes and eggplants and, of course, prize tomatoes, plus the olives for their own tangy, fruity oil, in a sun-kissed garden facing the Isle of Capri near their restaurant on the Sorrento peninsula. In their lovely pastel dining room, they serve fresh, understated, unmistakably Italian food in great profusion — ravioli with caciotta (a sheep’s’ milk cheese), wild marjoram, barely heated chopped tomatoes and basil; rolls of baby sirloin filled with raisins, pine nuts, parsley and garlic, atop a ragout of wild endive; rabbit simply but exquisitely grilled with herbs; squid and baby octopus of a very high caliber. The tufa cellar, first excavated by the Etruscans, is stocked with wines from all around the world.