As he wins more column inches for baring his backside and X-rated bedroom antics on Celebrity Juice than for his food, it’s a welcome surprise to see chef Gino D’Acampo return to his culinary roots. Then again, offered the opportunity to cruise along the stunning Adriatic coast in a convertible and slurp homemade spaghetti, he’d have been a fool to turn down the new series of Gino’s Italian Escape (ITV, 10 October, 8pm).
Like the best Italian food, the formula is simple. Each episode sees D’Acampo explore one of seven Italian regions famed for their hidden cultural and culinary gems.
First on the list was Abruzzo, one of the country’s most rural areas. In the town of Pescara, the chef watched the Minicucci family roll out strands of the local speciality, chitarra pasta. An effusive D’Acampo cried he “could taste the passion” in his mouth, before smothering a generous pile in lashings of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and rocket.
Then, after a quick stint fishing off traditional trabucco platforms in an Adriatic Sea rich with anchovies, sea bass and sea bream, the chef headed into the mountains. There he tucked into arrosticini, skewers of succulent lamb meat, which are a common snack for local farmers as they traipse the picturesque hills with their flocks of sheep and guard dogs.
Could D’Acampo improve on a classic? Marinating mutton in honey, fennel and fresh mint before sizzling the skewers on a grill, his attempt looked mouth-watering. And left me wondering why the Italian had ever neglected food at all.