Dining in Italy: Torre del Saracino** (2018)

This is our 4th dinner at Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense with view on Mt Vesuvio and the Gulf of Naples. The previous time in 2011 we took a flight just to eat here. And so we had high expectations of our dinner at “the Torre” and saved it for the last dinner of our trip.

Some remodeling has been done since our last visit, and the small appetizers with a glass of Franciacorta are now served in a panaroma room to enjoy the wonderful view (which is hard to capture with my iPhone).

The small appetizers were all wonderful and showcase the kitchen’s prowess. I should have made notes, because I don’t remember all of the flavors. The one on the right was unbelievably delicate. On the left was crispy on the outside and filled with a shellfish ragù, so full of flavor.

Baccalà with potato.

Steamed buns.

Veal tartare.

After the stuzzichini a tour of the wine cellar.

And then we moved to the main dining room. There are three tasting menus of 6 (155 euros), 8 (170 euros), or 11 courses (200 euros), with matching wines for 80 euros for Italian wines or 120 euros for ‘international’. We opted for 8 courses and the Italian wine pairing.

The menu starts with palamita (bonito, a small kind of tuna) that is lightly marinated and served with caviar. It was paired well with a Fiano from Paestum. 9/10

Next crab two ways: delicate meat with a sauce of the coral and some fregula…

…and a crab bisque. This was paired well with a 2003 Marsala. It was great how the two ways worked together and showed both sides of the crab, where the bisque somehow did not overpower the elegant crab meat. 10/10

Red mullet ‘fried but not fried’, where the mullet is cooked by pouring hot oil onto it rather than actually deep frying it. The fins were dehydrated and added as a crunchy element. The fish was perfectly cooked and had great texture and flavor. It was paired well with a Riesling from Alto Adige. It was interesting to note how the wine and the dish worked better together after each bite and sip, like they had to get used to each other first.

This dish would have been 9/10, but the red mullet pudding (budino) that was served along with it had such a wonderful flavor that it was another 10/10.

We were lucky because tomatoes are at their best and only when they are, about 3 weeks each year, this tomato risotto is made. The tomato flavor of this risotto is out of this world! A magnificent balance of sweet, sour, and tons of umami. Already worth 10/10. It goes without saying that the risotto was perfectly cooked. What makes it even better is the garnish of tiny squid filled with smoked provola cheese. So elegant and lovely. This was paired with a local beer made with zest of Sorrento lemons. I normally don’t like beer, but this was nice and the pairing really worked.

Fettucce pasta with eel ragù, paired with a Falanghina. The eel ragù had such a great flavor, very creamy and at the same time fresh from just a bit of tomato and I believe a drop of lemon juice. Of course the pasta was perfectly cooked. There were also some larger pieces of eel with crispy skin. 10/10

As usual at the Torre, this was a bonus dish that was not listed on the menu as part of the tasting menu, so we actually got 9 courses for the price of 8!

A potato gnoccho filled with baccalà (salted cod), porcini mushrooms, and shrimp. Paired with a light local red, a blend of Aglianico and Piedirosso. A very elegant take on ‘Surf and turf’. The fresh porcini had great flavor. 9/10

John Dory with a pesto of green beans, red onions, and zucchini, paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from Gaja. This dish was good, but after all the other great dishes this was not as special. 8/10

Rare breed suckling pig, with a chutney of precoche Puteolane (a local variety of peach) and mustard sauce. The pork had great flavor and was very tender. It was paired well with a 2000 Barolo that was at the perfect time to drink it, velvety tannins and very elegant. Great that such wines are served at the proper age, rather than the ‘baby murder’ that is committed often in Dutch restaurants when wines like this are served 5 years after the harvest (when they are not nearly ready to drink). 10/10

To ease into dessert, a mix of sweet and salty flavors in this pre-dessert with walnuts and cheese, paired nicely with a Moscato d’Asti.

Different textures of citrus for dessert, paired with a Passito di Pantelleria. Very nice.

Even nicer was this panettone and pasticciera napoletano, showing the skill of the pastry chef. The panettone was amazingly fluffy and fragrant. The pasticciera soft and creamy on the inside and very flavorful. These are traditional dolci from the region that are technically difficult, executed perfectly. 10/10

And it goes on. The complexity of the chocolate flavors in this was amazing.

I didn’t understand before why Torre del Saracino does not have three Michelin stars but ‘only’ two, and now I really don’t understand anymore, because our high expectations were surpassed.

The balance of flavors, elegance and complexity of the dishes, technical perfection and clear ‘signature’ of the chef using the best local products are all amazing. No theatrics, just deliciousness. 10/10 for the food!

Very good wines and wine pairings and for a very reasonable price tag. 9/10 for the wine.

The service was very good as well. Sometimes the dishes were coming a bit too fast, but otherwise perfect and very attentive. We had walked what must have been hundreds of steps down from the center of Vico to the restaurant, and mentioned this when we were shown around the cellar. The waiter then immediately suggested that one of the staff would drive us back up, free of charge. It was also great that the maitre explained the thoughts of the chef behind every dish. And he remembered our faces from seven years ago. 9/10 for the service.

What is also nice about the Torre is that the bill is not ‘padded’. It’s 170 for the menu and 80 for the wine pairing, and the final bill was 510 including the aperitif, water, coffee, and limoncello. Not to mention the additional course. This helps in making this great value for money.

We can’t wait for the next time — hopefully in much less than 7 years from now. This remains one of our favorite restaurants in the world.

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8 thoughts on “Dining in Italy: Torre del Saracino** (2018)

  1. Should have read both your ‘last’ blogs ere commenting . . . feel like a ‘mere ignoramus’ who could not do this menu justice . . . . of all the dishes you will remember in the years to come I would have loved to taste the notoriously difficult to male tomato risotto most . . . . and hoped my palate was good enough for the experience . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Non credo che il risotto al pomodoro sia fatto in un modo molto speciale — credo che sia soprattutto la qualità dei pomodori usati. Sono pomodori del tipo “cuore di bue”. Mi farebbe tanto piacere cenare da te. Non deve essere da chef stellato per essere apprezzato.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw your Italian Dining 1890 post right next to this 2018 post, imagine my delight in thinking you were finally going to admit to the world that you’re a vampire. Or a time traveler. Or a time-traveling vampire. Apparently, you’re not. Nonetheless, it sure seems that you eat well!

    Like

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