Gino D’Acampo returns to ITV this weekend with a brand new series exploring the food and culture of southern Italy.
In his latest television series, Gino embarks on a captivating journey, both across the picturesque landscapes and beneath the azure waters, to unveil the well-guarded culinary treasures of Italy’s southern regions, Puglia and Basilicata. This venture takes him on a profound exploration of his homeland’s hidden gems.
The series unfolds in a romantic realm, where Gino encounters rugged mountains, ancient cave cities, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The southern heel and sole of Italy present a breathtaking backdrop, and these regions embody the essence of Italy’s grandeur.
Steeped in history, their culinary traditions have been influenced by a variety of past rulers, from the Ancient Greeks to the Byzantines and the Spanish, each leaving their indelible mark on the contemporary dishes and customs of Italy’s deep south.
Speaking about the new series, Gino says: “I think the title – secrets of the south, says everything you need to know. In terms of recipes and places, I’m going to show you things you have never seen before. This is one of the main reasons I decided to film in Puglia and Basilicata, because they are less known, and you need to know about them. They are incredible.
“Puglia is a region that has become more known in the past five or six years, but Basilicata is a real secret of the southern region of Italy. It is one of those regions where no-one really goes to film.
“It’s incredible because it has the most amazing old cities and I want people to know about it, because when they decide their next holiday destination, they can get some secrets from me and can discover something new. It’s not the usual Italy, when you go to Tuscany, Naples, Milan, Florence, and so on, it’s not that, these are secret places that Italians know about, but not the rest of the world.”
He continues, discussing the secret of the incredible food in Puglia and Basilicata: “That area is known as tavoliere, which means – a big table. This is because in Puglia and Basilicata, everywhere you go is flat, there are no mountains or big hills. It is near the Adriatic coast, so you get the saltiness from the sea which comes through the wind and into the ground.
“This makes the soil very rich in minerals, so the ingredients grown there are very unique as far as flavour is concerned. Bear in mind that Puglia is the region where we produce the most olive oil in the whole of Italy and the reason is because it’s completely flat. So, the air circulation between the sea and the ground is just incredible.”
Reflecting on the influence on cooking from his mother, Gino says: “I think the greatest influence from my mother was always, a bit like my grandfather too, to keep reminding me that Italian food should be kept simple. She always said to me – don’t use too many ingredients, choose your ingredients very wisely – when they are in season, match them well, and do very little with them because the ingredients are there just to be gently cooked.
“If you buy them at the right time when they are in season, they do the job for you. You don’t have to do a lot. That is the attitude of Italian cooking. My mum was a good cook, she wasn’t the greatest cook in the world, but she had this mentality that I loved – two or three ingredients and you can create a great Italian dish.
“She used to say to me, ‘Waste more time when you buy ingredients and waste less time when you are in the kitchen’. It’s true. The more time spent on the ingredients, the less time you will spend in the kitchen.”
And Gino also took aim at the way many people in the UK view some of his favourite Italian staples like bread and pasta
He explains: “Everybody seems to be on a diet lately because I think as humans, we finally realized we are getting heavier. But, there is an ignorance behind when people believe bread and pasta is the cause of this. How can the Italian diet – the best of the Mediterranean, which is copied and admired all over the world, be fattening and yet in Italy we eat pasta and bread every day?
“The issue is eating too much bread and too much pasta. Italians will have a couple of slices of bread with dinner and they will make sure they have the best bread they can get. The bread available here in the UK supermarkets is terrible. I had an experience on Sunday – I went to pick up some bread from the supermarket in the morning. For breakfast it was fine. By 7pm that evening, that bread was inedible, dry, and hard, because of the ingredients that the supermarkets here use, to bake the bread cheaper. The ingredients are atrocious. It is okay straight from the oven, but a few hours later it’s awful.”
He adds: “The chocolate, the crisps and alcohol are the problem, not the pasta. A tip I would give is to make your own sauce and keep it simple. You can make a beautiful sauce with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a little bit of garlic, a touch of chilli, some extra virgin olive oil and the job is done.”
Gino’s Italy: Secrets of the South starts on Sunday 22 October at 7:30PM on ITV1 and ITVX.