For our 5th dinner at Torre del Saracino (and some other restaurants in this area) we made a bit of a detour, because the primary destination of our vacation is Sardinia. We were seated at the table in the corner that you can see in the photo, with a great view of the Gulf of Naples and the Vesuvio volcano.
Next to à la carte there are tasting menus of 6 courses for 165 euros, 8 courses for 185 euros, or 12 courses for 235 euros. Since I always like to try as many dishes as possible, it is my custom to always order the menu with the highest number of dishes. And so I ordered the 12 courses without thinking about it. As we had eaten at Gennaro Esposito’s restaurant 4 times before, I should not have made this rookie mistake. Because you get a LOT of food at Torre del Saracino, with a lot of appetizers and friandises in addition to the courses of the menu, as well as a bonus dish. So 6 or maximum 8 courses is more than enough as it is. For wine pairing there is a choice of 100 or 180 euros and we opted for the latter.
The first appetizer was bruschetta with tomato and anchovies, served on a piece of fishing net. The appetizers were served with a complimentary glass of excellent Roederer champagne.
The second was a mousse of chicken livers with juice of green beans and red onions, with a nice contrast between the acidity of the beans and the unctuous liver.
The third appetizer was a cappuccino of tomato and ricotta.
The next appetizer was a crispy and fluffy rice cake with tuna tartare and mango, absolutely delicious.
The final appetizer was crispy rye bread with smoked fish and sourcream.
There was also excellent bread (of which you should eat very little if you want to make it to the end of the tasting menu).
The first wine was a very crisp and minerally Greco di Tufo.
By itself the wine seemed a bit closed, but with the dish it really opened up. The first antipasto was celery with oysters and veal sausage. The oysters were present as tartare and as a cream, which was a great combination with the celery.
The second wine was a white Rioja in a mineral rather than oaky style.
This was another wine of which the dish brought out its complexity. The second antipasto was mashed new potatoes with a granseola crab salad…
…and cappuccino of that same crab. The dish was garnished with some Beluga caviar.
The third wine was an Etna Bianco made from Catarratto grapes. Wonderful balance and complexity.
It was a great pairing with the third antipasto: ‘canelloni’ made from vignarola (usually a vegetable stew, but the chef turned it into ‘pasta sheets’ for this dish) with grilled cuttlefish and orange sauce.
The following wine was an oaked white from Umbria that is called “Cuvée Secrète” because the winemaker does not disclose the varieties used. This was a full-bodied white with hefty but very nicely integrated oak.
The hefty wine was an excellent pairing for the fourth and final antipasto: red mullet with a Livornese sauce and a ‘rock’ of green fluffy bread. Very strong flavors in this dish that also looked great.
The next wine was a single vineyard Sancerre from silex (flint) terroir of the winery Henri Bourgeois that we know very well. It had nice minerality as well as freshness, and was a good pairing for the first primo:
Risotto with basil, fermented prune juice, and beltfish grilled over charcoal, with a sauce made from the leftover bits of the fish (referred to as the fifth quarter in Italian, a term usually used for lesser cuts of meat). The fish and tart prune juice were really nice. The rice was very al dente and the basil didn’t stand out as much as the green color suggested.
The next wine was a Riesling from Mosel in Germany, an unexpected pairing that worked nicely with the bonus dish.
The bonus dish was a classic of the chef: mixed types of pasta in a fish soup. This is not as strongly flavored as a similar dish by the chef made of scampi and shrimp, with a stock made from the shells.
The following wine was a Verdicchio from grapes that were harvested late, producing a full bodied wine.
The dish (the third primo, counting the bonus dish) was an anusual version of a Caprese ravioli. As usual there was mozzarella, tomato, and basil, but used in a different way.
The wine for the fourth and final primo was a Gruner Veltliner from Alto Adige.
It was a good pairing for the spaghetti with ricci di mare (uni) and green asparagus. The green asparagus were included as crunchy brunoise as well as a juice. The unusual combination of ricci with asparagus worked well.
The next pairing was a Marsala from a solera system (where wines are mixed and aged perpetually with older vintages), with a nice balance between sweetness and acidity.
It was an excellent pairing with the vegetable secondo: cipolotto (a type of spring onion) with various types of peppers.
The wine for the secondo di pesce was a nice Meursault in a mineral rather than creamy style.
It worked well with the catch of the day that was served with olives.
The wine for the secondo di carne was a 2004 Brunello di Montalcino: nicely aged with velvety tannins, but retaining its freshness.
The third and final secondo was three parts of lamb (backstrap, braised shoulder, and belly with crispy skin) with pear, wild greens, and black truffle.
The belly had been cooked sous vide at a low temperature and had a nice crispy skin, but was quite fatty after so much food.
After the palate cleanser it was time for dessert, dessert wines, and friandises. I am just going to share the photos with you without further comment.
This was too much food, but it was my own mistake to have ordered 12 courses. This also meant that the dishes were served in rapid succession to be able to serve all of them before closing time. We asked for a pause a few times, which confused the service a bit as they initially skipped the spaghetti.
All the food was delicious as usual, and perhaps a bit more creative than at previous visits. The wines and wine pairings were all wonderful. The sommelier served modest amounts of wine so that we made it through 13 glasses of wine without getting too drunk — and he was always willing to pour some more if we had desired. The service was very friendly as usual.
This was another great dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the world. Next time we’ll limit ourselves to 6 or 8 courses!