In chef Gino D’Acampo’s six-part cooking travelogue, Gino’s Italian Escape (8pm, Fridays on ITV), he guides us around southern Italy, and crafts colourful meals with his home nation’s finest produce, revealing some of the county’s best kept secrets along the way.
Radio Times Travel catches up with Gino for his top five Italian treats to try, while discovering Italy:
For: cured meats
Gino says: “The first place you need to go is Rome, no doubt about it. Rome is the capital of Italian food, this is where ancient Romans created recipes. One thing people should try in Rome is cured meat and particularly cured pork. They don’t waste anything, from the cheek to the leg to the belly, the head, the tongue. Any part of the pig you can imagine – Roman people will cure it. In any restaurant you go to, you can have a platter of cured pork and it’s absolutely magnificent."
Top tip: Trastevere is a corner of Rome with some amazing restaurants, "it's the best place to eat if you are in Rome,” says Gino.
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For: buffalo mozzarella
Gino says: “People have a misconception about mozzarella, they think it can last for a week or 10 days, like the buffalo mozzarella that we buy in the supermarket. However, with a good buffalo mozzarella you have to be able to taste the milky texture and the flavour, and it has to be eaten on the same day that it is made. Italian people will eat mozzarella like [Brits] eat apples; they will just bite into it."
Top tip: In Naples, they make mozzarella fresh on the day, and will use it all on the same day – you can't go wrong buying mozzarella here.
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3. Amalfi Coast
Gino says: “In the UK people have limoncello once in a while or may use it for cooking, but limoncello is a beautiful drink made of lemon that Italian people use to help their digestion after they have eaten. The ideal temperature for drinking it is between five and eight degrees, the same temperature of an average fridge. It always has to be cold.
Top tip: The label on the bottle should read 'limoncello', watch out for a lot of fake varieties like limonello or limonchito – this means that it does not contain lemons from the right place, so it tastes different.
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For: Vegetables and bread
Gino says: “Vegetables are one thing they do very well in this area of Italy, the artichokes, couchettes and sundried tomatoes are beautiful. Bari is the capital of this kind of food. They marinade them, they grill them, they add garlic or parsley, their vegetables really are the most amazing things to eat. The weather is very hot, so everything grows beautifully down there. They also have very good bread, very rough, homemade-style bread. Because the area is very hot, the semolina is very tasty and very yellow – that makes all the difference.”
Top tip: The semolina on the bread should be yellow, not white. When you cut the bread you should be able to smell the beautiful yeast.
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Gino says: “Don’t come here for the Bolognese sauce, come here for the way these guys make pasta – it’s second to none. They do fettuccine, tagliatelle, tortellini, cannelloni. Before tourists in Italy go into a restaurant they should check if they have spaghetti Bolognese on the menu. If they have spaghetti Bolognese stay well away from the restaurant. In Italy we don’t have such thing, it is an English and American dish, and it means that the restaurant is not good enough for Italian people so they have to cater for tourists.”
Top tip: If you want to try the Bolognese sauce from the area, have it with fettuccine or tagliatelle, “we never serve bolognese sauce with spaghetti,” says Gino.
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