Pietro D’Agostino: “Sicily is the inspiring muse of my cuisine”
In Taormina mare, comfortably sheltered from the liveliest tourism of the small town and overlooking the splendor of the Ionian sea, the restaurant La Capinera, a Michelin star, is the home of chef Pietro D’Agostino. A window on the sea and on the best reinterpretation of the Sicilian gastronomic tradition so much that it has been consecrated by international critics as one of the best Italian restaurants.
We met chef D’Agostino to talk to him about his art. How to describe it in five words? Research. Work. Intransigence. Humility. Creativity.
How is the sea inserted into its dishes?
“Taormina is my place of the heart, where I was born forty-eight years ago, but also a place of the soul, because it is from that sea that smoothes the coast of Spisone, that I celebrate my Sicily in the dishes, declining a culinary paradigm left unchanged over time: raw materials of excellence, territory, healthy cooking methods. Simple and sincere dishes because they enhance the ingredients and meet the expectations of the customer, who is increasingly attentive and aware. I love the winter sea, the smells it gives off, from the scent of salt to that of seaweed”.
Is your culinary proposal affected by the area (being on an island)?
“Sicily is the inspiring muse of the Capinera cuisine. With a brigade of 8 elements, I daily invent dishes of great harmony, in which the main theme remains the seasons and the fruits of my beloved land. I feel the connection with a wonderful island, so full of contradictions, and perhaps because of this fascinating. Nothing is taken for granted in these parts. Volcanic and generous, ready to indulge in great impetus without asking for anything in return, we Sicilians are, tenacious, capable of marking time with patience, we hardly give in to the enticements of aesthetics and always seek quality, perhaps because we owed it conquer with difficulty, with commitment and passion. All this is also reflected in my kitchen”.
How do you describe your cooking?
“My kitchen is a still life of Sicily: sunny, fresh, rich in tradition, but modern. Creativity, memory and territory are the main ingredients that I value in my dishes, an approach that is reflected in the menus created with respect for the seasons. The relationships with the local producers are fundamental, with whom we work on projects in a virtuous exchange of suggestions and proposals.
The kitchen is full of fragrant products, flavors that are in a delicious balance between land and sea, rich in spices and particular aromas. In my dishes there are some ingredients that can never be missing: the blue fish of the Ionian Sea, a cure-all for health”.
What is the basic concept of your kitchen?
“The kitchen is full of fragrant products, flavors that reside in a delicious balance between land and sea, full of spices and particular aromas. All recipes have a common denominator: knowing how to follow the rhythm of the seasons and the map of the raw materials grown, produced, made with care and respect. With my dishes I speak with frankness to the customers. I don’t like excessive processing, I prefer the ingredients recognizable to the eye and palate. I like to experiment with combinations, but I remain fond of simplicity. My dishes are born by chance. Maybe the night before I pick up an aromatic herb from my garden at home, and sniffing it evokes the smell of the sea, of a particular fish. So, the day I start cooking and suddenly. I let myself be guided by a little experience, fantasy and play”.
Are you inspired by the ancient regional recipes and the products that Sicily offers?
“Since I was a child, I let myself be enchanted for hours by the industrious hands of my mother and grandmother, who in the kitchen devoted themselves to the preparation of healthy and genuine food, linked to the old Sicilian tradition. A visual and olfactory memory, still today is the smell of homemade bread and pasta, the collection of the first fruits of the garden, the sauce that cooked for hours in the pots, the fresh fish purchased at dawn. You no longer cook as you used to, the raw material has regained its identity and its protagonist in the dishes that are now simpler in the processing, more sought after in the interpretation of ingredients and combinations. Cooking methods attentive to the preservation of the taste and properties of food have also changed profoundly. More and more, there is talk of conscious cooking with the three cornerstones: sustainability, environment and health”.