This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
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!).
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.
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?
What about your ingredients then? Are they really always farm-to-fork?
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.
Do you think that Tripadvisor does enough to protect its users, both enterprise owners and guests looking for info?
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.
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.