Double review at Le Monzù and Mammà restaurants in Capri: two starred, two high-level kitchens and two chefs who really know how to do it, for two faces of Mediterranean cuisine
Haute cuisine means quality raw materials, the best technique to enhance ingredients and recipes, let's say a generic search for excellence for a refined result. On what is refined, or fine dining to put it in English, an infinite debate can be opened. What matters only to the insiders until they look for a nice restaurant for a dinner and have to choose where to go. Better home cooking or that of a great chef? Tradition or creativity? The two perfect restaurants to make this reflection are the two starred restaurants in Capri, the Monzù and Mammà: two schools of thought starting from the name.
Declaration of intent
Le Monzù is a deformation of the French "monsieur" which is the name by which the chef was addressed in the families of the Neapolitan aristocracy between the 13th and 19th centuries. The wealthiest at the time could afford a true French cook (others only their students or presumed such), but Frenchism represents by definition the gourmet influence that is found in the sumptuous recipes of Neapolitan cuisine such as rice sartù, cassata , the highly decorated desserts and the preparations that mimicked those of the Versaille model, but in a local version. Mammà is the Neapolitan deformation of the word mamma. Mamma VS chef, casa VS restaurant, regional cuisine VS creative cuisine: two sides of the medal star of high-level Italian cuisine.
Better home cooking or that of a great chef? Tradition or creativity?
Le Monzù, Capri fine dining
Luigi Lionetti, born in 1984, is a genuine Caprese: born, raised and today chef of the starred Le Monzù, the restaurant of the Hotel Punta Tragara, an icon of Capri hospitality overlooking the Faraglioni. He worked his way up on the island and returned in 2008, as a simple match cook under the wing of Gennarino Esposito, to stay until today his kitchen and earn a Michelin star in 2019. The goal is to maintain "the substance of our traditional cuisine", as the chef himself defines it, but lighten it, make it contemporary, creating dishes with few ingredients and where the product is not stressed, but rather the high quality of the raw material is absolutely enhanced. His cuisine is therefore Mediterranean, with a strong flavor, but with contemporary and creative variations «Monzù because the language of Naples reinvents everything. As in the kitchen . No Asian-international-fashion drift or use of trendy ingredients such as yuzu "here we have fantastic lemons, other than yuzu!", And the awareness that Capri is dense in flavors, ingredients and inspirations and you don't need to go far "but traveling opens the mind". And in fact Lionetti is someone who loves to shoot. If you wanted to represent his cuisine and a journey in Le Monzù, three dishes are enough: Bon Bon di prawns, Nocellara olive soup, almond and candied lemon; Cappelletti stuffed with red cow Parmesan cheese, black truffle, lobster medallions and its cold broth and the Milanese of amberjack, citrus fruits and married escarole. Two tasting menus (only those in 2020), one devoted to fish and one also to meat with other chef classics such as the Rotolino di rabbit, celeriac and chard; Lemon risotto with scampi, burrata, seaweed and capers and the Laticauda lamb variation, Jerusalem artichoke and wild garlic. All perfectly served and with dessert a nest containing a fake mango egg, passion fruit and fresh cream cheese. As spectacular as the spatial view of the sea of Marina Piccola.
Mammà, the great traditional restaurant
Mom is another thing entirely. We are a stone's throw from the Piazzetta, between the alleys of the greengrocers and the shops of the historic center. A beautiful terrace overlooking Marina Grande and the neighbors' rooftops, a room full of tables and chattering, on the walls the history of Capri through black and white photographs of the island and its international jet set. On the blackboard, the rules of Mammà leave no room for misunderstanding: at Mammà there are no cold rooms or refrigerators, at Mammà it starts again every morning with fresh products, and at Mammà there is only one. The execution of the dishes, the aromas and flavors in their simplicity refer to childhood memories and good food just as "mom" would do. Mammà has the mission to give maximum enjoyment every day, a project born in 2013 with the advice of Gennarino Esposito and today with the guidance of Salvatore La Ragione, 1 Michelin star, his longtime collaborator and friend. Sautéed clams, Luciana-style octopus, eggplant meatballs, ziti with Neapolitan ragù, creamed paccheri with shellfish and seafood: a menu that is understood at first glance and where creativity is all about the impeccable execution of traditional dishes, thanks to the knowledge and techniques of chef La Ragione. Because if the recipes are those of the mother, the "hand" is that of a ten-year experience of those who study cooking as well as practice it and then deal with it with competence, improving it every day.
Don't call it a trattoria, though: the Mammà restaurant is part of the Punta Tragara Small Luxury Hotel group and the Monzù restaurant, and is therefore certainly not a low cost solution or a "good" place. It is simply another side of haute cuisine.