FROM NAPLES with love

By Cuisine4 Minutes
May 2, 2022By Cuisine

For Sergio Maglione of Auckland’s Farina, there’s a clear link between New Zealand and the cooking of Naples, his hometown.

 

Twenty-six years away haven’t dulled Sergio Maglione’s enthusiasm and deep commitment to the food of Naples, his hometown. Indeed, such is his dedication that his Ponsonby restaurant Farina is certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, a body dedicated to the preparation and processing of ‘veraci’ (original) pizzas according to the old Neapolitan traditions and customs. The rules stipulate not only the ingredients for the pizza dough and how it should be mixed, fermented and formed, but also the size (22-35cm), the cooking temperature and time (430-480°C for just 60-90 seconds in a wood-fired oven). But it is not merely a case of mechanically following the rules. “It’s a science,” says Sergio. “We’re monitoring how the dough behaves each day, making adjustments, mixing the flours by a tiny amount depending on when we want to use it. You need to understand the feeling of the dough in your hands and understand the way of stretching it.” Only then can the ‘pizzaiolo’ (pizza maker) serve a true Neapolitan pizza as it should be. However, Farina is so much more than pillowy Neapolitan pizza. Sergio has a deep love of seafood and while appreciating the value of traditions, he isn’t restricted by them. “My cooking is the spirit of the south of Italy with the connection of New Zealand,” he says. A case in point, the snapper ragù which draws on the Neapolitan poached fish dish acqua pazza (‘crazy water’). “In Italy fish are quite small and we’d use scorfano (scorpion fish). In New Zealand the fish are big, so the technique is what we’d do in Naples, but adjusted to the produce that I love in New Zealand.” Adding ’nduja, a spicy salami spread from Calabria, builds yet another layer, albeit non-traditional, to the dish. In these recipes Sergio demonstrates how to make the most of a whole fish, using the fillets for one dish, roasting the flesh for the ragù and making a stock from the rest. All delicious, nothing wasted. “Neapolitan cuisine is based on the land and the sea – in New Zealand, too,” says Sergio. “What I love to do is find the best product I can find in New Zealand and put it on the plate.” The Kiwi connection and Sergio’s quest for the best is apparent when he shares that he has his cheese made specially to his own specifications by his friend Massimiliano at Auckland’s Il Casaro. On being an Italian chef far from his homeland he says, “Instead of a disadvantage I think it is an advantage. Yes, it is more of a challenge, but I’ve discovered more influences – completely different things – and managed to get more knowledge. Travelling opens your mind on a different level.” TRACY WHITMEY

TAKE A WHOLE FISH

Here, one whole fish is used as the basis of three delicious dishes.

1 whole snapper, scorpion fish, red snapper, trevally, kingfish or John Dory (around 2kg), filleted, skin off

• Use the main fillets for the crudo.

• Cook the head, body, wings and belly parts for the fish ragù to serve with the linguine.

• Use the bones and any scraps for a fish stock for the risotto and the linguine.