Gennaro and his many passions and talents...
This is the story of my dear husband Gennaro's life. As with all of our lives, Gennaro's
life has not been easy but his will to live a good life was much stronger than the
hardships, and he never felt the sense of defeat!
When Gennaro and I were married, he quickly became a very important part of our
family, and he also continues to provide a critical piece of our culinary puzzle
- as a professionally trained Sommelier. But there is much more to him than being
a great husband and Sommelier, so please keep reading and you will see what I mean.
When Gennaro was a boy of only 12 years, he started to show an intense desire to
learn how to cook - a rare occurrence for a school boy his age. This really pleased
his mother, a very strong and dynamic woman who worked in a stone cave by day, and
cared for Gennaro and his brother and his sister in the evenings. Gennaro began
helping his mother prepare their evening meals, as well as the big Sunday family
dinner. His mother was very lucky and grateful to have help in the kitchen from
her young son, as most boys his age would prefer to play soccer or hang out in the
piazza with their friends - definitely not in the kitchen with their mother!
When Gennaro turned 15, he realized he would need money in order to pursue an education
in engineering school, and so he took odd jobs during the summers to save money
to pay for his tuition.
His first summer job was in a butcher shop, where he learned all the secrets of
the meat, such as how to recognize quality meat products, how to clean and prepare
the different cuts of meat, and lastly, how to preserve it or cook it properly.
The following summer, Gennaro went to work in a tomato production factory - a job
so difficult that it made his hair fall out - literally! The factory was not air
conditioned and it was unbearably hot in the summer months, especially with the
canning equipment running. The only good thing that came out of this experience
was that he learned as much as one can learn about tomatoes - from the selection
process (good tomatoes vs. bad tomatoes) to the handling process. And the factory
also preserved peaches and beans, so he learned a little about this too. Then the
next summer he went to work in an alimentary factory that produced many types of
cheese, prosciutto, ham, pasta, and many more types of food and wine, sparking
Gennaro finally graduated from engineering school with honours, and began utilizing
his engineering skills immediately; he was a very good engineer and highly sought
after in his profession. In fact, he was so busy that he has to temporarily abandon
his love of food and wine to focus solely on engineering. But destiny was knocking
on his door, and when we met in 1994, we immediately knew that we wanted to incorporate
his passion for food and wine into our offers at the Hidden Treasure.
Thankfully for us, Gennaro eventually decided to take the necessary steps to become
a professional Sommelier. After many years of intensive training, he graduated with
the highest score possible on the test, and he quickly became one of the most popular
Sommeliers on the Amalfi Coast. He is now a member of the Associazione Italiana
Sommelier, (Italian order of the Sommelier) and his wine cellar now holds more than
100 bottles of fine wines with a special emphasis on wines from the Campania region.
He continues to add new wines to his cellar whenever he has the opportunity to visit
local wineries. He has visited some of the most important wineries in our region,
as well as small, boutique wineries, many of which offer spectacular wines that
are hard to find outside of Italy.
But learning about wines and becoming a Sommelier was not enough for him, so he
began taking courses on cheese; classes in Italy include studying the production
process, preservation, tasting and how to tell a good cheese from a not so good
cheese. And in 2007, Gennaro became "Maestro degustatore di formaggio"
or professional cheese taster!
In addition to being a professional Sommelier and cheese taster, Gennaro is also
a truly wonderful chef - especially when it comes to preparing fresh fish and seafood
- and he cooks these dishes with the same passion he has for his wine and cheese.
When you join us for either a dinner or a wine tasting, you and your guests will
see firsthand that Gennaro exudes his passion through his cooking and wine pairings,
including also a tasting of grappa that he has collected for years and is a big
connoisseur. Speaking of grappa, we also are very proud of our delicious homemade
limoncello - the famous southern Italian liqueur.
Gennaro also makes many other interesting homemade liqueurs from scratch, using
tangerines, apricots and fennel. An experience with him will be memorable. And perhaps,
life changing with the knowledge that he will pass on to you!
And guess what? His story does not stop there, as his quest for knowledge is nearly
insatiable and he continued his culinary education by taking classes on olive oils.
He can now distinguish between the various types of olive oil and production methods
and the same year he became a professional cheese taster, he also earned the title
of professional olive oil taster!
Of course it was natural for us to open a wine school where Gennaro teaches people
to distinguish a good wine and empower them with the knowledge to face a bottle
or a glass of wine and feel and be able to say - wow, I know so much more about
this wine, thanks to Gennaro's wine class!
Unlike some classes, Gennaro teaches his classes in a very simple way - in the class,
you'll learn how to analyze a wine using your natural senses of sight, smell and
taste. You'll also learn all about the production process including the grape varietals
and fermentation process.
And of course, a natural pairing to wine is cheese, so we incorporate a cheese tasting
into our wine classes where we offer students up to 10 different cheeses from Campania
to try and serve the most exclusive cheese with Mamma Agata's delicious homemade
chestnut honey and pear marmalade, explaining to our guests people where the cheeses
are produced, and how to serve them with sweet toppings such as marmalade or honey.
Since olive oil is a staple in all Italian pantries, we thought it would be a nice
touch to include an olive oil tasting to our wine and cheese tasting. Our goal is
to teach people the most important information about the olive oil, such as what
to buy, what to use and when, and how to store and protect the flavours of a good
olive oil. And of course, we must serve delicious wine with delicious food too.
So, Gennaro prepares for the course by cooking a few wonderful house specialties
for our students to enjoy along with the wine, and at the end of the meal he serves
few great grappa with a pastry or bit of chocolate.
If you've already read the story of Mamma Agata's life, you might see that Gennaro's
life is parallel to that of Mamma's. They both share a huge passion for cooking
from a very young age, and they both spent their years as young adults working in
the culinary field and now of course, they share their passion for food and wine
with the guests at the Hidden Treasure.
And in fact, Gennaro cooks side-by-side each day with Mamma Agata and both of them
are such great cooks, and although they have different techniques, they both reach
the most amazing results - delicious food with wonderful flavours and Simple and
Genuine cooking, of course!
Gennaro is also a wonderful student of Mamma Agata and he is slowly learning all
of Mamma Agata's many cooking secrets and one day, he will be the perfect cooking
I know in my heart that he will never stop studying and improving his skills because
the endless energy and love for people, food and wine is a driving force and it
will reinforce these inner passions and his love of teaching to all those who have
the pleasure to meet him at our very special Hidden Treasure in Ravello.