In Sicily, come summertime, the most memorable meals are taken al fresco amid fields and groves that offer up their bounty. By day, an aggressive sun presses down and nourishes the crops, white hot until dusk’s reprieve. The slender leaves that adorn olive branches frame a tumble of mountains in the distance.
Viewed from afar, the landscape is all green earth and blue sky and the rugged geometry that defines this Italian island. Look closer, however, and the season’s jewel tones pop: yellow and green citrus early on, lipstick-red tomatoes and violet plums later.
In South Jersey, of course, we lack groves heavy with olives. Yet Chef Joey Baldino has been crafting a cuisine in Sicily’s image since opening Zeppoli in 2011, just like in the Sicilian countryside, where he once spent close to half a year studying at the revered Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school. It was a supplement to formal training at The French Culinary Institute, and an experience that shaped his vision for the restaurant.