From Naples to Vesuvius, passing through Gragnano and Torre Annunziata, is an expanse of land rich in extraordinary gastronomic, oenological and cultural treasures.
The landscape and the nature of this area are truly generous, with the volcano protagonist of captivating postcards, circumscribed by an aromatic sea and the wooded slopes that offer refreshing escapes from the
summer heat, perhaps on a journey to Gragnano to find out about local pasta-making or the cultivation of Piennolo tomatoes.
Here, at the base of Monti Lattari are six quality and protected European brands that render this town with 30 thousand inhabitants a true ambassador of the Mediterranean diet in the world.
In Gragnano, spaghetti and rigatoni are the protagonists on the menus, even those that manage to be modern and innovative whilst preserving tradition. This is how Giulio Coppola’s dishes are served in his restaurant, La Galleria.
The chef, born and raised here, unites products and flavours in more modern recipes, such as pasta paired with the classic potatoes and squid, a combination of two typical features of the Campania tradition – and the characteristic squid with potatoes, much loved along the Coast from Praiano to Positano.
As a tribute to the tomato, the jewel of this area, is the pomo d’oro dish, in which four different qualities of tomato are used. “Una pasta minestrata”, as Coppola defines it, “that pays homage to the speciality of Gragnano, produced here by many companies.”
Each has its own particularity, from the Pastificio dei Campi to that of Gerardo Di Nola, right through to the Pastai Gragnanesi cooperative.
Chef Salomone’s creativity is expertly expressed in the dough, a reworking of the symbolic Castellammare dish.
The second stretch commences in Torre Annunziata. Flanking the sea, this fishing town is the ideal base for visiting nearby archaeological sites, starting with Oplontis then heading to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The culture of pasta is deeply ingrained, having been produced in this region since the 16th century. The Setaro brothers’ company, founded in 1939, is a piece of the area’s history and, even today, a wealth of tradition and craftsmanship.
Yet, the area is worthy of gastronomic attention also thanks to the work of Vincenzo Pagano and Alessandro Auricchio who, a couple of years ago, abandoned their previous professions to dedicate themselves to the art of pizza.
They restored a historic 18th-century farmhouse in the heart of the town and opened Casa Caponi, a name born from a common passion for the film Totò, Peppino e la...malafemmina (Toto, Peppino, and the Hussy).
Here, fried food is a science. Not to be missed is the crocchetta di melanzane (eggplant croquette), the fiore di zucca fritto e ripieno (fried stuffed courgette flowers), and the chiò chiò, fried delights with smoked provola cheese and breaded in cornflakes.
To be savoured next are the pizzas made to perfection, both classics or the more innovative, such as with pumpkin and provola cheese.
A few kilometres away, also connected by the Circumvesuviana railway, you can reach Castellammare di Stabia.
On the seafront, there is the Michelin-starred Piazzetta Milù restaurant, where the Izzo family, Michele with his sons Maurizio and Valerio, and Chef Luigi Salomone offer creative cuisine using delectable products produced locally, Piennolo tomatoes, fresh seafood sourced in the area and vegetables straight from the garden.
Chef Salomone’s creativity is expertly expressed in the impepasta, a reworking of the symbolic Castellammare dish: spaghetti, garlic, oil and chilli pepper seasoned with impepata ingredients and an emulsion of raw mussels. This is just one of the endless specialties in the shadow of Vesuvius.
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