Interview: Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, Marina del Cantone (Italy)
Alfonso Caputo was born into a family with a big heart. And cordiality, warmth and generosity are beside his excellent cuisine, which explodes with mouth watering tastes of the sea, the greatest values of this restaurant with wonderful views at the bay . Whole family works in the restaurant and you can feel it. Experiences like this are more and more rare. After his father, the senior of Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone, died about a year ago, are Alfonso Caputo and his sister Mariella, who is sommelier, trademarks of this so special place which was awarded also with a Michelin star.
What has brought you into the world of gastronomy and how did you decide to become a chef?
It’s a strong connection to the history of the place where I live, Marina del Cantone, and the background of family “Caputo”: my grandfather has made salami, he also had a mill, a wooden furnace and he has opened a restaurant with rooms on the beach which was dedicated only to the catch of the bay.
How would you describe philosophy of your cuisine and what are your typical characteristics?
To interpret and to value products of my terroir, specially the sea, with all the attention to bring out the best of flavours and perfumes with greatest respect to nature. Everything – technique, manual work, sensibility – serve to this and in case of my dishes the visual impact should never be stronger than the experience of flavours.
How does your typical day look like?
I spend all the day in the kitchen.
But during the day I always do something: I come close to one of the big windows and watch the sea. This is my little break from the tensions of work.
What do you like the most about your work?
I love the creative part of my work, realization of a dish through which I express myself, my soul, my nature.
Beside that I love to know that what I create in collaboration with my team, gives emotions and pleasure to my guests. I’m proud of my team who has great passion for their work and loves to learn. We test every day new things, we taste, experiment, we observe, wait for the result and discuss.
Let’s go into your childhood. Are there any memories and flavours which you have brought into your cuisine of today?
I remember how I, attracted by perfumes from restaurant, approached my mother’s apron trying to catch the gestures, maestry and movements of her hands. It is something in the family, in our blood. Something unique which goes from generation to generations.
Memories of perfumes, flavours and tastes of my territory mixed with experiences of my travels with my parents around the world enter in my kitchen as sameness of gestures and memories.
Do you have any ingredients that you specially love and use them more often?
I’m passionate about all ingredients because I’m a chef who works with enthusiasm and fantasy. I love to try new things and when I have a new idea I love to go for it. But naturally, I love products of my region – tomato, pasta, dairy and fish from which I use everything, also the parts which people normally don’t use..
Who were your tutors, persons who influenced you the most?
Of course first my mother, but after that I have spent years around the world learning from great masters: G.Marchesi, G.Blanc, my teachers, … I gained experiences in kitchens in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Rome, Evian … not short stages but years of work in which I have really learned lot. All this places, all this persons have left a strong trace in who I am now – in the organisational part of my work, discipline, respect for ingredients etc.
Who or what is inspiring you today?
Amazement and innocence of my son Matteo and my nephews when they taste a new dish or new combination and they express their opinions are my sweetest inspiration.
Creativity and technique. What is more important for you and why?
They both are same important and are both needed for great cuisine.
Your favourite dish?
I don’t have any special preferences – I love everything, but when I come home from a longer travel, my first desire is a good pasta.
Your favourite chef?
Every chef communicates his own experience, each of them in a more or less interesting way, and all of them contribute to the growth of the gastronomic culture.
If you could in this moment go to eat to any place in the world and you could choose three places, where would you go?
I would choose three chefs: Gaston Acurio, Helena Rizzo and Yoshihiro Narisawa.
Your greatest success?
The first Michelin star at age of 22 years, the second at age of 33.
Do you have any realizable or realized dreams?
I wish to gain again the second star.
Do you have also any unrealizable dream?
An exclusive underwater restaurant in the bay of Ieranto.
If you wouldn’t be a chef, what would you do?
Interview by Andreja Lajh, Photos: Caputo archive