Gino D’Acampo is a familiar face on our tv screens – and in our bookshelves. We had a chat to him about pasta, pizza and bella Napoli…..
You come from Naples, a city that gave us pizza – that is a legacy worth celebrating! How do you feel about the exotic additions that have crept into, and onto, the humble pizza base, from pineapple to chicken – is this sacrilege or progress?
Well, I wouldn’t put pineapple on a pizza myself. I am from Naples, where pizza was born, so mine are very traditionally Italian with mozzarella, pizza sauce, vegetables, meat, cheese and fish.
Having said that, pizza is originally a street food dish, a peasant dish. The people who made it didn’t have much money and so they just used whatever they could get hold of at the time.
They wouldn’t have used pineapple back then in the 1500s as it wasn’t available, but the beauty of pizza is if the base is well made and the pizza sauce is a good one, you can have some fun and add whatever you like to it! In my recipe books, you can find a full range of fantastic 100 per cent Italian recipes.”
How did you get into cooking – and what is the dish that you remember best from your childhood?
My love of cooking comes from my grandfather, Ciro. He always said that a good recipe doesn’t need many ingredients because if they are good quality and full of flavour, there is no need to cover up or change their taste.
I decided that cooking was for me the first time I walked into his restaurant.
There were so many fantastic dishes I had in my childhood so it’s hard to pick one but the food we ate was very traditional and simple – lots of fresh, healthy fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.
Naples is a big, bustling and slightly hyperactive city that seems never to sleep – and values its food and its food culture greatly. Bologna might be call La Grassa, the fat one, but Naples is the home of cucina povera – the art of making the very best out of very little and making it taste amazing – what is your favourite fast food when the cupboards are a bit bare – spaghetti aglio e olio is an obvious example.
Exactly, spaghetti aglio e olio is a traditional pasta dish coming from Naples that is so easy to make and perfect for when you don’t have many ingredients.
All you need apart from the spaghetti is olive oil – the extra virgin kind is best, garlic, chilli, breadcrumbs and parsley.
It takes about 10 minutes to cook and 15 minutes to prepare – it’s simple, it tastes great and you don’t have to be a cook to do it – it’s, as you say, idiot proof!
Some people add parmesan or pecorino cheese but if I cook it for you, you won’t be allowed to – not because I’m horrible, just because it’s not how Italians eat it.
You were born in Torre del Greco, right under the brooding shadow of Mount Vesuvius, on whose slopes grow some excellent grapes. Do you have a favourite Neapolitan wine?
Greco di Tufo is one of my favourites. When I was a child and I wanted to be a bit naughty, my dad would pour a little bit in my glass when my mum wasn’t looking.
It’s a beautiful white wine with flavours of ripe pears and honey. I love to have it with my sea bass dish with Italian salsa and lemon – the taste of the wine and the fish together is perfetto!
Naples is a city of contrasts, from the narrow streets of Spacca Napoli to the international glamour of Capri just across the water – when you go home where do you go for that first taste of home – the pizzeria, the gelateria…?
That’s a tough one because there are so many great places to eat in Naples but for me, Italian ice-cream is the best in the world so I would go to a really good gelateria.
You are currently the holder of a number of, if we say so, slightly unusual World Records from ‘The most chocolate truffles made in two minutes” to “Running across custard for the longest time”- is there anything else you are aiming for?
Well, I haven’t got anything planned right now but I am pretty competitive and always looking for a challenge so if you have an idea, bring it on!
And finally if you could sum up your style of food in one sentence what would it be?
I would say fresh, top quality seasonal ingredients cooked simply so the flavours speak for themselves.
Gino was kind enough to share some of his fabulous recipes with us, ready to try at home. Please see our recipes page to find them.
Gino chatted to us in celebration of the opening of his latest restaurant in Harrogate. The restaurant is located opposite Jamie’s Italian in the former Restaurant Bar & Grill site on Parliament Street.
The Special features at this new site are an all-year roof terrace with cocktail bar, two floors, open kitchen, deli bar and prosecco bar. At My Prosecco Bar its Aperitivo time 4pm while 6.30pm everyday where guests can drink, relax and also enjoy some wonderful Cicchetti, for free, with every drink.