I confess. I've got a thing for butchers. So when I met Michele Sgamato (from a family of butchers) and Gerardo Buono at a wine tasting, and they invited me to their restaurant, Fattoria di Campiglione, in Pozzuoli, outside Napoli, I saw no reason to resist. The specialty, of course, was meat, unusual in the area, where seafood and pizza are the norm. The restaurant was a challenge to locate (don't trust a navigator) but well worth the effort. Bottles of wine and rare distillates crowd the entrance; prosciutto hangs like chandeliers from the ceiling. I gravitated to the display case of meat and poultry from Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Italian breeds Chianina, Maremmana, Romagnola, ready for the grill. I toured the cramped, crowded wine cellar, rooms stacked with 20,000 bottles, to work up an appetite. Three dining rooms (there's also a garden for warm-weather dining) were packed with locals, mostly young, savvy drinkers who know how to hold a wine glass, all drinking red. I sat in the fireplace room, taxidermy décor, lots of antlers, and a vast display of artisanal salumi flanked by a shiny red Berkel slicer. So I began my meal with a perfect selection of salumi. And continued with a taste of first course pastas like traditional paccheri alle Genovese, (meaty onion sauce), and fresh pasta ravioli with ricotta and spinach. Main course options include a few non-meat concessions-stoccafisso (air-dried cod) and tuna fillet, but the rest of the menu is heavy on meat, big on the grill. Carnivores won't be disappointed, neither will enophiles. Desserts are classic-warm melty chocolate cake, crema caramellata, flaky "thousand-leaves" pastry with custard and sour cherries. This restaurant is a bargain-three course meal for 35 euro, not including wine. There's also a terrific gift shop, with fine products like jarred tomatoes, extra virgin, local wines-perfect for a gastronomic souvenir.
If you lust for Neapolitan cooking in Beijing, check out La Fattoria, (No.5 Phoenix Xintiandi Business Street, Shuguang Xili, Chaoyang District, Beijing. Phone: +8610 58667072) where you'll be surrounded by Italian, European, American and some Chinese diners drinking mostly red, although the wine list is considerably shorter than Pozzuoli.
-July 2009 link to article published in The Atlantic Magazine