Gino D'Acampo takes inspiration from the Italian Coast in his new cookbook

15th Nov 17 | Lifestyle

Telly chef and prolific cookbook writer, Gino D'Acampo, visits Italy's coast for inspiration for his new recipe collection. Jack Newman finds out more.

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Cheeky chappy Gino D’Acampo is bringing a taste of his Italian home (even borrowing recipes off his mamma Alba) in his new book and accompanying ITV series, Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape.

The charismatic TV presenter, chef and restaurateur, 41, is hoping to show that simplicity is the key to great Italian food.

Gino, originally from Torre del Greco, Naples, has travelled along “the most famous coast in Europe”, discovering the local specialities and authentic ingredients associated with Italy’s west coast. It is arguably the gastronomic spine of the country, with the book taking influence from traditional kitchens in Rome, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Sicily and Elba.

It’s not just about eating well either, Gino also believes he has “a responsibility to make sure people understand where their ingredients come from”, which actually led to him uncovering a few culinary surprises. “You would never associate liquorice with Italian food,” says Gino, who discovered a taste for Calabrian liquorice while researching the book. “The more I travel, even for someone like myself who has been in food for so many years, I always learn something new and exciting.”

One of his favourite dishes he stumbled upon, and then adapted, is ndunderi (pronounced ‘dune-der-ee’), which he found while exploring the Amalfi Coast. “It’s like gnocchi but instead of potato, they use ricotta. This is another thing which I had no idea they did there,” he explains. “It’s so delicate, light and beautiful. Delicious!”

It is characteristic of the food Gino’s hoping to celebrate: simple, full of flavour, and all about the ingredients. The chef believes overcomplicating is what most people get wrong when attempting to cook Italian food. “The most important thing that my grandfather taught me, when I was a little boy, was that Italian food must be kept simple. Spend more time getting the right ingredients and less time in the kitchen – this is the secret.”

From his grandfather’s influence, to his parents’ recipes in the new cookbook (including his mother’s meatballs), it’s clear family is very important to Gino and his food. He hopes to pass on his love of cooking to his three children, and his eldest, Luciano, is already “a huge foodie – he spends all his pocket money in restaurants and he’s got a great understanding of food”.

Gino and his family spend half the year at his Italian home in Sardinia, and the other six months in England. He hopes his next journey will take him to the Adriatic Coast, “the coast that goes from Venice to Puglia that is not as well-known as Amalfi, but is just as amazing”.

While presenting his series, Gino revealed that he tries to emulate his food hero. “One of my favourite chefs is [the late] Keith Floyd, who I had the pleasure of meeting and we did a few cooking shows together. For me, Keith Floyd’s shows are what I do now when I go to Italy.

“When I’m doing Gino’s Italian Escape, I always have him in mind. I go round the region, finding an ingredient, meeting the local people, then I build my kitchen and I start to cook.

“My kitchen is wherever I am, it could be on the beach, it could be on top of the mountain, or in somebody’s house.,” says Gino. “That’s the style of cooking I like.”

Gino's Italian Coastal Escape (Dan Jones/PA)
(Dan Jones/PA)

Gino’s Italy Coastal Escape: A taste Of Italy From The Aeolian Islands To Elba, by Gino D’Acampo, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.

© Press Association 2017