In a hidden garden of vegetables and fruit trees in Sorrento, two top chefs, Vincenzo Incoronato and Andrea Guarracino, together with Vrasa, give life to a refined cuisine entirely based on the ember effect and the pleasure of being together in a highly suggestive friendly environment
For generations and generations in the south, it was the backbone of family domesticity. A source of heat to warm the cold rooms of the cabarets especially in winter (not those of the gentlemen who had precious fireplaces in their palaces), around which the women gathered to discuss, strategically placed under the large marble tables of the kitchens, the fulcrum of family life, to warm the family at dinner, the children who studied there in the afternoon on their return from school, the men who, on their return from work, rested from their daily labor in the fields while playing cards, and also to dry the clothes they were placed on a wooden bell placed above the need. But it was above all a moment of great social function, a silent but present witness to confronting the problems of daily life, of family, of work, of the present and the future, of relations with the community. Its use was a ritual that was renewed every morning when it was placed on the balcony or the terrace to burn the wood mixed with charcoal which then turned into embers to relieve the family during the day. And it was a ritual to make his function last for a long time by occasionally moving the ashes with a bronze shovel to revive them.
To young people today this mysterious object that can still be found in some antique markets, which the Neapolitans called, because of its function “a vrasera”, a low and wide container in copper or brass sometimes provided with two handles to facilitate its transport, says little or nothing, at most they take it for a flowerpot, a function for which it is intended by some nostalgic enthusiast of the past.
But the vrasera actually tells an extraordinary story of a south where first the patriarchal family and then the nuclear family continued to gather around the house before the advent of the modern family with its disruptive centrifugal charge wiping out centuries of family history in one fell swoop.
A group of friends were inspired by this ancient world but so full of authentic meanings and values that gave life to Sorrento in a format of absolute originality which is anything but a rearguard operation, but it is characterized by a strong topicality for find after two years of pandemic, the desire to return to enjoy the moments of conviviality lost due to the restrictions imposed by the health measures, rediscovering the value of encounters, of human relations, of the dimension of long and relaxed time of a conversation between friends as an antidote to the ambient frenzy of a way of life measured on the minutes, on the seconds of this marked season by web times. This philosophy is offered in two thousand square meters surrounded by greenery, miraculously left outside the historic center of the coastal city, behind the cathedral, resting on the ancient walls of the 16th century, remains of the old fortification erected following the Saracen invasion of 1558.
You access it from a narrow alley, hidden from most people, a few meters from the crowded Corso d’Italia, the forced procession of mass tourism that invades the city, and suddenly you have the impression of entering a new destabilizing dimension. You are greeted by a two-flight Renaissance-style staircase that announces who knows what architectural splendor and on the contrary, when you arrive you find yourself in the large garden with a vegetable garden of seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant and many fruit trees, oranges, lemons, plums, figs, apricots, imposing olive trees, which mark out living spaces, which refer you to the values of the earth and its important natural function that the Covid has taught us to rediscover for our well-being. The large wooden structure that houses the kitchens and the covered part of the restaurant with large open walls and large bay windows seems to take you back to Balinese architecture. In this mixture of references to the natural dominates a refined cuisine entrusted to the skilful hands of chef Vincenzo Incoronato, trained at the hotel school of Vico Equense, the same where Antonino Cannavacciuolo and Gennarino Esposito were born, solid experiences in important restaurants in Norway, where the watchwords for years have been sustainability and commitment to the use of quality products, together with a wise use of smoking and fermentation. And with him there is Andrea Guarracinowhich claims two fundamental work experiences: Palazzo Petrucci, the starred certainty of the best Neapolitan cuisine signed by chef Lino Scarallo then Don Alfonso 1890, the reign of Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino, the mythical local of Sant’Agata sui due Golfì, the first three star in the whole south temple of Mediterranean cuisine of the highest gastronomic destination in the whole world.
The name is already a program”Vrasa “, a neologism that mixes two cultures, the Neapolitan one of Vrasera and the Hispanic one of Brasa, to identify a cuisine that sees in the fire the pivot of the Italian culinary tradition, from north to south, around fire cooking, from the brazier to the spit, from the wood oven to the grill. Specifically, the concept that dominates and drives Vrasa’s cuisine is an artisanal Basque parrilla fueled by fruitwoods and organic bamboo.
Let’s take for example, to start, one of the emblematic dishes of this original restaurant like “Romana” a dish made with lettuce (which the Neapolitans call Romana), anchovies and date tomatoes, all its components receive a separate treatment on the grill to then end up in a preparation where all the flavors of the Mediterranean are sublimated by distributing their aromas in a homogeneous way, a real healthy dip in nature. Or the bronze-drawn Linguine di Gragnano combined with Bacoli eggplant and mussels, a triumph of coastal localism, where the final step takes place directly on the grill to give it an enveloping flavor. You can continue with a surprising fillet of Lampuga, pumpkin cream and burnt lemon, or with a beef tongue with green sauce and ‘nduja. And we can also talk about the Norwegian-style smokehouse that becomes the protagonist of Grace, a refined chiffon cake with citrus scents.
Refined and modern preparations that always bring back to atmospheres of land and sea products with a strong local and natural imprint, not diverted by Pindaric elaborations to effecttto, and especially to a story of ancient familiarity to find oneself in the shade of a fig tree or a palm tree as in a kindergarten where memories they induce slow times of gastronomic pleasures, a place where nature takes its revenge by leading its customers into a cozy world far from the swarm of modern life.
All accompanied by a exceptional choice of national and especially local wines thanks to a cellar that the Sommelier Francesco Gargiulo has been able to unearth the region by tapping on the carpet to identify the little treasures of an oenology which has recently climbed many places in the national rankings of excellence and which still has a lot to express.
The Romana recipe
Datterino cherry tomatoes
Bread croutons flavored with herbal oil
Extra virgin olive oil
We take the salad, rinse it abundantly and divide it in half vertically. Brush it with extra virgin olive oil and place it on the grill. Cook it indirectly (then moved by the direct heat of the embers) for about 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the outer leaves.
Separately we put a piece of parmesan 36 months to infuse in the cream with salt and pepper at 62° until you obtain a fondue which we let cool before use.
Season the tomatoes with salt and oil and grill them over direct heat over the coals using a net for a few minutes until they are slightly wilted.
We take two slices of homemade bread, cut them into cubes and season them in a bastardella with salt, aromatic oil and herbs and cook them at 180° in a ventilated oven for about 4 minutes.
Take 5 salted anchovies and deprive them of excess salt, taking care not to break them and after gutting, put them in a solution of water and lemon juice to remove all impurities.
We lay the romaine on the plate with the inside up. Add a few tomatoes, a few croutons, a few anchovies and sprigs of parmesan cream. A pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil and the dish is ready.
The recipe for Gragnano linguina with Bacoli mussels
Linguine di Gragnano drawn bronze
Extra virgin olive oil
With the embers just extinguished but still hot, cover the aubergines with ashes for about 1 hour.
Subsequently, we only obtain the pulp which is sautéed in a pan with garlic and oil, then mixed and emulsified with extra virgin olive oil.
We wash and clean the mussels which we then open in a saucepan without adding water and then recover the fruit and water from the mussels by filtering them.
Allow the pasta to cook up to a few minutes before the recommended cooking time, then begin to whisk the pasta, spraying oil through a fine-mesh strainer directly onto the coals for about 2 minutes.
We combine the pasta with eggplant cream and mussels and chopped chives.
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