A taste of Naples: ristorante Capo Blu

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

 
Campania is a land of sun, sea and culture, that since antiquity has always stood out for an extensive and variegated culinary heritage. Us Neapolitans are passionated and opinionated when it comes to our roots and our food. Greeks and Romans used fine olive oil for their dishes and drank wine from Campania Felix, so Capua, Cuma, Pompeii, Sorrento, Stabia, Nocera and Salento. Today we still make a great wine on Mount Vesuvius, the Lacryma Christi. Food in Naples has in fact always been an art, mixing strong flavours coming from the sea and produce enhanced from the neverending sun.
Remembering the past doesn’t mean that you have to disown the future or the fruits of this good land.
There’s someone who has given life to a unique project: chef Pasquale Di Fraia. He has created a tiny haven in Miseno, not far from Naples and by the sea, away from the huge touristy traps, ristorante “Capo Blu” (even if off the beaten path, the tipping etiquette for Italy still applies!).
As soon as you step in, you’ll feel like you have crossed an invisible barrier: scents, tastes and soft lights make this place cozy and romantic. Capo Blu is really tiny and furnished in the typical seaside style, like one of those restaurants on the Amalfi coast, all blue and white. The colors of the sea, an ever present ingredient that you will always find in the dishes cooked by chef Di Fraia. Donna Regina welcomes customers as if they were guests at her own table, and that’s how you’ll feel. Invited at a friend’s house for a nice dinner, after all, Capo Blu only seats about 30 guests!

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited in the chef’s cave, “behind the scenes“, in the kitchen, between fragrant large beans and the scent of the sea, to talk to Pasquale, a quiet moment before the guests arrive: Capo Blu is solidly booked for the evening.

Chef, thank you for finding some time for Travelling Dany – Every Corner a Story on Friday night, even if it’s going to be busy!
Do you want to tell us how the Capo Blu project started?

Capo Blu was born in February 2000, because I wanted to learn the real values of our land. I always loved to work on my roots, rediscovering the forgotten taste of Naples a city that has so much to offer.  Nowadays it’s much more common to open farm-to-fork restaurants but back then we were pioneers. I also couldn’t stand the fact that so many people still think that Naples is dirty and unsafe: I had to show them that we have so much to offer!

So in this area farm-to-fork restaurants weren’t common at all?

Absolutely not. Salmon was trending and we were already cooking conger and other fishes that almost disappeared from our kitchens. I always loved to cook with “cheap fish”. During the years this project evolved and while we never forgot our roots, we developed a series of modern techniques that brought a synthesis between tradition and the colors of modern food on the table.

You don’t just copy a recipe and present it in a creative way: every dish is a real love story with the ingredients, that touches every sense of your guests. You could definitely say that ristorante Capo Blu lets you get a taste of Naples, and it’s full of respect and admiration. What’s your secret?

The secret is that I always start from the history of cooking. This has two main points. The first one is the territory. Ours offers a series of elements that can be combined in a more or less creative way. Yet there’s nothing truly new: everything is already in the history of the poor cooking in Naples. The second one is seasonality. These two things put together are the two legs that hold up Capo Blu and that help us move forwards. To be more specific, we could say that I start from a traditional Italian recipe and then I work on it with a series of modern techniques.

Nowadays experimenting with food is pretty common. But with you it becomes real: your dishes are full of splotches of colors, food elaborated in different ways, as if you’re painting in stead than cooking. Can you tell us what are your favorite flavours?

70-80% of my cooking is represented by fresh produce. And I almost never break my number one rule about it: don’t cook vegetables too much. We in fact often serve them raw. It’s important to keep all the nutrients, the color, the flavor and the crunchiness.

It’s thus a kind of cooking that thinks of the wellness and health in stead than just sating your hunger.

Exactly, starting from olive oil that has to be always top quality.

What if a vegan comes to your restaurant?

We can feed everyone here. Our menu can become vegetarian and vegan too. We offer a standard choice of meat or fish menus, but there are always vegetables, so it’s not a problem to change the dishes to satisfy each and every one of my guests.

What about your ingredients then? Are they really always farm-to-fork?

Absolutely. I truly go out for grocery shopping as I’d do for my own house. I love the little fish markets, where I buy from young fishermen than I know quite well, and I also have contacts with two or three little fishermen boats that go fishing at Marina Grande.

Is this why the menu is always different? Because you write it down according to what the fishermen have brought you?

Yes! We do have guests who’ve been coming for years and they never had twice the same menu, because I only write it after I’ve been shopping at the market.

According to you what role are the socials and internet playing for smaller enterprises like yours? Can we say that technology is particularly important for the travel industry?
Technology has such an important role, especially for smaller enterprises. There are positive aspects, but also pretty negative ones. Not everything you read online is always true.
I often hear restaurant owners complaining that there might be a real black market of reviews online and that sometimes the pretty bad ones are used to damage the competitor’s reputation. The first website that comes to mind is Tripadvisor. Is this what you’re all talking about?
Unfortunately envy is a disease that affects mankind. We can’t do anything about it. It’s mostly low level maliciousness. As far as I’m concerned, as a restaurant owner, I’m aware of the fact that I have to accepts criticism as well, because I’m not perfect, I might make mistakes and it’s right that my guests let me know about them.

Do you think that Tripadvisor does enough to protect its users, both enterprise owners and guests looking for info?

I wish they could do more. A colleague for example told me that he knows a restaurant owner who used to make fake profiles on Tripadvisor to leave negative reviews to his competitors. It’s something I just can’t understand, but I realize that it’s not easy for Tripadvisor as well. How can they know for sure that a review is completely honest?
So how do you react to a negative review?

My first reaction? I’m honest, I take it so bad that I’d bury myself alive! I really love my restaurant and thus every night I work so hard to take care of my guests. When I understand that I didn’t make everyone happy, I feel pretty downhearted. Then I realize that it can happen, even if it shouldn’t. We’re human, we have very few tables and a tiny kitchen on the back. We take note of what people didn’t like, treasure it and try to do better the following night.

Actually Capo Blu is one of those tiny restaurants away from the crowds that work a lot more with word of mouth than online marketing. You don’t even have a website but only a Facebook page that you use to talk to your guests…
In fact I always say that you have to take Tripadvisor with a grain of salt. When I travel I use my  Lonely Planet and only afterwards I check Tripadvisor’s reviews. I remember that many years ago when we attempted to go to one of the restaurants on the guides it was almost impossible, they were always completely booked!
We have to remember that Tripadvisor offers a free service, you can look for a pizzeria or for an hotel for your next trip, and this is particularly good. It’s only that… I somehow think that as time passed, a little bit of their values have gotten lost along the way. I still want to keep a more human approach with my guests, I suppose.
You can find Capo Blu in Via Sacello di Miseno 11, Bacoli, Italy. Because there aren’t many tables, it’s very important to book a table in advance on Facebook or making a phone call +39 0815236122.

Read my one day self guided tour of Naples or my guide to Pompeii if you’re planning a trip in this area!

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12 Comments

  1. Sandy N Vyjay

    Capo Blu sounds like a cozy restaurant with a personal touch. I would say a place with a heart, which is so unlike the big and modern eateries. Loved reading the interview with Chef Pasquale, can see the passion behind the venture. Love the pioneering efforts for getting this Farm to Table restaurant in place.

    1. Pasquale is the loveliest person I’ve ever met. He’s even shy, but when he starts talking about food and his Capo Blu, he becomes a different person. We’re regulars, and we love that we feel the mix of “being at home” and in a luxury restaurant. Yet the prices are SO cheap for what you eat. The best fresh fish restaurant around Naples for sure!

  2. The Roaming Renegades

    This little restaurant sounds amazing! I love how passionate the chef is about fresh produce and helping local markets! It's great that they can provide for everybody too!

  3. Lara Dunning

    This restaurant looks fabulous. I'm so hungry now. I so enjoyed the interview and learning more about his process of buying local ingredients, making his menus and dealing with negative reviews. All that with the photos, made the chef and restaurant come alive in my mind. Not sure when I will be that way, but when I am, I will make sure to dine here.

  4. Elisa

    Napule e' . . . super good food! I would love to visit this restaurant, love the Italian food and this looks like a very authentic place! I did not know about the name "Campania Felix" . . . nice 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  5. Erika

    Wow the food looks amazing ! We actually lived not far from Naples last year and never heard of this place too bad or we would have been there for sure! Incredible food for sure ! YUM

  6. James Long

    Great interview and restaurant review. As a chef myself seeing what some people write on tripadvisor is just ridiculous. But more importantly I love the food pictures you've captured here. Brilliant.
    Cheers
    James

  7. Brianna

    I love learning about restaurants like this. Where you can tell the chef has a real passion for food and flavor, as well as the enjoyment of his/her patrons. That dessert looks incredible!

  8. Lauren

    That food looks incredible!
    And it really is sad that some owners feel the need to bad mouth their competitors on Trip Advisor…surely they should all be supporting one another within the community.

  9. Danik The Explorer

    Nice tidy review of the restaurant and if anybody believes TripAdvisors reviews all the time are idiots. I find 50% of the users need a hit on the head and stop writing poo.

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