Either my carbohydrate high just ended or I’m profoundly depressed. Both are equally possible considering I spent the last three days in and around Vico Equense on the Bay of Naples eating up a storm. I headed down south for the 9th annual Festa a Vico and 1st annual Festa A’ Pizza. Both events bring together Italy’s best chefs (the former) and pizzaioli (the latter) to cook their iconic dishes by the sea.

On Monday night, Festa A Vico hosted “emerging chefs” at the Bikini beach club. Each chef prepared a dish at his or her respective table as hundreds of food professionals, journalists, and foodies grazed. Of the roughly 80 dishes, I only tasted about a dozen. Within 30 seconds of arriving at Bikini my demophobia kicked into overdrive and I retreated from the most crowded areas. Accordingly, most of what I tasted was consumed in an adrenaline-fueled blur. It took about an hour of staggering around aimlessly to finally get my bearings.

Thankfully, later in the evening, I noticed a table on the beach where the carcass of a massive tuna was being carved up by Japanese chefs. They prepared sushi and poured sake into little plastic cups. This scenario was roughly equivalent to my idea of paradise. I then preceded to overcompensate for missing so many of the emerging chefs’ dishes. Squishing the sand beneath my toes while doing so was an added bonus.

The absolute highlight, though, was yet to come. At the very end of the night Enzo Coccia of La Notizia prepared two types of pizza fritta, one with smoked cheese and anchovies and the other with mozzarella, tomato and basil. I’ll take fried dough over fine dining any day and I rolled out of Bikini a happy camper.

On Tuesday night, Hotel Le Axidie in Seiano hosted 65 of Italy’s top chefs. Once again, I didn’t handle the crowds well. Thankfully, Scatti di Gusto has summarized the participants and illustrate the results (in Italian) better than I can. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on fun food times in Vico, this time with a an eye on pizza.

Photo credit: Special thanks to John Regefalk of Caput Mundi Cibus for the second and third photo!