By Annamaria Parlato
The position of Agerola is one of the best to enjoy the infinite riches of the Amalfi Coast fully: wedged between the Lattari Mountains, with a comprehensive view of the Amalfi Coast and inserted in the Path of the Gods, the city has always played a role of a cultural outpost in the frame of the Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The enchanted places, the local products, and the area’s culture make Agerola a jewel to be discovered every time. In the hamlet of Bomerano, there is “La Corte Degli Dei,” the inn for gourmets of Palazzo Acampora, a charming historic residence from the second half of the eighteenth century.
Palazzo Acampora, a charming residence
On the banks of the ancient palace, symbols, and relics of well-worn literature, the silence that rises from the rural village is carried by the wind that blows inside the rooms, inflating the curtains like sails and at that moment time stops, in a moment that resounds eternally. Palazzo Acampora is one of the rare examples of patrician residence and architecture on the high Amalfi Coast, the residence of the Acampora of Corfu for over two hundred years. As evidenced by the predicate of Corfu, the Acampora family lost over the years in the official composition of the surname has its origins in the noble families present on the Greek island during the Venetian domination. The setting of a fascinating family saga that saw as protagonists the viceroy and general Avitabile, Don Luigi Acampora and his mistress Michelangela, the Marquises Florio di Furore and the Cavaliere Francesco Acampora, the events of the Acampora house have significantly influenced the history of the high coast throughout the nineteenth century, up to the first thirty years of the twentieth. Almost a century later, a careful and passionate restoration by the last descendants of the family has restored the historic apartment to its ancient splendor – together with the original furnishings, frescoes, faux polychrome marbles, and paintings by Pallegiani – the cellars, the court, the beautiful Neapolitan staircase. Currently, a house museum dedicated to the receptive activity, Palazzo Acampora is a charming place where history, hospitality, literary events meet admirably in a unique and fascinating context.
Palazzo Acampora, courtesy of the chef
The warm and enveloping atmosphere of the Locanda
Intoxicating essences are combined with an evocative atmosphere within centuries-old walls that have witnessed, uninterruptedly, the historical and human events of a large family for almost three centuries. The cuisine is entirely based on the food and wine excellences of Campania and Agerola, according to the zero meter principle, in the name of ancient recipes wisely reinterpreted by the executive chef Petronilla Naclerio who has been directing the kitchen of the Palazzo since 2016. In love with her land, she moved from the North to the South in a mad gesture of courage among a thousand sacrifices and sacrifices. Petronilla, television face, a pupil of Iginio Massari and Maurizio Santin, born in “Terra Jeruli” and raised between Brescia and Verona, entrepreneur and daughter of restaurateurs, has a past as a production manager and business consultant in the gastronomic sector both in Italy than abroad. “When we moved to the North, in 1963 my father introduced seafood dishes and above all sautéed mussels in Brescia”. The volcanic chef “Nilla” (as she prefers to be called), who, like an Angevin sovereign, lives in one of the Palazzo’s apartments, is now used to managing critical cultural events. She welcomes internationally-renowned actors, who often visit her and adore his cuisine, in particular, the Genoese with broken ziti, the married soup, or the succulent pork fillet larded with chestnut honey and hazelnuts. Territory, quality, seasonality, products from the garden called “Terra di Lavoro,” located right in front of the Locanda and personally cared for by Nilla: these, the four pillars on which her menus are articulated that respond to the inspiring principles of her cuisine that from time to time it is affected by some extra-regional influences in a gourmet key. The gastronomic proposal also unfolds through three daily moments, ranging from breakfast to dinner, including brunch and aperitif. Seasonal productions, traditional local dishes, ancient Acampora recipes, a selected wine list that favors the oenological excellence of the area make this place unique and exclusive, a favorite destination for tourists and foreign travelers as in the time of the Grand Tour.
The chef’s ideal cuisine
Chef Petronilla can catapult her guests into another dimension back in time, in that golden moment of existence between childhood and adolescence when a simple gesture is enough to set in motion a parallel emotionality made of sincere enticements. The refined dishes do not need detailed or emphasized descriptions. They speak for themselves. They are conceptually materializing visual and intellectual perceptions; they are pure art, gastronomic goods to be preserved. From all this, it is evident that in Petronilla’s kitchen, it is the raw material that dictates the law, then comes her skill and creativity to complete the dish: just as it happened for the pinnate pear and fennel salad with balsamic vinegar, with dried fruit and quenelles of cow’s milk ricotta from Agerola. The recipe reiterated Petronilla: “It is pure fantasy, I have been inventing it for a while, and I took advantage of the products that the garden offers me, such as fennel and fine pinnate pears, which I could not do without.”
Pera pennata, jam, walnut and Provolone del Monaco board, courtesy of the chef
The mix between North and South
“If I told you malfatti with pumpkin with butter, sage and hazelnuts from Giffoni IGP, pasta and fried potatoes, agerolese carbonara with artichokes, local pancetta and creaming with provolone del Monaco, pain perdue with pennate pears, capunsei or pearà with pan biscotto DECO, what would you think? “. Unlike all the other chefs, Petronilla loves to reveal her recipes and tell the anecdotes that revolve around her dishes that taste of the Lombardy-Veneto hinterland, France, Germany, Austria, and the Mediterranean Vesuvian essences. The supporting pillars of her dishes are the agerolese Tarallo, the pennata pear, the mozzarella, the salami, the provolone del Monaco, and the piennolo tomato. “Agerola, city of bread – adds Petronilla -, has an original bakery product. Rounded in shape with the classic hole in the middle, the Agerolese Tarallo is made with flour, water, salt, and “criscito” (natural yeast). Some producers also add fennel. The main feature is the double cooking which makes it easily digestible, delicate, and neutral, suitable as a substitute for bread, perhaps with a short immersion in water or wine. With this product, I create fantastic dishes”.
The news of the 2021 summer season
“Among the summer novelties, on the occasion of the reopening of the Locanda in June, I thought of a seafood cuisine that takes inspiration from the methods of processing and preparing river or lake fish so dear to me such as whitefish, tench, or carp in porchetta.” Petronilla has in mind to cook the local fish by introducing it into the risottos that it makes with obsessive care, or through drying and smoking, as it also happens with salmon, cod or stockfish, and then proceed according to the fish with different cooking including the one in a pan and butter and mountain herbs or in carpione. There will be a particular hot soufflé with vanilla and berries among the desserts, which is nothing more than the reinterpretation of some typical Alsatian and South Tyrolean sweets, such as kaiserschmarren, Gugelhupf, and dampfnudel.
Pasta e piselli (peas), cas e ova, courtesy of the chef
The Museum at Night Challenge to reveal what happens at night in the Palazzo
The Musem At Night Challenge, which started in Belgium a few months ago, from the Le Pass museum park in Frameries, will also stop in Agerola. This important cultural initiative involves all of Europe: everyone tells in their way, publishing photos and videos, what happens at night when visitors leave and the lights go out. Everything takes place entirely on social networks (Facebook and Instagram) with such a widespread diffusion that it reaches many European museums, which have challenged each other (each participant must identify three other museums to invite to the challenge) to tell – often also in an original and fun way – their nightlife. Palazzo Alliata di Villafranca selected palazzo Acampora in Palermo, the prestigious home of an ancient family of Pisan bankers who transplanted to Sicily around the fourteenth century time of the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Petronilla exclaimed: “It will be challenging to win among so many world-famous cultural locations, but it was already an honor to participate and revive the Acampora family on social media. Good luck to all participants and a good challenge!”
Palazzo Acampora, Via Armando Diaz 25, Agerola (NA), tel. +39. 081.19.14.31.56, www.palazzoacampora.it