Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Napoli" Dynamite

Yep, shamelessly plagiarized the title from this article, but if you Google it, lots of people have the same idea for many different things, so I won't feel too bad. I did give credit!

During my trip to the ATL during Tut weekend, I decided to seek out Head Chef's restaurant venture. He and the Dining Room/Hospitality Instructor went in together and opened a little Italian restaurant in downtown Woodstock, GA. Together, they have a gazillion years of restaurant experience, both front and back of the house, so this should be a win-win situation for everyone.

It's called Vingenzo's, and serves Neapolitan-style Italian food, like you would get in Naples. Naples is the birthplace of pizza, which started out as mainly food for the poor, but got upscaled in during the reign of Frederick IV, sometime during around 1889, when there was a pizza officially named after Queen Margherita. The Margherita pizza was created to look like the Italian flag, with tomatoes (red), mozzarella (white), and basil leaves (green). Neapolitan pizza , or Pizza Napoletana, has a definite recipe, with specifics down to the type of wheat flour used, yeast, toppings, how it has to be stretched, and cooked in a woodfire oven.

(The picture is not of the pizza we ate...I did not have my camera with me when we were at the restaurant!)

We bounce in full of anticipation and hungry! I was pleasantly suprised to see Introductory Chef there as well. She seemed very happy to see me, and even Chef seemed a bit friendly. Introductory Chef was there helping out with training some serving staff as a favor to Chef and Co.

I was sort of torn about what to have, because I knew it was all going to be good...would it dare not be? Ha!

As much as I love the cured Italian meats, I was very intrigued by the mozzarella sampler platter. It was a serving of all 3 types of the handmade mozzarellas, some capers, olives, and roasted red peppers, along with a big puffy square of pizza dough bread. Mozzarella is definitely the "tofu" of the cheese world, making a nice back drop for other stronger flavors, like the olives, but with a nice gentle sweetness of its own to complement.

The 3 mozzarellas were the Latte Fresco (mild), Stracciatella di Burrata (sweet and creamy), and Di Bufala (delicate). The Latte Fresco was made with cow's milk, and the Di Bufala was made with water buffalo milk, and I'm not sure about the Burrata. The Burrata was the most interesting one, though. It was like a little twisted pouch, and inside, was a little bit of sweet cream. It was like eating one of those gusher candies, in a way, and I think it was my fave. And, the olives on this platter were amazing, especially the oven roasted black olives. I would so love some of those right now!

We decided to get a pasta selection and a pizza and split them...that best of both worlds thing. For the pasta, you choose your sauce and then a fresh pasta, which is made daily. You know how I love the noodle, so I chose "tripoli," which was a long noodle about half the width of a lasagne noodle and had a curly edge as well. The sauce was Campagnola, which was artichoke hearts, fresh cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, garlic, and olive oil. I've had Chef's fresh tomato sauces before, so I knew this would be pretty good. And, it was, but I think my choice of noodle overwhelmed it, and it might have been better with either linguini or pappardelle.

The pizza was the highlight, though. I would cheerfully order many of these pizzas, because they are so simple, yet so good. We chose the Salsiccia e Peperoni, which has Italian sausage, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers, and it was yummy. Essentially crust, sauce, and those 3 ingredients--way better than any supercolossalmeatloversheartattack special on any day. Later, as we were leaving, we stopped to talk with Intro Chef, and she was having dinner and eating one of the pizzas that had wide strips of proscuitto on it...that's the pizza that I am ordering next time, for sure.

The place was decorated rather minimally hip, with a slight dash of funky--nothing too kitchsy, nothing that would look dated in a year, etc., and nothing to detract from the food. The real star of the place is the wood burning oven, which Chef and the Dining Room Instructor built by hand...the labor of love that shows up in the food, if that's not too hokey.

Oh, and we also had Italian Lemonade, which is Chef's secret concoction and he's not coming off the recipe...kind of like his chicken salad, I guess. It was a non-alcoholic drink, but as I mentioned to Intro Chef and she wholeheartedly agreed, it would have been lovely with some vodka.

As I was talking with Intro Chef during her meal break, there was another former student there as well...she actually finished. She asked me if I was ever coming back to finish my program at Fine Technical College, and I just laughed. I said that I wasn't a chef...that I did not have the passion it took to really be a chef. Maybe 20 years ago, it might have worked, but I just did not have that "fire within me." Intro Chef laughed and then she said thank you for realizing that about yourself...not that she meant I was bad at it, because she was quick to tell me that I was a great student and she enjoyed me in class, but I think she was thanking me for knowing that this is a career that really does come from the heart.

It takes a whole lot of sacrifice, patience, nicked fingers, and long hard hours to get anywhere in the culinary world, and I think she's been seeing a wave of students that think they are going to walk in and become the Next Food Network Hell's Kitchen Top Chef star after their intro class. Culinary careers are hot right many times did you see an ad for some sort of culinary program when you watch Top Chef or Hell's Kitchen (if you admit to that guilty secret!)?

Seriously, all you have to do is watch those "chefs" that are competing on Hell's Kitchen to know that some folks really don't have what it takes, no matter what their title is--be it sous chef, executive chef, or corporate cafeteria cook. I know I said it last season, but Holy Escoffier, Batman, these people on this season are the pits. This past week, one of the morons stuck a 500-degree sizzle pan in the freezer (WTH?), and when he pulled it out, one of the other contestants hit it and got 2nd degree burns. Where was his brain? The kitchen is a dangerous place at times, and this fool was just a walking disaster. He did get sent home, but was still griping about how it was an accident and he really did give his all, gah, gah, gah. I thought he was just lucky that the wounded party didn't come back and knife him.

The one shining star that stands out to me from Hell's Kitchen is Julia, the Waffle House cook, from Season 3. Yes, I know this show is on Fox, and they are milking the drama llama for every last drop, but Ramsay really seemed sad when she had to go. And, he seemed sincere about sending her to culinary school, because she had that drive and burning desire to make it in the kitchen. I really want her to come back and kick some whiny kitchen ass. That would be a rockin' season in Hell, don't you think?

1 comment:

J said...

I'm ready to book my flight to Georgia now!