Chef Vincenzo di Tuoro is the latest in an illustrious line of chefs from Italy to cook at Travertino. And suddenly, the restaurant is buzzing at lunch time as much as at dinner. You could safely say that Travertino has never seen such crowds. So, what exactly is the secret? It is probably because of the region of Italy from where the chef hails. The majority of former chefs of the restaurant have come from North or Central Italy. Chef di Tuoro hails from Naples, very far south indeed. In fact, the region, Campania, is called the home of the pizza and it is a supreme irony that no pizzas are served in Travertino. It is a fine-dining restaurant or ristorante in Italian, whereas a trattoria is like an informal café and a pizzeria sells only one thing – pizzas.
The food of the South of Italy is robust and makes plentiful use of tomatoes, black olives, olive oil and capers, all of which thrive in the hot temperatures of South Italy. These are flavours that are pleasing to our palate, which is why Travertino is the happening Italian eatery of the moment: big, bursting flavours, full of freshness and light years from the subtle appeal of North Italy’s cream sauces.
Still, the four southernmost regions of Italy – Calabria, Puglia, Campania and Basilicata – each have a range of dishes that is particular to them alone. Calabria has the spiciest food in the whole of Italy. Some of the salume would be unbearably hot even for the average Indian! Basilicata is entirely land-locked, so it is unique in Central and South Italy as having absolutely no seafood in its cuisine. Instead, there is bacon, smoked fillet of pork, ham, salami, cured belly of pork and lardo (processed fat). Puglia grows more olive trees than the rest of the country put together. Besides very robust, flavourful olive oils, there is also the magical burrata – a ball of mozzarella that has been split open, filled with whipped cream and tied again. Not for weight-watchers, it is always on the Travertino menu, being a treat for vegetarians.
Finally, Campania is the home of the pizza, but also of rustic pasta preparations that involve the jus of Chicken Cacciatore along with tomato pulp, black olives and capers. Chicken and pasta is not a combination you are likely to find in the rest of Italy, but check out how the Napolitans cook pasta: saute chopped potatoes in bacon and an onion, then bring to the boil in plenty of water, after which you cook pasta in the same water and finish off with scarmoza and basil. It is the homeliness of this cooking that Chef Vincenzo di Tuoro is bringing to five star surroundings and by the looks of it, Delhiites can’t seem to get enough of it.