In Review

Festa a Vico: The food festival that turns an entire Italian town into an open kitchen

Picturesque landscape, delicious food and superb wine make Festa di Vico a must this summer

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One of the most anticipated events of the Italian culinary calendar returns to the Amalfi Coast this year as the Festa a Vico festival prepares to welcome thousands of tourists, gourmands and chefs to the sunny town of Vico Equense.

For three days, the beautiful town is transformed into a vast "open kitchen" which takes over more than 100 shops, as well as the town's beaches, gardens and streets.

Visitors can try dishes prepared by guests of the gastronomic festival's organiser, Gennaro Esposito - a chef with two Michelin stars to his name for his Torre del Saracino-Vico Equense restaurant - and all proceeds from the event go to charity.

Ahead of the festival which runs from 4 - 6 June, The Week Portfolio caught up with Esposito to find out where it all began for him and what, in his view, makes the perfect pizza.

What are your earliest memories of cooking?

If I look back, I see a 15-year-old boy, who was split between boring classes at a vocational hotel school, and weekends and summers spent chopping parsley and clean vegetables in the kitchens of the taverns in my town. At that age, I knew that I would cook, but I did not know how and where. 

You worked in two of legendary chef Alain Ducasse's restaurants, how did he influence your approach to cooking?

When I was in France with Ducasse I learned that you need to combine inspiration and creativity with moderation and discipline - all must be well balanced, like the ingredients of a great dish.

Why is it important to you that a percentage of proceeds from the Festa a Vico go to charity?

First of all let me say that all the proceeds go to charity.

The event was first staged in the town of Vico Equense and it is right that the proceeds of the event should go straight to the region of Campania. That way, the whole community can benefit from our non-profit organisation's projects.

What is the secret to making a great pizza?

I'm not a Neapolitan pizza maker, but I am a great lover of pizza. In my opinion the rules for making a good pizza are:1. Knowledge - of the origins and the region from which pizza emerged,2. Study - of new cooking techniques,3. Product quality - with an eye on local and seasonal produce.

Are you a pizza purist or do you think there is room for experimentation and reinterpretation?

A little bit of both. I love classic pizzas when they are able to excite you with their simplicity. But I'm also open to experiments, especially if they are well thought through.

Aside from Italian, which other national cuisines excite you? 

I love all kinds of world cuisines. I believe that the dialogue between different kitchens can lead to new ideas. However my favorite cuisines are Japanese, Indian and South American.

You've already been awarded two Michelin stars - what are your remaining culinary ambitions?

If you are talking about Michelin stars, my ambition is to reach the third star.

Beyond this, my job is to think about gastronomy as a whole, with a great deal of passion for hospitality, comfort, location and of course the food itself.

For more visit www.festavico.com

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