Now he is also a Knight of the Republic for social commitment during the epidemic. But for gourmets, the Maestro remains, able to combine fantasy, research and technique. Always in the name of the great Italian product. Here are his latest masterpieces
Enthusiasm as a teenager and humility as an apprentice: Franco Pepe is like that. Not surprisingly, he has earned such esteem on the field that he manages to bring to Caiazzo, a village in the Casertano area, the best chefs in Italy and major foreign brands to Authentica Stellata, a "friendly" performance where he and a guest chef prepare pizza in a separate room for eight customers. Ultimately, he became a star despite always claiming the role of craftsman and baker. Oriented towards innovation, continuous study, experimentation on dough and cooking, but, at the same time, intensely linked to the tradition, that of Campania and the family. During the lockdown, Pepe worked once more on social issues, so much so that he re-entered the group of Italians who particularly distinguished themselves in community service during the coronavirus emergency. He was awarded the honor of Knight of the Republic with a particular motivation: "When he had to close his restaurant, he prepared pizzas and biscuits for the poor and the elderly in difficulty, organizing a fundraiser for the Caserta hospital.
Two rooms, six segments of the Gambero Rosso
Now it has returned to its place, dividing between Pepe in Grani and La Filiera which is located inside the Albereta in Erbusco, Relais & Chateaux of the Moretti family, that of Bellavista. Both have the Tre Spicchi, the highest recognition of the Gambero Rosso Pizzerias Guide. "The two rooms are full in compliance with the security protocols, despite not having lowered the prices. We all need serenity, in Caiazzo for example I have adapted the garden to accommodate a very particular area, with the three tables of silence in homage to a great artist like Ezio Bosso, author of the music in the background , explains Pepe. Hospitality reigns supreme, the menu is a sequence of fireworks that start from the country's most studied (and most copied, if they can) dough, made with flour 0 Pepper, variable mix, modified several times during the year to optimize perfume and variability. "You cannot impose a single mechanical technique, you have to to listen the dough to understand what it suggests to you, after all it is like a creature ", Franco underlines, with a smile.
Very Italian products
The reopening has led to new pizzas as to the revisiting of other already known ones. Always with the polar star of Italy. You see Double hit: one of his ingenious fried pasta cones that wants to celebrate two of the major Italian dairy products. In this case, the parmigiana is cooked, then made liquid until it becomes a cream parmigiana with basil reduction. The smoked DOP buffalo mozzarella from Campania is ennobled with Grana Padano Dop chips. Or Buffalo Tuna, a classic of Piedmontese origin – vitel tonné – adapted on pizza and made local by marinated buffalo meat, which is refreshed by curly endive, pepper and crispy celery, as well as well garnished with tuna sauce. It's still, Estitalia which in Spain would be considered a great tapas: another fried cone, filled with a veil of grana padano fondue, buffalo mozzarella wrapped in San Daniele ham, semi-candied cherry tomatoes and freeze-dried basil. It is not real pizza, but a brilliant taste that Pepe dedicated to the Italian summer.
There is also a pizza born during the lockdown. «In quarantine, I used what I had in the pantry, not being able to get fresh, in fact on the Sciuccaglia there is no mozzarella , explains Pepe. Intense flavored pizza thanks to Alife onion, San Marzano tomato dried in Trapani salt and the impalpable slices of Sciuccaglia, typical bacon from Campania. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of oregano complete the delicious mix. In the greedy part, the imagination of his son Stefano enters. It's his there Cerasella: fried pizza stuffed with the Elixir Falernum of the Antica Distilleria Petrone, then topped with a slice of fiordilatte and melted dark chocolate. Perfect example of that sweet-salty contrast that the master of Caiazzo likes a lot. And the idea to remember the friend and colleague pastry chef Alfonso Pepe, who passed away in early February, must also be attributed to Stefano Pepe. With the father he developed the exquisite Fried Pastiera: the filling of the cone includes citrus flavored pastry cream, mozzarella, toasted hazelnuts, mixed candied fruit, orange zest.
Manual skill in power
One aspect of every Pepe creation is striking: however sophisticated it may be in technique and raw materials, his is an almost primordial pizza, almost without the use of electricity: starting from his or his hands until cooking in a wood oven, powered by shavings. Moreover, if there is an episode that we like to remember, it concerns the time when the transformation project of the former Albereta warehouse into the current La Filiale had started. Franco often said, very serious "I never thought of working where Gualtiero Marchesi was". And if the location is not the same (the Marquesan restaurant was inside the hotel), the concept remains valid: a Maestro is never forgiven. This is why we must remain humble students. Like him.
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