It has been a while since we tested an Italian restaurant in the US. The reason is that unfortunately there aren't many that can be related honorably to this appellative. Being even more specific we would say that the situation in Orlando, Florida, is even worse then everywhere else. But luckily for us we found one which offers authentic Italian recipes with no compromises with the American cooking. We are talking about Restaurant "Peperoncino"which is the Italian word for "Chili Pepper". Barbara Alfano e Danilo Martorano are a wonderful couple which create signature dishes with a Calabrian influence, indeed peperoncino is the flag ingredient of Calabria region in south Italy. Danilo, who is a true Italian native, has earned a huge cooking experience since he was very young and has been trained in important restaurants in Italy and abroad. Barbara is born in Venezuela but she is daughter to Italian native parents and so she speaks perfectly and proudly her origin language. They met here at their restaurant when Danilo was traveling looking for a cooking experience in America. Barbara was already doing that before his arrival, but when they joined their skills the restaurant has risen on a higher level. Recently they became parents of two beautiful newborns and this family is getting success and awards day by day.
Danilo Martorano is focused on his Calabrian antipasto treat. One of the most popular is the Nduja which is a particularly spicy, spreadable pork salumi made with several different parts of the pig, peperoncino and a mix of spices. It's a Calabrian variation of salumi, loosely based on the French andouille introduced in the 13th century by the Angevins. Nduja, is mainly served on slices of bread but it can be used also as spicy pasta condiment. The chef makes his own version so called
"Bruschetta with Viagra Calabrese (Nduja contains peperoncino which is a kind of aphrodisiac food) he also adds some delicious onions.
The menu of "Peperoncino" restaurant is very various with wonderful recipes. They really have ingredients from Italy and so consequently are the flavors. This is the first important fact, but also the experience of the chefs is the key of its success. We have rated and reviewed it during Easter day, therefore there was even a special holiday menu, all paired with fantastic Italian regional wines.They have a very good Italian wine list.
This menu started with "Carpaccio di Bresaola con Bufala Campana, Parmigiano DOP e Composta di Pomodori Secchi" (Cured beef loin carpaccio served with fresh buffalo mozzarella from Campania region, Parmigiano DOP cheese and sun-dried tomatoes compote). This dish was paired with an extra brut "Segrete Vigne" of Guidobono. The "Bufala Campana" was the best we have ever tried here in USA.
Then we had "Risotto al Gaglioppo e Gorgonzola con Costina di Agnello Scottadito" (Gaglioppo wine risotto with Gorgonzola cheese, served with lamb chop) paired with "Cirò Duca Sanfelice" of Librandi.
On the seafood side we tasted "Baccalà in Tempura con Caponata Siciliana" (Fresh black cod fish fillet, lightly battered and fried, served with Sicilian eggplant Caponata) paired with "Ribolla Gialla" of Paolo Pecorari.
Beyond the Easter menu, we wanted to taste some other classics, so we ordered "Spaghetti alle Vongole Piccanti con Crema di Piselli e Cacio" (Spaghetti tossed with fresh clams, in spicy green peas cream with pecorino cheese) and also fried "Arancini " filled with ragù and mozzarella cheese.
The restaurant serves also amazing signature pizzas and desserts. So we decided to test two classics like the pizza "Margherita", the pizza "Calabrese" and the special pizza "Peperoncino".
The pizza "margherita" and the "peperoncino"(which contains Nduja and smoked mozzarella) have a high soft edge, as the Neapolitan tradition requires to be so. Meanwhile the "Calabrese" has a lower crusty edge and it's nicely hot and spicy due to its salame from Calabria region.
Definitively way better then an "American Pepperoni" pizza. Surely a must try, together with the others. All these pizza we tasted were so balanced in flavor and ingredients of superior quality level. Danilo Martorano let us try also the "cherry" on the cake.... well we are talking of a Calabrian Chili Pepper that you can add to your pizza (only for connoisseurs).
These pizzas were paired with one of the best beer from Italy, not easy to find, and of excellent quality that it can be compared to a wine. "Curmi" 32 produced by "32 Via dei Birrai" in Treviso, Italy is just perfect on great gourmet pizzas like these. This beer is also a favorite of Andrea Bocelli
The dessert tray was made at the moment, with a trio of "Tiramisù", "Cannolo Siciliano" e "Cuore Caldo di Cioccolato al Peperoncino". An incredible combination which honored the end of great gourmet experience. We concluded this festive meal with a very nice digestive liquor "Limoncino dell' Isola" made with Calabrian lemons and very refreshing.
So far, our rating of "Peperoncino" restaurant is "Excellent" (20/20) and it's referred to the absolute quality of the ingredients, the skill of its experienced chefs, the authenticity of the Italian recipes with no compromises. All was so well balanced, from the entree to the main dishes and even the creative pizzas and desserts, not to mention the very good wine and beer selection. We liked also the metropolitan style of the ambiance, in between of a bistrò and a city restaurant. It reminds also a place that could be in Milano, Italy or in NYC. We are not certainly alone about this evaluation because several other press releases have been made by colleagues in town. They are all hanged along the walls of this unique gem in Orlando.
Address: 7988 Via Dellagio Way #108, Orlando, FL 32819
article and pictures by Luca Centoni