Real Italian Heroes

15 05 2010

There is no denying the popularity of Italian cuisine. But why do we love it? I think because true Italian cuisine is, very simply put, real food. It is about getting the freshest ingredients and preparing them as you need them; insuring their vibrancy and flavor. No heavy sauces or overly strong spices, the flavors of the ingredients must speak for themselves. True Italian cuisine blends those disparate voices into a harmony. A meal is like a fine Italian opera, many singers of differing range coalesce into a beautiful entertaining story and a memorable experience. And like wandering upon some street corner virtuoso in New Orleans, you may fortuitously stumble upon such a talent. That is exactly what happened when I wandered into The Chefs of Napoli. Having been to Italy and particularly to Naples several times, I know the real deal. Chefs Luigi Barile and Antonio Cacace are the real deal.

Both hail from the hometown of Sophia Loren, Pozzuoli, Italy. A small seaside town nestled in the outskirts of Naples about twenty minutes drive from the big city. Both their fathers were fishermen. Childhood friends, they grew up together and were introduced to the cucina at an early age. Learning how to make gnocchi from Grandmother led to working in family restaurants and eventually here to America. Arriving together almost a decade ago, they struggled on opposite shores of Florida. Antonio eventually made his way to the Gulf Coast with Amber where Luigi was waiting with his new bride, Roseann. Together they built their dream. “It’s a labor of love” Luigi says as he recalls the construction of their restaurant; the long days ending at 4am, laying tile, assembling the frame of the restaurant to come and the preparation of their menu. Only things they would eat themselves were allowed to be included on the menu. With that ingrained sense of Neapolitan hospitality, in a small strip mall in Spring Hill, they have been transporting patrons back to the old world with meals like saltimbocca di vitello for almost 4 years now. They may be here, but their roots still bleed green, white and red. Asking Chef Luigi, a bear of a man, what his last meal would be he answers definitively: roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella, fresh bread and a big Osso Bucco with a real saffron risotto. Chef Antonio, the slighter and quieter of the two behind his glasses, replies with a simple whole grilled sea bass and farmers’ market fresh salad-with real balsamic, he adds emphatically. In dining out, this is what we should seek; in dining in this is what we should strive to. With a fierce pride, they continue the old ways: everything made fresh from scratch and cooked to order. The breads and dough, the pasta and fillings, the antipasto to desserts; all are made fresh with quality ingredients-even the wine is imported from the specific region of Italy from where they hail. Perhaps most importantly, they add that indispensible Italian ingredient –amore. And maybe that is why we really love great Italian food, because it loves us back.

Visit Chefs Luigi and Antonio at Chefs of Napoli located at 14277 Powell Road, Spring Hill, Florida, 34609; telephone: 352.544.1234.

Chefs Antonio and Luigi prepare amazing and authentic Italian cuisine




6 responses

15 05 2010
Chef E

There is also a family owned place just down the road we like to eat now and then- So I hear ya, authentic southern Italian from them!

15 05 2010
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16 05 2010
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16 05 2010

It’s all in the red sauce, in my opinion. Call it marinara, if you like. The red sauce makes or breaks an Italian kitchen (or dish). Was at a place recently and the red sauce reminded me of Chef-Boy-R-Dee. Hmm. Suspect.

How’s the red sauce for these guys? Won’t be in FL soon enough to find out for myself. Would love to try his Osso Bucco, though.

16 05 2010

@BB: Agreed, a good sauce, like a good stock is where you start. These guys are great; real fresh ingredients and fresh sauce. Bon Appetito!

17 05 2010

I agree with Chef #1: A good osso bucco with a good risotto! (but hey is it not northern food?) My great grandmother was from Trieste, so there is a definite Italian influence in my family, and I learned about the classics early on

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