World-Class Cycling Just Outside My Door

It’s not everyday that you have some of the world’s best athletes passing literally RIGHT in front of your house.

UCI Road World Championships come to Tuscany

UCI Road World Championships come to Tuscany

It’s almost time for the first test race to start from Pistoia, and when they do they’ll be heading directly down via Statale, the road that connects Pistoia with Florence which happens to be the one I live on.

This is a huge even for Tuscany and preparations have been in the works for months, with one of the biggest benefits (albiet quite annoying in the few days they were doing road work) is our nice, pristine streets.

Via Statale is no stranger to cycling races. We usually get 5 or 6 a year running along it.

Via Statale is no stranger to cycling races. We usually get 5 or 6 a year running along

Of course, the thousands of yellow signs alerting of the road closures that will be in effect for the next week has a lot of people groaning. I’ve even heard that people are calling off work for  a week because it will be impossible for them to get there. But, while I’m not incredibly passionate for the sport, I’m really excited that such a huge event will be take place right here! I also like the fact that it’s bringing in some extra money for local businesses, which is more welcome than ever right now.

Just down the road there’s a little cycling village set up with tents from local vendors and a few restaurants to celebrate the event coming to Seano. And while the whole parking my car a long distance from the house and the road closures are a bit annoying, I’m just going to sit back, relax on my balcony and cheer on Italia and USA with a glass of wine in hand!

Here’s the promotional video for the event:

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What I’ve learned from Italy: Eating Local

One of the things I  admire most about Italians is how connected they are to their land. It’s a benefit of living in the same area for thousands of years. They’ve become intimately familiar with of the flora and fauna of their area and reap the benefits, which is what makes Italian food so special. Every area has its own signature piatti (dishes) and they’re very prudent about eating products that are connected to the area they find themselves (and the fact that my father-in-law has been preaching about this to me ever since I set foot here has had it’s impact). For example, in the mountains you’d expect to eat mushrooms and wild game while along the seaside it’s unthinkable to eat anything but seafood. I can still remember when, in Las Vegas, Fabio and two of his Italian friends  were honestly horrified by seeing a plate of seafood advertized on a poster for an Italian restaurant (to add insult to their injury, it was a Tuscan restaurant). Si manga pesce qui?! (They eat fish out here?!) Until that moment I had never even thought about the fact that eating seafood in the middle of the desert was kinda weird. I know, especially with Las Vegas, there are planes full of fresh products arriving in that arid land every day to feed the demand of the five-star restaurants etc, but it did make me pause and think.

I believe The United States has reached the maximum-limit on it’s convient/packaged/processed food culture, and the pendulum, even if ever-so-slightly, is slowly starting to swing the other way. I know I’ve been living over here for roughly the past 6 years, but just reading this article, titled Childhood Obesity Leveling Off? New Study Suggest Kids Engaging in Healthier Behavior, ” (link below) published yesterday,  gives me hope. Hearing about the crazy/obsessive foodies is actually encouraging. The way I see it, a food snob is the best kind of snob, because what better thing to be picky about than what goes into your body? (for a laugh…check out this Portlandia clip… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErRHJlE4PGI)

we all know it's 'as American as apple pie' but apples don't grow in all 50 states!

we all know it’s ‘as American as apple pie’ but apples don’t grow in all 50 states

When you think about it, it makes sense that as Americans, we’d be more apt to stray from what people in Italy would call ‘normal food’ (aka simple, local, fresh). We’re a nation that expanded so rapidly and moves around so often we often have little/no connection to the tradition and agriculture of the area we live. Obviously there are exceptions, the Creole cuisine of the south really stands out, and local bar-be-que recipes (including my hometown’s Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip) are always popular. But as a whole, we seem to be a bit homogenized in terms of our diet.

This is a stark contrast to Italy, where the recipe for ragu changes every 50 miles and often eating in another region is like eating in another country. You rarely find the same things on the menu in Tuscany that you would in, say, Lazio (the region of Rome).  Italy also has a huge advantage on the US: Italy, is about the size of California (although a little smaller) and is blessed with a climate that allows for a bounty of fruits and vegetables to be grown all year. It’s also pretty much completely surrounded by the Mediterranean, so a beach, in general, is never more than 2 hours away which means a lot of fresh fish. And there’s the one, shining star of the Mediterranean diet that we’re slowly catching on to but don’t have a lot of people producing locally: olive oil. In Italy this stuff is liquid gold. It’s life! It’s the most important element in their diet. In fact, since I’ve step up shop here, I’ve only used butter for baked goods and I haven’t missed it a bit. It’s a direct substitution here, and the benefits of consuming raw olive oil are endless.

taken during a visit to our local 'frantoio' (olive press) yes, fresh oil oil is green and you can't get much fresher than this!

taken during a visit to our local ‘frantoio’ (olive press) yes, fresh oil oil is green and you can’t get much fresher than this!

The reason I’ve been so taken by this culinary practice is, along with the health of our citizens, it also has a link to the health of our planet. The carbon impact of shipping food from one part of the country (or world) to the other is astounding. And while there is generally more carbon output associated with the production of the produce, I think, with awareness and correct labeling, the US can easily help reduce this impact and help take that carbon impact down. When we’re in a moment in time where every bit helps, and no act is too small.

I do realize that, growing up in California, this is much easier than, say, growing up in Wisconsin, when in the winter, there aren’t may fresh-food options. Obviously there are acceptions to be made. But investing and promoting local products helps your community and gives everyone a sense of pride to where they come from. When I was a kid I always went to the local Strawberry festivals, both in Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria. These are similar in style to the Italian sagra (food festival) that highlight local specialities. Events in both countries rely and are made up of community participation and pride, which you can never have enough of.

In Italy, there’s also the rule of mangiare con le stagioni (eating with the seasons) that is strictly adhered to, as I mention in my Ricette Italiane: Panzanella post. The idea of eating fresh tomatoes in January is considered absurd for most, because tomatoes don’t grow here in January, so they’re exported and therefore not acceptable  (to be honest Italians think their tomatoes are the best, so it’s also a pride thing). Of course, in these days, there is always food available out of season, but where everything comes from is clearly labeled so, as a consumer, you can make an informed choice.

a photo of the apples on display at my local store, Nuova Zealandia = New Zealand = no bueno for me

a photo of the apples on display at my local store, Nuova Zealandia = New Zealand = no bueno for me

For me it’s all connected. When you eat something grown locally, you not only get the benefit of knowing where it came from, you also feel more connected to where you live, and you’re also doing mother nature a solid. It’s a win-win-win!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/childhood-obesity-kids-healthier-_n_3922637.html

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What I love about Italy: wild mushroom hunting

Just around the beginning of September (or more specifically, after the first soaking rain at the end of the summer) there’s a tangible excitement in the air. Old men poke their heads out to observe the sky and note the wind, they  gather in bars and talk amongst each other in hushed voices. They know the fungi (fhun-gee, mushrooms) are on their way. My Fabio is one of them.

love (or should I say spores) are in the air! It's fungi season!

love (or should I say spores) are in the air! It’s fungi season!

My husband’s family have always been big mushroom lovers. It’s a tradition passed down from generation to generation (his grandmother was especially adept at finding them), as are the closely-held, secret locations where they go to forage.  These locations are so highly protected that, say, you brought a friend along one year to your ‘spot’ to go foraging together: if you learn that said friend returned to your spot without bringing you along, it’s considered the ultimate betrayal and the friendship might be over. This is especially true with the coveted porcini mushroom, where, as my father-in-law once put it “going back to someone else’s spot without him is like sleeping with his wife.” So yea, you get the idea!

Along with the location, the knowledge of where and when to find different varieties is also passed down carefully from father to son (or in my case, to the American daughter-in-law). I don’t pretend to know a lot. Honestly, in the beginning I was a bit scared about the whole ordeal. One of the first books I remember reading over and over again was Babar the Elephant. Remember him? The cute little elephant whose dad died eating wild mushrooms?!

you can see why I'd be a bit weary about the whole thing...

you can see why I’d be a bit weary about the whole thing…

But, thankfully, close attention is always paid when identifying mushrooms, and a skilled hunter knows all varieties, the edible and the poisonous.

When harvesting, there are some rules to be followed. You must gather your mushrooms in a wicker basket, that way the spaces in the bottom allow spores to fall out, thus ‘spreading their seed’ around so you’ll have more to hunt next year. Second, you must cut the mushroom towards the base of the stem with a pairing knife, leaving the root the mushroom intact allowing it to produce more in the future. These old secrets are beautiful in that they are made so there is a harmony with nature. Man takes, but he also makes sure to leave a little for next year. This approach to food, as well as the symbiotic way of thinking in relation to nature is so incredibly important but, unfortunately, for most of us in the U.S. is completely foreign.

Fabio and his dad, my mushroom guys

Fabio and his dad, my mushroom guys

This last weekend, we went in search of pinaroli. These are orange-ish mushrooms with a thin stem and a wide-brownish-orange cap that tend to grow under pine trees. It’s a bit too early for porcini, which grow under the prized chestnut tree, but give us a few more days of rain followed by a few sunny days and we may be in business.

We headed up to the Appennine mountains, above Pistoia, to our traditional hunting grounds. Along the way we passed many a-car on the side of the road, a tell-tale sign of the season. Also, you see many man (usually aged 60+ wearing camouflage hanging outside of mountain bars). Fabio, being the crafty one that he is, sometimes goes into those bars and orders a coffee just to eavesdrop of their conversation to find out what kinds of mushrooms they’re finding. He’s resorted to espionage he’s so crazy about it!

not a bad place to spend a Saturday morning

not a bad place to be on a Saturday morning

I usually don’t participate in the actual picking, I kinda like tromping around looking for them and then letting Fabio know where they are. We always take our dog with us so she can get to romp in the fresh, mountain air and we all have a pretty great time. Since we generally start in the early morning, by lunch we’re readying to come back down the mountain and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

We typically eat them as a sauce for pasta or grilled with olive oil, garlic and parsley. There are many different types of sauces you can prepare, but my favorite is with rosemary, garlic, and some white wine (I’ll post the recipe the next time we make it, preferably with porcini).

I have to say, because these guys are wild, the effect on the digestive system can be…shall we say… explosive. Especially the first taste of the season, so I usually have to kinda go easy on them.

Obviously, I can’t recommend anyone going out there and trying this themselves without any experience because that can be really dangerous. As I mentioned before, careful attention must be paid, as some poisonous varieties are very similar in appearance to those that are edible. I remember seeing a story on the local news last year about a family who had somehow come across some bad batch and everyone but the youngest boy, who didn’t like mushrooms, tragically died.

This highlights the importance of the wisdom passed down from the old-timers. They know the land more intimately than anyone, and if the information they have dies with them, then this culture that we know and love will slowly fade as well. And I have to say, I didn’t see anyone out last Saturday, with the acception of Fabio and myself, who were under 50 (and I was definitely the only girl).

Word on the street is that there are porcini varieties to be found in California, and while I’m sure their locations are as secretly guarded as they are here in Italy, I’m determined to give my mushroom-crazy husband the opportunity to do what he loves in his new home.

not too shabby for the first trip of the season (mostly pinaroli with a few pratolini, the white ones, picked near our house)

not too shabby for the first trip of the season (mostly pinaroli with a few pratolini, the white ones, picked near our house)

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What I love about Tuscany: Schiacciata

Every week, my father-in-law makes a trip to his hometown of Signa (about a 15 minute drive) to make the rounds and say hello to old friends. I don’t remember the first time, when he brought back the so-fresh-it’s-still-warm bread back for me to try…but I do remember it was love at first bite! So now it’s a tradition, on his way home he always stops by to pick up two oily, delicious pieces of schiacciata one for me, one for him.

I’m a carb kid. I’d much rather eat a slice of fresh baked bread with butter (or now, olive oil) than chocolate any day. The good thing about Tuscany is that every town has at least one bakery, and along with the 1/2 kilo loaves of bread for the table, they alway have schiacciata on hand (or until they run out, which they usually do, so best get here before 10). I’ve savored many a slice, and while they’re always delicious, this place is the BEST!

as Homer would say..."aaaaaggaaaahhhaaaaa"

as Homer would say…”aaaaaggaaaahhhaaaaa”

Schiacciata (pronounced ski-a-cha-ta) is a very loose term for flat bread, and everywhere else in Italy, it’s known as focaccia. The varieties are endless. The most basic form is just the bread with olive oil, but walk into any pizza a taglio (pizza by-the-slice) shop and they usually have an assortment of toppings, ranging from potatoes to onions as well as little sandwiches. There’s also different heights.  At a restaurant, a typical schiacciata is basically thin-crust pizza, where as at a bakery they’re usually at least an inch thick.

‘My’ schiacciata is a little less than an inch thick, with a hard, slightly oily, salty crust on the top, a thin layer of soft bread and then the bottom is hard usually dusted in flower. It’s heaven. I usually just eat it as is, because why mess with perfection? But I didn’t have any bread in the house today and I was in desperate need of a sandwich. Let’s just say the bread plus the tuna, tomatoes, pearl onions an avocado (which are sadly, nothing like those from California) made for, dare I say…a near-perfect panini!

lunch!

lunch!

Of course, now, I get all these pangs, realizing that soon this will all be very far away. Obviously, we’ll be back to visit, and a safe bet is that my father-and-law and I will pick up the tradition where we left of.

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Ricette Italiane: Panzanella

The great thing about Italian food is it’s EASY! There’s usually less than 5 ingredients (not including salt, pepper and olive oil which are kind of a given for everything) and there’s not a lot of fancy-shmancy technique!

One thing that was new for me in Italy were seasons! It’s been wonderful to experience a true fall, winter and spring (although, in my opinion, we could skip summer). It was also great to discover that foods change with the seasons. Now at most supermarkets, just like in the US, you can find bananas, apples and oranges all throughout the year, but go to a pizzeria in the middle of winter and you ask for basil on your pizza, you’re s.o.l.! It’s not in season, it’s not fresh, therefore, it’s not available. What a concept! To go from everything always being available any day of the year to actually being denied something because it wasn’t ‘in season’ was something I immediately loved and admired. It’s something I’ve fully adopted (it’s easy to do here) and fully plan to stick to on my return to California (where, thankfully, this is easily adaptable).

our basil plant

our basil plant

I made this a few days ago which, apparently, was the last hot day of the year because it feels like autumn is in full swing today!  But basil is still abondante and the one thing I like about the summer is the yummy, light food…so without further adieu… here’s how to make panzanella…

Prep Time: start to finish, max 20 minutes

Servings: this serves 2 if it’s a piatto unico (main dish) and 4 if it’s used as a contorno (side dish)

dairy-free, vegan friendly 

Ingredients:

*just off the bat…Italians eyeball EVERYTHING, so don’t worry about having precise measurements, just kinda throw everything in (maybe under-do it) and then adjust according to taste -obviously going light on the salt and oil until the end.

   here is what you start with-I ended up using about 5 more tomatoes of the same size 

photo (11)

one baguette, stale (actually that’s why I made this the other day- completely forgot to use it while it was fresh)

half a cumcumber, thinly sliced-you can remove the skin if you’d like

half an onion, finely diced, preferably tropea if you can get your hands on them (they are these amazing sweet, mild onions that come from Calabria-the toe of Italy- that you can eat raw no problem…I’m kind of obsessed…please tell me they have them-or at least sell the seeds in California)! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropea#Tropea_onions

3 cups worth of chopped heirloom tomatoes (whatever kind you’d like)

3-4 fresh basil leaves 

~1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (again, eyeballing is key)

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Step one: soak the bread in water (just submerged) for about 10 minutes. Some prefer 15, but I don’t like it to get too soggy. Squeeze out all remaining water from bread and put the ‘mush’ you’ve created in a bowl. *I’ve seen my friend Megan use dried bread/croutons instead and it came out just as good.

mushy, stale bread (I swear this recipe is gets good)!

mushy, stale bread (I swear this recipe is gets good)!

Step Two: chop/slice up your cucumber, onion, tomatoes and basil leaves and add to the bread. *A huge time-saver is using a mandolin on the onion and cucumber-it’s my go-to kitchen tool!

my little helper

my little helper

Step Three: Dress the salad with the olive oil and red wine vinegar, add the salt and peper and you’re ready to eat! You can always stick it in the fridge for an hour to make sure it’s nice and cool!(see…told you it was easy!)

best on a hot day, it doesn't save well...but that's never an issue for me! ;)

best on a hot day, it doesn’t save well…but that’s never an issue for me! 😉

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Filing on behalf of my alien (an unfinished green card story)…

Since the day Fabio and I finally decided to go ahead and start the paperwork for his green card (we’d be tossing the idea around lightly since early 2012), life has been pretty damn stressful and emotional.  Actually, it kind of feels like the last 3 years have more or less been like this, when I think about it…but that’s another post.

yep...this pretty much sums me up right now!

yep…this pretty much sums me up right now!

Even though the whole green card process is stressful, I am thankful that, if I do everything Immigration Services tells me to, I know things will work out. It’s a strange, almost surreal experience after dealing with what the Italian system puts you through. I’m so used to being 100% prepared but 100% uncertain as to whether I’ll be successful in getting what I need. There is limited/incomplete information about what to do, or you get completely different information out of two colleagues who work in the same office. Mind, I’m not trying to hate on Italy. Ask anyone from here and they’ll agree…I’ve never met anyone, in my roughly 6 years living here, that is satisfied with the bureaucratic system. There are a few bright spots, however, and I’m always happy to point them out! For example, our comune (pronounced: com un eh-kind of like something between a county and a city district) offers all anagraphic data i.e. birth and marriage certificates online. They are 100% official, verified by a bar code which acts as an ‘e-signature’ and the best part is you can print them straight from your home computer! If only everything could be this easy! Unfortunately, after applying for a marriage license (which took over a month and at one point I actually broke down and cried in front of a public official) and two visa applications/renewals with countless visits to the Questura (where all immigrant-stuff happens) I’ve been left traumatized. Just the thought of doing another lengthy procedure  makes me want to jump in the Arno!

We are lucky in the fact that I was able to file my petition (the I-130), for my alien spouse (yep, I definitely think we should change that wording, ahem) through the USCIS office located in Rome. This is only because I am a permanent resident in Italy. If I weren’t, I’d have to file, like everyone eles, at a lockbox (I think for most of the west it’s in Chicago) and wait much longer. It took me about a month to assemble all the necessary documents. I took my time because, after doing a lot of online research, I saw that it was very time consuming to fix any errors if you filed incorrectly, and while I could’ve probably gotten most of it done in a week, I knew I only wanted to do this once, per bene (well), also, it’s a pricey application fee (over 300 bucks) so we didn’t want to risk throwing that down the drain as well!

I think this whole experience has opened up a whole OCD part of my brain I didn’t know was there. I had no idea I could be so organized, thorough and, well, obsessive (just ask my poor friends and family, I’ve been kinda consumed). When assembling my packet, I wanted whoever opened it to cry because they were so relieved it was so nicely put together. I went on every website and read every official recommendation on how to send in the over 20 pages of documents. I even special-ordered these clips from a friend of mine who sells office supplies since they stated they were the preferred way to assemble all of the papers. I labeled every document at the bottom, from left to right, and put the check right smak dab in the front, so that was the first thing they’d see (because who are we kidding, that’s the most important thing, right?)!

my masterpiece...ah...so pretty

my masterpiece…ah…so pretty

So we sent that bad boy down to Rome on June 15th. I received an email from the USCIS on the 18th saying they had received the packet and that it would take them about 30-60 days to evaluate it, and that they’d notify me by mail once it had been reviewed. Exactly 32 days later I got an email saying that the packet had been approved! Our case was now going to be passed on to Naples, where they’d conduct the interview and we’d submit our petition for a visa (Rome is just to get in the door, basically).  Progress!!

Another difference for filing in Italy is that you get to skip a step. Normally, you have to send all of the documents needed for the second step before they schedule your interview because, if you’re missing something, they won’t proceed until they get it. On the one hand, it makes the process for us go a bit faster, on the other, you run the risk of traveling all the way to Naples (we’re going to have to spend 350 euro on just train tickets and a hotel for two nights) just to get denied because of one, lousy paper (for example). It’s not like you won’t get the visa, it’s just that they cannot give it to you unless they have everything. This is what has been nagging at me and causing me to loose sleep.

Thankfully, I’ve had wonderful help from the IV Unit (that’s the office that handles these kinds of things). They’ve always responded to every neurotic question, no matter how obscure. It has been so wonderful to actually be able to communicate with people who actually work there and know all the procedures! I’ve also had some great help from my friend’s dad, who I’ve unfortunately never met in person, but was incredibly generous and kind, calming all my crazy, obsessive worries. Thanks Mr. Jupe!! I owe you one!

bella Napoli...all I can say is Vesuvius better behave herself while we're down there! ;) That's the LAST thing I need!

bella Napoli…all I can say is Vesuvius better behave himself while we’re down there! That’s the LAST thing I need!

The crucial element in this whole process is your the financial sponsor in the US. Of course. Money again, but I get it. I had to do the same thing when getting my visa to live in Italy. They just want to make sure this new addition to the country won’t become a ward of the state, and I have no qualms with that. I am also very lucky, because my parents adore Fabio, like, I kind of think they might like him more than me! So asking them to fill out 8 pages of forms and send a ton of their tax info over here wasn’t a huge burden for them (they know what we’ve through the past few years and, of course, are over the moon about the idea of having us on that side of the world).

So the last several weeks have seen another wave of anal-retentive/obsessive-compulsive organizing/researching/stressing to make sure I have everything perfect for our interview. Once I was ready, I faxed a form called the DS230 down to Naples with a signed statement declaring that I had all necessary documents in my possession that were needed for the interview. The next business day, I had an email waiting for me…our interview had been scheduled for the first week in October!  When I saw it…Che emozione! (in Italian this usually means how exciting, but I think I’ll take the literal translation of ‘oh what emotions’ for this one). The gauntlet of emotions…the happy/sad, excited/scared , the worry… but thankfully, deep down under all the crazy is a steady, sure feeling. I know that no matter all the emotions or what other people think of our decision…I am sure we’re doing the right thing for our family. It’s kind of  like there’s an island of sanity surrounded by a sea of crazy.  It’s this gut instinct that both Fabio and I have, and it’s keeping us strong, resistant and determined.

aaand, a little humor to lighten the mood and end this post on a lighter note!

aaand, a little humor to lighten the mood and end this post on a brighter note!

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What I love about Italy: Dinners with Friends

One of the reasons Italy has been such a good fit for me is that its cultural, day to day lifestyle really allignes with what I’ve come to find to be priorities my in life. One of these things is spending quality time with friends, with no frills or fuss needed. Although I’ve experienced my share, I’ve never really liked ragging parties. I’ve always felt much more in my element at a lower-key dinner party/get-together setting (which would seem natural, seeing as I’m almost 30, but I’ve felt this way since I was 16)! There’s nothing I love more than sitting around a table with good company, eating, drinking and talking for hours. This also happens to be a very recession-friendly option for a weekend night, especially here in Italy where food cooked up by a friend can be as good or better than eating out (it helps to live in a country where being a foodie is part of your cultural identity)!

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this is a bit on the fancy side for a get-together with friends, but sometimes it’s nice to reap the benefits if your friends like to experiment in the kitchen (this is Fabio’s prune-stuffed pork loin with oven roasted potatoes)

So, needless to say, I’ve come to really look forward to every dinner we plan with friends. They are usually very casual where the person hosting cooks up at least two courses (antipast, primo and/or secondo) and the guest will usually provide the wine and dessert that is typically an assortment of cakes or pastries from the local pasticceria (bakery). The food is never pretentious or over the top, most of the time what’s served are very modest dishes with simple ingredients, usually one of their mama’s specialties (and sometimes, in the case of sauces, mama made it herself)!  Guests usually arrive around 8 o’clock and are usually sitting at the table with a drink in hand in less than 5 minutes. If there’s antipasti, it’s usually ready on the table when you arrive and there’s a con calma (take your time) progression through the courses. This, incidentally, causes you to typically end up eating more this way, but you let yourself off the hook because A), it’d be rude if you didn’t finish your plate and B), the food’s ususlly really good so even if you’re full you can make the sacrifice. Dessert is usually brought out at 10 along with the host’s collection of digestivi (grappa, sambuca, montenegro) which are said to aide digestion (could be true…could be another excuse to work juuust another drink into the day…either way, it’s a tradition I’m happy to take part in). The conversation continues late into the evening and usually by the time you’re getting up from the table to leave it’s after midnight. No fancy gimicks, no distractions (although  there is occasional briscola card-game tournament or karaoke sesh). Obviously, in the beginning, when I didn’t understand 90% what was being spoken around me, these evenings were tortuous and I’m sorry to say I dreaded them (the epitome of feeling along in a crowded room), but thankfully those days are behind me now that I can hold my own and join in the conversation. I always look forward to our next dinner.

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our pizzaiolo for the night, working two ovens at a time!

Last Wednesday we gathered on a friend’s patio to have a pizza-fest. My husband happens to be a pretty amazing cook (I’m no dummy, I know how to pick ‘um) and he happens to specialize in pizza making. For now his dad still makes the dough (the yeast-factor is very tricky and if something’s out of balance you can end up with major indigestion and no one wanting to sit next to you on the bus the next day) but Fabio handles the rest. For this particular evening, 24 fat little dough-balls were prepared as were an assortment of toppings for both the schiacciata (Tuscan for bruschetta) and the pizzas which included sausage, ham, sardines, mushrooms, onion, mozzarella di buffala, red bell peppers and hot peppers.  Our hosts Margherita and Enrico set up a perfect pizza-making-staging area near the table on the patio where Fabio continued to cook pizza split by everyone well into the evening (it’s okay, he loves it and he’s got the energy for it)! Dessert were these almost-too-beautiful-to-eat little cakes that ranged from lemon custard to tirramisu. I thought about taking a photo, but these little babies were gone before I could whip my iphone out!

All in all another great night with yummy food and awesome company!

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Margherita serves up a pizza “Margherita” (what a quinkidink)! It’s a pizza with red sauce, mozzarella di buffala and basil. This patriotic pizza (notice it’s colors?) was first cooked up in Naples in honor of the queen (you can guess what her name was).

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