`Choosing Just the Right Olive Oil at Nino Di Costanzo's Il Mosaico

Food & Cooking

Choosing Just the Right Olive Oil at Nino Di Costanzo's Il Mosaico

Jul. 15, 2011
Luciana Squadrilli

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Today we can find a wine list in almost any aver­age restau­rant – even in sim­ple trat­to­rias” — while the most sophis­ti­cated ones also pro­pose a liqueur, cof­fee or even water list.

Now, in Italy, it’s time for an olive oil list. It’s not easy to say whether it is good or bad news. It clearly shows the grow­ing inter­est chefs are pay­ing to olive oil, but is it just a pass­ing fad? Experts argue that it is not easy for a small, gourmet restau­rant to man­age an oil list or trol­ley. If you open many bot­tles at one time, some might be ran­cid before too long. But there are some places that can pull it off. One of the best is Il Mosaico, the gourmet restau­rant of the lux­u­ri­ous hotel Terme Manzi in the enchant­ing island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples.

Nino Di Costanzo is not only a tal­ented chef, but also a true pas­sion­ate for extra vir­gin olive oil.

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When I was a child I used to have a slice of bread with olive oil and local toma­toes as a daily snack: sim­ple yet deli­cious. Today, I couldn’t cook with­out olive oil,” he says while he shows us the huge restau­rant store­room full with the best Ital­ian pas­tas, flours, vine­gars and olive oils. He was able to col­lect nine­teen of them, one from each Ital­ian region (with the sole excep­tion of Valle d’Aosta, a small moun­tain region in North­ern Italy). Dur­ing the clos­ing months – from Novem­ber to April – he trav­els across Italy to visit farms and select the best prod­ucts. I only want to use oils I know where they come from” he says.

You won’t eas­ily find another restau­rant in Italy with such a com­pre­hen­sive offer of excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oils. And Chef Di Costanzo and his wait­ing staff know how to han­dle them. As soon as you take your seat at one of the six tables, you will receive a spe­cial wel­come: a lightly toasted, home made baguette and a small, empty dish; you will then choose from the olive oil trol­ley which exquis­ite oil you’ll use to fill it, after smelling it from the proper blue tast­ing glass. Som­me­liers and Maitre Alessan­dro Pas­sagrilli are there to guide you, if you wish.

Most of the bot­tles come in small pack­ag­ing and they quickly run empty. If they are not fin­ished within three days, Nino will use them at the larger, daily hotel restau­rant where they will be quickly emp­tied.

The Mosaico’s olive oil list is really impres­sive, with many among the best of 2010 har­vests. From the renowned, intense Il Sin­cero by Viola from Umbria to the rare and del­i­cate extra vir­gin by Gam­beroni, from Veneto. One of the chef’s own favourites is the Sicil­ian oil by Ter­raliva but, he explains What I like best is that you can find so many excel­lent olive oils from the whole coun­try, each of them with its own char­ac­ter.”

But, while he encour­ages his guests to play” with oil, the oil itself also plays a major role in his dishes: orig­i­nal, cre­ative and play­ful them­selves, they are as beau­ti­ful as tasty. See the imag­i­na­tive dessert Insalata di pasta dolce. An uncom­mon, sweet ver­sion of a clas­sic of Ital­ian sum­mer pop­u­lar cui­sine, the pasta salad, with all its ingre­di­ents: at the bot­tom, an olive oil madeleine and a corn mousse; then the typ­i­cal, excel­lent arti­sanal pasta from Grag­nano — yet cooked in sugar syrup — with crispy Tag­giasca olive wafers, grated coconut and a basil jelly. On the side, a tomato” (actu­ally a plum jelly with a basil heart). Finally a small, trans­par­ent cru­ent made of sugar, hid­ing inside the del­i­cate but fra­grant Uliva oil by Agraria Riva, from Garda Lake. You break it, and it will sea­son” the whole dessert, enhanc­ing the dif­fer­ent flavours with­out over­pow­er­ing them.

Just another magic of extra vir­gin olive oil.

IL MOSAICO DEL TERME MANZI HOTEL
Piazza Bagni, 4
Casam­ic­ci­ola Terme
Ischia (Na)
Phone +39 081 994722
Aver­age price 100 euros

www.termemanzihotel.com

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