Cooking

Tartufo Bianco

White truffles are a treasure from the Piedmont area of Italy. They are known for their therapeutic an aphrodisiac properties derived from the god Jupiter. In the Middle Ages, the discovery of white truffles was associated with the dance of witches. It was not until 1831 that the botanist Carlo Vittadini scientifically described and classified truffles in his book, Monographia tuberacearum. Alba is the best known city for these delicacies. Until you have eaten a white truffle you have not lived. No, you don’t eaten them by themselves but they are shaved or grated on eggs, pasta, risotto, meats, etc. They add flavor to a dish as a spice would. They are the second most expensive food in the world. Saffron is the most expensive by weight. Thank God you only need a small one and they do not weigh much.

To get one Fed Ex’ed to America will cost you around $100. They will last for a few days to a week at most. Italians use them on their dishes while they are fresh and store them in a jar full of risotto rice. The rice will eventually rob the truffle of its flavor. The good news is you now have a wonderful flavored rice to make risotto from.

Many countries, including America has tried to grow these wonders without much success. They grow like a mushroom on the roots of special Oak Trees. Since they are underground they are hard to find. Italians have used pigs to find them but pigs love them and usually win the fight. They now use special trained dogs to find them The dogs will not eat them leaving the farmer with his treasures.

Black truffles grow in more places and are the truffle used most in France. The white truffle is stronger and more of a treasure. To a person that has never tasted one, the smell is not a pleasant one. After you have eaten them the smell becomes an attraction. Don’t let your nose spoil a wonderful dish for you. Manga il tartufo bianco!

George

 

Categories: Alba, Cooking, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Truffles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pizza … Pizza

There is no denying it … Pizza is BIG in Italy! In the north you get different cheeses and prosciutto, in the south you have Naples style Margarita pizza. New York style thin crust is really Naples style pizza. Where we live in Campania, it is all about Naples style pizza. It is very thin, very tasty and they use buffalo mozzarella for the cheese. It is very delicious. They don’t usually sell it by the slice but in pies that are designed to be a large personal pizza.

Naples Pizza pizza

Neapolitan Pizza

Pizza in a real Italian restaurant is not sliced for you. You eat it with a fork (forchetta) and knife (coltello). Of course in Italy, you have your pizza with a good glass of red wine. Pizzas are typically done in fired ovens to make them crispy.

Jo Anne and I make pizza at home. It is the Neapolitan style of pizza but sometimes with different toppings. We use a pizza stone and an oven at 525 degrees F. The pizza crust gets crisper than in Italy but we like it that way. Pizza shouldn’t be loaded with cheese! I think we do that in America because the tastes are bland and cheese is a comfort food. In Italy you can actually taste the sauce and basil. You can even smell it as it is presented to you. It tastes so good you don’t want to over ride the flavors with too much cheese.

Mangia mangia…

George

 

Categories: Campania, Cooking, Europe, Food, Italy, Naples, Pizza, Southern Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International Cuisine … Really?

I once saw a show on Cyprus last night that was talking about all the international visitors that went there. It then said it had an international cuisine and showed McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut and several other American fast food chains. I have news for you, Fast Food is NOT cuisine! If you go to a foreign country and eat American Fast Food, you are missing out on the true gems of that country. Countries like Italy have unbelievably good food. It is NOT the same as Italian food in America. It is soooo much better. Go, see, experience and enjoy the food and wine.

American Fast Food

I know burgers are important to you but give them up for one vacation and give your taste buds a break. Taste real food made from fresh organic ingredients and prepared perfectly. Caution: DO NOT EAT IN TOURISTY PLACES! Instead seek out real local restaurants that have locals eating in them and enjoy a meal. Here are some food from Italy that will delight your taste buds.

George

 

Categories: Buffalo Mozzarella, Cooking, cornetto, Dolce, Europe, Fast Food, Food, General Travel, Italy, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Risotto, Sweets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Continuing to Love Italy

As the years went on and I spent more time in Italy, I fell more in love with the country, the people and the food. This was a very unique place. The Italians had figured out what everyone else was missing! Life was important. Yes they had to work but work was not driving them. Food, family and friends drove them. Life was to be lived and enjoyed. It was not about money or power but about social living.

Most areas of Italy have a custom of walking after the mid day meal. It is done with family or friends. The bar scene in Italy is a social setting to meet friends and discuss events of politics and sports. Italians are passionate about everything they do. You can see this passion in the way they talk with their hands moving. You will hear loud voices but seldom see real fights. It is passion.

Over the years I got to know Rome and north to the lakes very well. Most of my time was spent in Milan with a day trip or overnighter to another city. I got to see Italy in many different places. The food changed but was always fresh and delicious. In Italy it is not about the sauces or spices but about the taste of each item you are eating. A lot of thought went into how to prepare each item and which items can be placed on a plate together. Recipes are centuries old and passed down within the family.

I did not get to venture south of Rome until I met and married Jo Anne. That is when we developed a new awareness and love of southern Italy.

George

 

Categories: Bars, Cooking, Customs, Eating Italian, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food in Italy

Italy is known for its food but why is it different from Italian food in other countries? The main difference is it is:

  • Organic
  • Fresh
  • Simple
  • Tasteful
  • Prepared properly

Most countries have Italian restaurants. The pasta is usually prepared over cooked not al dente. The dishes mix many different ingredients and tastes. We associate certain dishes with Italian but they are not. Spaghetti and meatballs is in every restaurant in America but it is not Italian! Italians do not serve this (except in tourist restaurants to please tourists). They do serve spaghetti and later will serve meatballs but not together.

Just observe Italian life. It is simple and fresh. People in Italy do not buy frozen or prepared foods. They shop each day for that day or maybe the next. Vegetables and fruits are fresh out of the Earth, meats are organic and fresh from local farms, fish is just caught in the sea and breads and pastas are made fresh. This is what makes real Italian food so good and so different from what we expect.

When you go to Italy, order the local dishes and wine. Stop and taste the flavors. Eat slowly and enjoy each bite. Take a piece of crusty bread without butter or oil. Taste the freshness of the bread. Experience the crusty texture of the crust. This is eating Italian.

OK you like sweets. Taste the Italian pastry, gelato and candy. It is not as sweet as sweets in other countries. It is tasty. Enjoy what you eat slowly. Each bite is an experience. Avoid tourist restaurants and please do NOT eat American Fast Food in Italy! Your taste buds deserve to be treated to a real experience.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bread, Chocolate, Cooking, Dolce, Eating Italian, Europe, Fast Food, Food, Fruit, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Sweets, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Where to Eat in Italy

French wines are usually made to accompany food.

French wines are usually made to accompany food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People that have been to Italy often ask us what is the difference between the types of restaurants in Italy? It can be confusing so we give you this guide.

Italy has fantastic food everywhere. We even stopped at an “Auto Grill” on the autostrada (highway) and had a great espresso and pastry. Other times we will get a Panini at the Auto Grill. Not like our turnpike rest areas. In Italy there are several common types of places to eat and a few others in certain areas.

Types of Restaurants in Italy:

  1. Bar – A place to eat or drink. In the morning you go here for coffee and pastry, at lunch you go for sandwiches (Panini). In the evening you go for a drink and a snack. Many bars also serve gelato. Bars are cheapest if you stand and eat. Sitting at a table costs more but allows you to relax and observe Italy and its great people.
  2. Tratteria – these are small private owned eating cafes with great food at reasonable costs. Lunch and dinner are great. Usually Italian favorites as well as local dishes are served. The atmosphere is simple but comfortable. A version of these are Pizzeria Trattoria. These include pizzas along other dishes. Some have outside and inside seating available.
  3. Ristorante – These are for lunch or dinner and are nice but expensive. The atmosphere is classic and the food is great. You can also find Pizzeria Ristorante’s. The wine lists are more extensive and the atmosphere is more formal.
  4. Osteria  – These are places that usually serve wine and simple food with limited menus.
  5. Enotecca – Small wine bars that allow tasting local wines (for a charge) and serve small dishes or sandwiches or Tapas like foods. These are a great way to get to know local wines.
  6. Rotisserie – Small restaurants that specialize in roasting meats on a spit.
  7. Agritourism – Usually a farm-based establishment with a B&B type hotel and food grown or raised on their farm. They sometimes have stores to buy products and take home. One near our home in Italy has a vegetable and fruit market as well.

Pizza is everywhere! You can have it in Trattoria’s or Ristorante’s. The bread in Italy is great. It is crusty on the outside but soft or airy inside. Always stay away from touristy places serving hamburgers and hot dogs. The food won’t be good and prices will be high. Enjoy your trip, taste Italy’s great food & wines. Sit back and smile as you watch the Italians strolling with family at lunch time or in the evening. Lunch usually ranges from 12 noon to 3 pm (shorter in the north) and dinner from 6 pm (for tourists) to 11 pm. The south of Italy eats much later than the north. The south also serves more fish than the north. If you happen to be in the north of Italy in the fall, DO NOT MISS the truffles.

Remember Italy is the land of romance. Sit back and enjoy yourself. Stay away from the American Fast Food places. You are in Italy enjoy its great foods and wines. Save the fast food for when you get home. Do NOT go into eating establishments in Italy and be in a hurry! Use a bar if you have to eat fast. Good food takes time to prepare and serve properly.

George & Jo

Categories: Agriturismo, Auto Grills, Autostrada, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Cooking, Enoteca, Fast Food, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lombard Cooking

All over Italy you can find good Italian food but the north and the south differ in styles and foods. In the south we have what we think of as Italian Cooking. Red sauces, meatballs, pizza and lots of fish. In the north you have veal, white sauces, pizza and more meat. The north also has white truffles! These are a favorite of ours. Black truffles (Italy and France) are good but can’t stand next to a white truffle. They are rare, hard to get and expensive. second in cost only to saffron. Like saffron, you use it as a seasoning. So a small truffle goes a long way.

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba - Italy....

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba – Italy. photo by Simone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lombardy region of Italy is in the north and contains Milan, Largo Guarda and Largo Como. It contains the most people and has a diverse cooking style. Some of the foods known in this region are:

  1. Veal
  2. Risotto
  3. Polenta
  4. Cow’s milk cheeses
  5. White Truffles
  6. The bars have the best Panini in all of Italy at lunch time. They also have great pastries and coffee for breakfast.
  7. Great crusty bread
  8. Great Wines
  9. Chocolate and
  10. GELATO!

Most American’s think of this area as heavy creamy sauces but those are for the tourists. Milano has great pizzas, meat dishes, vegetables and cheeses. During the end of the year is truffle season and you can get fantastic pasta or veal with white truffles. These are expensive but worth a try. Milan is often overlooked as a tourist destination but We think it’s a great city. It is the fashion capital f the world. It has well dressed people and fashion is everywhere. Sit and try a pizza or a pasta. Visit the Duomo (cathedral), Galleria, and Opera House. Become a Milanese and enjoy life with a glass of wine. See the sales first in Milan. Walk the stores and enjoy the fashion. This is Milan.

Milan is also home to a great Leonardo Da Vinci museum, Duomo, the Opera House, the Galleria and the original Da Vinci’s Last Supper in the small church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Don’t miss these great attractions.

Last Supper Leonardp da vinci

George & Jo Ann

 

Categories: Bars, Bread, Coffee, Cooking, Duomo, Espresso, Europe, Food, Italy, Lakes of Italy, Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, Lombardy, Milan, Pastry, Risotto, Santa Maria delle Grazie, White Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lombard Region Cooking

The Lombardy region of Italy is in the north and contains Milan, Largo Guarda and Largo Como. It contains the most people and has a diverse cooking style. Some of the foods known in this region are:

  1. Veal
  2. Risotto
  3. Polenta
  4. Cow’s milk cheeses
  5. White Truffles

Most American’s think of this area as heavy creamy sauces but those are for the tourists. Milano has great pizzas, meat dishes, vegetables and cheeses. During the end of the year is truffle season and you can get fantastic pasta or veal with white truffles. These are expensive but worth a try. Milan is often overlooked as a tourist destination but I think it’s a great city. It is the fashion capital f the world. It has well dressed people and fashion is everywhere. Sit and try a pizza or a pasta. Visit the Duomo (cathedral), Galleria, and Opera House. Become a Milanese and enjoy life with a glass of wine.

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba - Italy....

Risotto with White Truffles from Alba – Italy. photo by Simone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The north & south go Italy are very different cultures and people. Both have a lot to offer. Enjoy your visit.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cooking, Duomo, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Lombardy, Milan, Truffles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ascea Beaches in Italy

Ascea is a beach town south of where we live in Campania. It has a long road along the beach with plenty of sandy beaches. It is a Blue Flag beach.

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These beaches have a gentle rolling surf and wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. You have two choices at these beaches:

  1. Free public area – Bring your own umbrella and chairs.
  2. Clubs – Pay and get umbrella, table and chase lounges

The clubs usually have free WiFi and music. You can also have a lunch at them. Lunch is not just sandwiches and pizza but swordfish, pasta and salads. You can also get beer, wine and prosecco with lunch or at your table on the beach. The food is wonderful and you have great views.

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On Thursdays the close a section of the beach road and set up vendor stalls for a market. This market is mostly clothes and kitchen ware.

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There is a train that stops here from Salerno, Naples and Rome. It continues south to Sicily.   When going to Ascea, don’t miss Velia and ancient Greek ruin. This was a huge seaside city in ancient times.

VELIA

This is the way to enjoy the beach Italian style. Enjoy!

Tomorrow we travel south along the coast to the seaport of Scario.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Ascea, Blue Flag Beaches, Campania, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Southern Italy, Trains, WiFi, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Casal Velina Marina in Campania

I have written about this wonderful seaport before but it needs new mention as we start to think Spring and Summer and maybe a trip to Italy. This small city is the sea port side of a town that has another side high in the mountains. The sea port is beautiful. Palm tree-lined walks, white sand beaches, gentile rolling waves and the warm Tyrrhenian Sea (Mediterranean Sea separated by islands).  This wonderful town has many boat docks with beautiful boats, a tower that used to watch for pirates. The bars along the sea are wonderful. Have your coffee and sweet roll in the morning or a Panini for lunch. Try the local mozzarella (Mozzarella di Bufalo).

There are wonderful open markets each Friday on the street. Here you can browse local vendors to see their products. Clothing, food and small home appliances are some of the things sold here. There are many restaurants that serve wonderful food. On the beach are clubs that rent you  chairs, umbrellas and table on the beach. They include music and free WiFi. This is life the way it should be. Picture yourself on the sand looking out at the sea, listening to some music while sipping a prosecco (Italian champagne). And no trip here is complete without a stop at Franco’s Bakery. Here you can taste wonderful Italian pastries fresh made. Take some back with you to your hotel. Gaetano, the owner, will help you select the best he has.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Beaches, Buffalo Mozzarella, Campania, Casal Velino, Champagne, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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