My good friend Julie and I recently decided to go to Capri for the weekend; one of the best things about living in Italy is how easy it is to get to places that many people can only dream of visiting. As post-card perfect and amazingly beautiful as Capri is, however, it was not the highlight of the weekend; our lunch at Oasis Sapori Antichi in Vallesaccarda was.
As I do whenever I go anywhere, I asked Faith Willinger, who I am unfathomably lucky to work with, where to eat. Without hesitation she said Oasis, and she immediately solved the problem of how to get to the rather remote village of Vallesaccarda, located a little over an hour from Naples, by calling her trusted driver and good friend, Vito Santoro. I mention Vito because he was another highlight of the day, and I recommend his services and immensely enjoyable company to anyone and especially to those who love food and wine because in addition to owning a transportation company, Vito is a seasoned foodie and a certified sommelier.
Our three-hour-plus lunch began with the amazingly warm welcome of the Fischetti family—the sincerity of their warmth is what struck me most of all. Brohters Carmine, Nicola, and Puccio source the very best local ingredients. Lina and Maria Luisa work magical wonders in the kitchen. On the day we had the immense pleasure of dining at Oasis, Carmine was in the dining room and Nicola was pouring the wine. Julie and I were accompanied to the table and presented with menus that we really didn’t need because the decision was made for us by Carmine that we would do a tasting of almost everything the restaurant offers. The insanity began with a seemingly infinite selection of antipasti that just kept coming accompanied by a delicious Greco di Tufo from the producer Quintodecimo (Giallo d’Arles 2009)—everything we ate and drank was from the region, and what a region it is. We started with a perfectly stuffed zucchini flower served over a bed of pureed cherry tomatoes—you’ve never really tasted cherry tomatoes unless you’ve eaten them in Campania. Next came the zeppola di melanzane con anguilla affumicata, fried dough stuffed with eggplant and smoked eel which, to my surprise given that I’m not a huge eel fan, was delicious—the smokiness turned it into something that I would like to eat again. Next came the carpaccio of veal with veli di pomodoro, which translates to tomato veils, and that is exactly what they were—paper thin but literally exploding with flavor. It was topped with stracciatella di mucca, which is essentially burrata but with a slightly more liquid texture. It was heavenly. The zuppa di fagioli’s already delicious flavor was enhanced by the extra virgin olive oil (produced, of course, from local olives) that Carmine told us was a perfect accompaniment, and it was.
Then came the ravioli (fresh and hand-made) stuffed with burrata and herbs and topped with black truffle from Irpinia, the area of Campania in which Vallesaccarda is located. I think the ingredients speak for themselves, and I am without words, as was Julie—we both just looked at each other and started laughing in disbelief at what we were tasting. The next primo (there couldn’t be just one) was paccheri with a delicious ragu’ made with lamb, veal, and pork with a fondue of aged cacciocavallo, a cheese commonly found in the region. With this complexly flavorful ragu’ we were advised by Nicola to move on to the next wine, Luigi Tecce’s Satyricon 2009 Irpinia Campi Taurasini, a DOC made from Aglianico, one of my favorite varietals—I tend to like big wines. Because of the producer’s nontraditional production methods it was fresher than Aglianico generally tends to be, but it was more than able to hold its own with the ragu’. The next two (yes, two) dishes were an amazing lamb so tender that you didn’t even need a knife to cut it on top of a puree of potatoes with cherry tomatoes and mint, followed by a cheese plate—we didn’t think we could do it but were happy when we did. The cheeses were all local—the freshest ricotta I’ve ever experienced drizzled with honey and topped with toasted almonds was lovely. Nicola, who sure does know his vino, brought us an unexpected third wine, a 2004 Taurasi (Azienda Contrade di Taurasi) with a more traditional take on Aglianico, a perfect match for the aged caciocavallo on the cheese plate.
The meal closed not only with a dolce, but also with a pre-dolce which consisted of the smoothest, creamiest yogurt I have ever tasted—in fact, it’s called crema di yogurt—and a plate of small, delicate, delicious cookies—the hazelnut covered with white chocolate and the coconut were particularly wonderful. We were served two different desserts so that we could sample both. Mine was a millefoglie topped with crema casalinga and local sour black cherries—the tartness of the cherries combined with the sweetness of the cream was nothing less than perfection. Julie had ricotta whipped with citrus served in a pastry crust made with hazelnuts and topped with warm chocolate sauce and accompanied by a little scoop of licorice gelato. We couldn’t resist an after-dinner drink (we had already thrown caution entirely to the wind); I went for a grappa by the amazing distillery Domenis, and Julie chose a vino dolce called Mel by the producer Antonio Caggiano. It was exquisite. And to make all of that even better, Vito joined us for the dolce.
After a visit to the kitchen to thank the chefs, it was time to go. Each member of the lovely Fischetti family said that they hoped to see me again soon, and they most certainly will.
Oasis Sapori Antichi
83050 Vallesaccarda (Avellino)