Restaurants: Babbo, Lupa, Esca, Otto, Casa Mono/Bar Jamon, Del Posto (New York); Pizzeria Mozza/Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles); B&B Ristorante, Enoteca San Marco (Las Vegas)
What would be your last meal on earth?
I would have eight or 10 courses of magnificent seafood, pasta and vegetables (including raw radishes with good oil and salt). The first course would be alici marinate, marinated anchovies served with a little bruschetta, paired with a bottle of stingingly cold Furore wine from winemaker Marisa Cuomo of Ischia. The next course would be succulent mozzarella en carozza, the Neapolitan version of a grilled cheese sandwich. You dredge fresh mozzarella di bufala in egg and then pan fry it until the outside is crisp, while the inside oozes with hot mozzarella. Scialatielli ai gamberetti, fresh Amalfitana pasta with shrimp and zucchini, would follow. It is made of cake flour, milk and pecorino, and has a particularly firm texture. The pasta is the only one found in the town of Amalfi, and it breaks all the rules about "no cheese with pasta." Stained green with basil, and cut a bit wider than fettuccine but thinner than pappardelle, it represents everything I love about the city of Amalfi - a major sea power as far back as the 11th century and home of the most beautiful duomo on the entire coast. The next course would be spaghetti alle cozze, hard pasta with spicy mussels. The finale to this shellfish extravaganza would be gamberoni all'acqua pazza, sautéed shrimp in a spicy fennel broth, and aragosta alla brace, grilled lobster with limoncello vinaigrette. I would finish with affogato al caffe, ice cream in a bath of chilled espresso, and baba al rum, a simple, yeasty sponge cake soaked in rum syrup. This would all be washed down with a sea of icy limoncello.
What would be the setting for the meal?
A small beachside trattoria on the Amalfi Coast, under a pergola of grapes.
What would you drink with your meal?
Lots of cold Fiano di Avellino.
Would there be music?
REM would play live with U2, and John McLaughlin would play acoustic with Paco de Lucía.
Who would be your dining companions?
My whole family, Joe Bastianich and his whole family, Tony Bourdain, Jim Harrison, Emeril Lagasse and his family, and the musicians and their families.
Who would prepare the meal?
The restaurant's chef - hopefully a sixtysomething-year-old woman from the area.Shrimp in Crazy Water ( Gamberoni all'Acqua Pazza)
What you need
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh hot chilies
1 fennel bulb, chopped into 1/2-inch dice, fronds reserved
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup seawater, or 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
16 jumbo shrimp, peeled, head and tail on
Freshly ground black pepper
What you do
In a 6-quart soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat until smoking. Add the onion, garlic, chilies and diced fennel and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, wine and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, pour into a soup tureen and garnish with the fennel fronds.
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Excerpted from My Last Supper, ©Melanie Dunea/CPi, published by Bloomsbury, distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books. "Shrimp in Crazy Water" from Mario Batali Holiday Food ©2000 by Mario Batali. Used by permission of Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.