Oasis Sapori Antichi is surely one of the most appropriately named restaurants in Italy. It's in the Irpinia area of Campania, a few kilometers off the A16 (Napoli-Bari), in the middle of nowhere, and the flavors are ancient. The restaurant is a family affair, involving the collaboration of over a dozen members of the Fischetti family. Mom Giuseppina and her sister Vituccella help Fischetti offspring, daughters in the kitchen, sons in the dining room, along with cousins and spouses and kids--Nicola, Raffaella, Serena. Carmine, Puccio and Nicola actively source the greatest local ingredients; Maria, Lina and Maria Grazia do them justice, cooking with recipes and flavors with roots, using old-fashioned techniques.
They use a food mill for purees (emulsifying with a blender is easier, faster, the choice of most chefs) which produces a totally different texture. One meal isn't really enough to do the menu justice. It's difficult not to overindulge on the selection of all-levain breads and foot-long flattened crisp strips embedded with onion. There's always a taste of something delicious after you've worked up an appetite studying the menu, like an eggplant parmigiano fritter, or broccoli greens potato mini-croquette. I can never resist the mini-woven basket of ricotta, as delicious as it is adorable. Appetizers include bull's eye egg with potato cream and Irpinia black truffles, exceptional baccalà--in light-as-air fritters (zeppole) or a warm salad with sun-dried sweet red peppers (pepperoni cruschi). Big choice--fresh pasta, hand formed (laccettini, trilli, fusilli, maltagliati) or ravioli filled with the exceptional above mentioned ricotta, or burrata, wild greens, manteca cheese and Irpinia black truffle. Or local hard wheat pasta--candele, or paccheri, sauced with regional, seasonal condiments or my favorite, spaghettoni with Menaica anchovies and Cetara colatura (traditional anchovy juice). There are rustic soups--minestra maritata in the cool weather months, pancotto with seasonal vegetables, legume stews. Local lamb, pork, or rabbit are among main course offerings. Save room for dessert. Home-made sorbetto and gelato, pastries and spoon-desserts that feature regional specialties like sour cherries, chestnuts, almond-hazelnut caramel, cooked Aglianico must. Four tasting menus offer diners a bargain--beginning at 19 euro for a three-course business lunch. Carmine has sourced the region's finest wines (of greatest interest to me) and the list is lengthy, well-chosen, well-priced, but also includes many fine wines from other regions of Italy and beyond.
-September 2009 link to the article published in The Atlantic Magazine