In Manduria, the home of Primitivo wine, Gianfranco Fino's Cantina presents its restaurant "ES," bearing the youthful and versatile signature of Executive Chef Simone Profeta.
It's been almost twenty years since Gianfranco Fino and Simona Natale embarked on their wine production journey in 2004, embracing the ancestral identity of their land. Their primary challenge was to preserve and promote indigenous grape varieties and save old vineyards, mostly cultivated in the traditional Puglian alberello style.
The vineyards, with their unique characteristics, flourish on the calcareous clayey red soils, caressed by the Ionian Sea breeze and the warm winds of the South in the Manduria area. Starting from just over one hectare, today Gianfranco and Simona's operation encompasses a generous 14 hectares of land, where vineyards with unique characteristics thrive. The idea from the very beginning was to produce wines ranging in age from 50 to 90 years.
It was only in 2021 that the Cantina was born in Contrada Reni, along with the Wine Resort and its charming suites offering views of the Salento rural landscape, surrounded by vineyards, olive trees, and dry stone walls. The cellar, a result of extensive renovations, houses the wines in barrels crafted by artisans from nearby Grottaglie.
Within this authentic and passionate entrepreneurial project deeply connected to the land, ES – Restaurant was recently born, Gianfranco Fino's latest endeavor, named in tribute to his award-winning Primitivo wine, which splendidly represents the DOC Primitivo of Manduria, establishing him as one of the most renowned winemakers.
A culinary masterpiece tailored to perfection, seamlessly integrating with the local culture and traditions. What immediately catches attention, though, is an unmistakable innovation: "It's customary," explains Simona, "to pair the right wines to best complement the dishes on the menu, enhancing their flavors, textures, and overall culinary philosophy. In our restaurant, however, sommeliers and chefs complement each other: each course is associated with a specific wine to which the ingredients, and subsequently the recipe, must adhere and adapt."
At ES, wines are the true main courses, the real stars. Not just in the cellar but also in the kitchen. The menu draws from the organic garden near the venue, bringing to the table what nature and the land generously provide with tenacity and passion. The offering is designed and executed to showcase the outstanding labels, the offspring of Gianfranco and Simona, which are elevated to grand dishes by the skillful hands of Executive Chef Simone Profeta.
Simone Profeta, born in 1989 and a graduate of the Vico Equense Hotel Institute, took his first significant steps at "Le Stalle del Generale" in Portici, under the guidance of the eclectic owner, "General" Aldo Civale. He has also been involved in consulting for the Rational Group, a global leader in the professional kitchen sector. Chef Profeta has explored unconventional culinary philosophies during overseas experiences, such as at the Vesuvio Italian Restaurant in Wells, UK. He returned to his native Portici and later worked at the Hotel A’ Lampara in Pisciotta, Salerno, and at the Hotel Capri Tiberio Palace in Capri. Upon returning to Naples, he worked for "Tartufi che passione," which later became "La Locanda del Profeta." Now, it's time for new challenges, leaving the city behind and immersing himself in the Puglian countryside.
"A new adventure begins for me, diving into a territory-based cuisine, developed in total synergy with Simona Natale and the unstoppable team of sommeliers with whom exceptional teamwork has emerged. My goal is to enhance the wines through dishes rich in seasonal ingredients within an ever-evolving menu," the chef enthusiastically states.
During lunch, the dishes are smart, simple, and essential, with a strong focus on the local heritage, simplifying the ancient Puglian gastronomic tradition. At sunset, the understated indoor dining room and the beautiful, elegant terrace with a view become the stage for a refined and highly technical tasting menu. The menu changes with the seasons, always maintaining a connection to the land and its natural rhythms. The love for their roots, like a primordial call, gives voice to dishes that narrate a region where wine and food have made Manduria an international enogastronomic destination.
Tasting the dishes at ES – Restaurant provides a 360-degree sensory experience: homemade grissini with wild fennel and garden turnips, crackers with peperone crusco and tomato butter. The meal starts with amuse-bouche, such as playful reinterpretations like Parmigiana Cannoli sprinkled with Campanian tomato powder, delivering intense and compact flavors alternating between fragrance and fluidity.
Brick pasta is wrapped around a mousse of Parmesan and dried basil from their garden, evoking memories. 30-months old Parmigiano tartlet with Podolica beef tartare, Maldon salt, rosemary mayonnaise, and extra virgin olive oil. To finish, Gillardeau Oyster in its natural form with samphire and a pearl of classic method "Simona Natale" sparkling wine. Below, you'll find our description of each course.
Focaccia charlotte with stracciatella and garden tomatoes
Hydrated 80% focaccia charlotte with confit yellow and red tomatoes, smoked stracciatella on the surface, and garden basil emulsion. A pleasing dish that disregards fine dining and stands immune to the excessive and now usual virtuosity.
Spaghettone with oyster sauce, lime, mint, Gallipoli shrimp tartare, and oyster leaf
Cavalieri spaghetti cold-mixed with oyster sauce, topped with a disc of raw Gallipoli shrimp, lightly marinated with Maldon salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper, and fresh mint. Lastly, a Mertensia Maritima (oyster leaf) that, despite its unmistakable briny flavor, grows at 2000 meters of altitude, originally near the Arctic Circle. If you wanted to break the somewhat stale concept of "surf and turf" dishes, this would certainly be a splendid example. Surprisingly, it pairs well with a glass of Negramaro, which, with its pronounced herbal notes, elegantly accompanies the dish without overshadowing it.
Acquerello rice with herb pesto, caciocavallo, SE reduction, and crispy capocollo
Risotto with herb pesto – basil, mint, fennel, rosemary – and caciocavallo sauce. A dish that ends with a Primitivo SE reduction: the young and fruity version of this ancient grape variety native to the balsamic Adriatic shore. The wine, an undisputed dominus, once again indicates the path of taste. Coherent and intensely aromatic flavors envelop the palate.
Braised ES veal cheek with smoked potato foam and cardoncelli mushrooms
The braised veal cheek, glazed with cooking stock and braised at ES style, is one of the most elegant and prestigious expressions of Primitivo. Accompanying it with a smoked potato foam and cardoncelli mushrooms.
Baba ES style with exotic red fruit coulis and vanilla chantilly
Here, Chef Profeta doesn't hold back and brings his Naples to Manduria with an ES baba. The baba, double-leavened and rich in flavor, exudes all of ES's essence for a warm, enveloping, and robust taste. The exotic coulis lightens the dish with delicate French chantilly and the calibrated acidity of red fruits. To finish, small pastry art masterpieces: tartlet with dark chocolate and almond cream; pistachio bon bon glazed with white chocolate and yuzu; dark chocolate and salted caramel praline; ES jelly.
A cuisine in the midst of the ongoing renewal of the Puglian gastronomic scene. A crucial aspect of ES's culinary identity is its innate sensitivity and contemporary spirit, which reverses the traditional food and wine pairing standards in favor of family wines. Yes, Gianfranco and Simona's family, which speaks with uncompromising honesty through the elegance of the service, the versatile cuisine, and the prestige of the cellar.
ES GIANFRANCO FINO
Contrada Reni, sn, Manduria (Taranto)
Tel. +39 320 7803978