Gennaro Esposito: the courage of simplicity

05 Apr 2013

 width=“He is the best young cook in Italy, he is the future of Italian haute cuisine”. This whispered confession, made by Alain Ducasse one summer almost ten years ago, is one of the best presentations for Gennaro Esposito.

It is true that everything in the Amalfi Coast began much earlier with Don Alfonso, but it is equally true that Gennaro Esposito marks a new beginning in a different context, away from the muffled, posh atmosphere and the luxury of Sorrento and Positano. He stands for a Mediterranean cuisine which has its strengths in its character and southern features, in the courage of simplicity combined with the pride for one’s land, without compromises. Today, Esposito is one of the main representatives of the rebirth of a southern pride which goes beyond tradition and home recipes, and has put the conceptual foundations of this popular knowledge in the spotlight of critics and, more recently, television […]

The story begins with a helper at a confectionery shop, who then moves on to chopping parsley in the kitchens of the inns in Vico. Nothing strange so far, but soon the young man’s ambitions – thanks to the encounter with Vittoria Aiello, Gennaro’s partner, pastry chef and co-manager of the restaurant – translate into the opening of a restaurant in Marina di Seiano in 1991. But local restaurants rely on classics and hard to break habits, on spaghetti with clams and mozzarella braids which leave little room to creativity. Motivated by the confidence in what he does, Gennaro starts offering his own creations, a real concentrate of local ingredients, without giving in to the requests of customers and local hotels. “The following four years”, tells the chef, “were all work, work, work, waiting for something to happen which could really be a turning point”. […]

Working with chef Vissani for a 4-month apprenticeship – a tough experience in terms of personalities – helps him move from what he knows to the new frontiers of a measured creativity, which combines local products and great classic cuisine. The result are the dishes which build the success of the first years of Torre del Saracino. Soup of cane basket ricotta with red mullets and sea urchins, or scabbardfish parmigiana, to mention just a couple. A few years later, Gennaro meets Alain Ducasse: this influences the rigor of his style and work and, at the same time, the ambition of this now grown- up man. […]

Not many Italians have been able to promote this area and the identity of southern cooking, raising it to the levels of the most renowned cuisines of Tuscany, Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia or Piedmont. Maybe some important foreign journalists have been more successful. Even Soldati, in the Fifties, only travelled along the Po river and, in the same decade, the new Michelin Italia guide reviewed restaurants and hotels until Siena, without venturing further south. Only three decades later a movement – led by Alfonso Iaccarino first, and then by Gennaro Esposito – rewrites the cuisine of southern Italy, paying more and more attention to lightness, short cooking times, the respect of the environment and health. In doing so, it lays the foundations for the future of contemporary gastronomy in the whole of Italy.


 width=Risotto with cipolla ramata di montoro onion, smoked mediterranean horse mackeral, lemon scented crisp seaweed and chili


Type of dish: First course with fish

Seasonality: All year

Plating: Flat, 28 cm plate

Preparation time: 120 min (full preparation)



Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 240 g Carnaroli rice

  • 80 g extra-virgin olive oil

  • 300 ml fish stock

  • 360 g Montoro onion cream (onions are cooked in the steam oven for 40 minutes and then pureed)

  • 2 fillets (30 g each) of Mediterranean horse mackerel (boned, marinated and then smoked)

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • 40 g Parmesan cheese

  • 30 g butter

  • 40 g fried seaweed (fried in extra-virgin olive oil and then “dried” in the oven)

  • salt

  • freshly ground pepper

  • 1 fresh chili (cut in half)

  • 1 Sorrento lemon


In a pan, gently fry the garlic and half the chili, which shall be removed when golden. Toast the rice. Once the rice has been toasted, start adding the boiling fish broth.

Halfway through, salt and add the onion cream. When the rice is still very firm, add part of the finely sliced horse mackerel, then finish cooking. Finish with freshly ground pepper, butter, and mix well off the flame.

Dish composition:

Rub the chili on the bottom of the plate, then sprinkle with lemon zests. Place the rice in the middle of the dish, decorate with smoked horse mackerel and cover with roughly crumbled seaweed.








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