Monday, February 25, 2008

Pasta with Calamari

This was Saturday's lunch.  I really enjoy making up new dishes based on ideas and other recipes I've collected from my mother in law and friends.  Thank God, Luigi is will to be my guinea pig!  But really, it is super simple and super tasty...

Spaghetti integrale (whole wheat) or pasta of your choice
6-8 calamari,  cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
8-10 pomodorini (cherry tomatoes), cut in half or quarters
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
Handful of prezzemolo (italian parsley)
1/2 of a cipolle (red onion)
2 cloves of garlic
peperoncino (chili pepper flakes) and salt to taste
white wine

Boil the water and then add pasta.  I prepare everything as the water is coming to a boil and then actually do the saute part while the pasta is cooking.

Finely chop the parsley, onion and garlic together (I use a mezzaluna knife as I find it chops better than any knife, is safer and makes your body do a dance!) and place in a pan.  

Add the olive oil, peperoncino and salt to taste (we like it spicy!).   Place it over a medium to high flame and let sizzle for about 2-3 minutes.  

Add in the calamari making sure it gets well coated with the sauce.  Saute for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes by first squeezing them and then dropping them in the pan.  

Add a little white wine (maybe 1/3 cup).  Stir a bit and then let sizzle another 2 minutes, turn off the heat and cover.

Drain the pasta and place in serving bowl.  Add the calamari and sauce and stir well.  There you have a delicious and healthy pasta dish for 3-4 people.

By the way, the calamari can be replaced with shrimp which usually needs about 2 more minutes of saute time.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Venice - The Annual Pilgrimage

We make a “business & pleasure” trip to Venice once a year. The truth is despite the work part it is always a pleasure to visit Venice. It is the most unique and one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I have a love affair with the architecture. The buildings are grand and decorative and you can just imagine the Venetian nobility frolicking around them in their 16th ball gowns and white wigs.

I have a few helpful (and biased tips) on visiting the city...

Most people who visit Venice are inclined to stay in the San Marco area. My reaction to that is “nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there”. The second you across over the Rialto or from Cannaregio, you enter into the land of crowds, high priced & low quality restaurants, fake Gucci bags on every corner and the part of Venice that can seem like Disneyland. Of course seeing Piazza San Marco & the Doge’s Palace is at top of my list as well. I just think that staying in one of the other neighborhoods gives you a better sense of real life Venice and often for considerably less.

There are some really lovely B&B/locanda lodgings worth mentioning.

Ca’ Gottardi in Cannaregio
Ca’Angeli in San Polo
Pensione La Calcina in Dorsoduro

Food is Venice is actually VERY good, if you know where to go. Here are a few of my favorites:

* Pizzeria & Trattoria Antico Panifico – San Polo 945/A/B, Tel: 041 277 09 67
* La Patatina – San Polo 2741/A (at the San Polo bridge), Tel: 041 523 7238
* Bancogiro – Campo San Giamometto, Santa Croce 122, Tel: 041 523 2061
* Alla Vedova - Calle del Pistor, Cannaregio 3912, Tel: 041 528 5324

The Venetian drink is the Spritz (possibly my favorite aperitivo) made with white wine, soda and either aperol (my preferred) or campari - and “dressed” with an orange wedge and olive. In Campo San Giacometto, near the Rialto Bridge, you will find several different bacari (bars/watering holes) catering to “happy hour” serving this fine concoction and other libations along with some cicchetti (snacks) including:

* Nazaria
* Al Marca (just a closet on the street serving damn fine drinks!)
* Ancora
* Osteria Bancogiro

Beyond the obvious “must do’s & see’s, you might want to meet up with my friend,
Nan McElroy, who is an American turned Venetian resident running a nice “orientation service” on the city (and believe me, even the well traveled could use this service in a city like Venice) and can suggest/ provide some unique tours & excursions. She has also written a nifty little book called “Italy: Instructions for Use” that best sums up just about everything you need to know for traveling in this country...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Expat Countdown Meme

Ok, I have to first admit, I have no idea what a “meme” is...but I am following in the footsteps of my fellow fabulous bloggers,
Bleeding Espresso and Cherrye in Calabria, with my list:

Name 5 things you love in your new country:

1. It’s natural, architectural, and even historical beauty
2. How many interesting places you visit in such a short distance
3. Il vino (Vermentino to Morellino di Scansano, just yummy)
4. The beautiful sea & secret coves near my home (see photo below!)
5. My husband (he counts, right?!)

Name 4 things that you miss from your native country:

1. Family & friends, just like everyone else
2. One stop shopping at Target
3. Mexican & Thai food
4. Gyms opening early in the AM

Name 3 things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:

1. Lines at the Post Office
2. Not enough places open all day or Sundays (still bugs me 4 1/2 years later)
3. Way too many “post-game” soccer shows (and I love soccer!)

Name 2 things that surprise you (or have surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:

1. How difficult it has been to get to know Italian women as friends - you nailed it Bleeding Espresso!
2. How decent the medical system has been, at least in my own personal experiences

Name 1 thing that you would terribly miss in your new country, if you had to leave it:

1. Considering this would never happen without Lui (who would be the natural #1), I would have to say it’s just the feeling I wake up with every morning knowing this is my home now and that I learn more about it each day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Charming Camogli

This past weekend, Lui and I headed up to Camogli for a little “research”. This medieval fishing village is perched on a steep hill leading down into the Liguria Sea with fantastic views of the Portofino pennisula and Genova in the distance. The colorful, tromp l'oeil frescoed buildings dramatically rise from the small beach and harbor, looking as if they could fall forward and into the sea at any minute.  Camogli reminds me much of Portovenere (as you all know my favorite) and IMO is prettier than Portofino without the pretense.

It's easily reachable too, located on the main train line between Genova and La Spezia.  In fact, it's a great base for visiting the region especially Genova, Portofino, Santa Margherita and even Le Cinque Terre.

Here are a couple of photos from "the dead of winter" (ha!)...

Monday, February 04, 2008

The “Less Discovered” Gem of Genova

When one mentions Genova, people often think of a big port city, too many apartment buildings flanking the autostrada and possibly pesto. It is gritty in parts, even ugly, but once you immerse yourself in the historical center and old port, you will find a city of many faces, beautiful buildings, incredible history and a wonderful alternative to the “Big Three” (Rome, Florence and Venice).

Lui and I have been spending more time there recently (thank you Fodor’s!) and have come up with a list of what to do & see:
  • Strada Nuova (aka Via Garibaldi) - IMO some of the most interesting and beautiful buildings in Italy exist on this pedestrian only street on the edge of centro storico.
  • Palazzo Reale & the National Gallery - Just the building alone is gorgeous and the art inside quite lovely too. There is a nice view of the old port from the back garden as well.
  • La Maddelena (centro storico) - It doesn’t get more real Italian than this, where business men in Armani suits, butcher and prostitutes (yeah, you read right!) intermix in everyday life along these narrow alleyways.
  • San Lorenzo - Over 1000 years old, this grey & white marble striped gothic chiurch is the city’s main cathedral.
  • Palazzo Ducale - The Duke’s Palace was restored several years ago and has some of the most beautiful frescos in Liguria.
  • Via XX settembre - A shopper’s paradise: everything from Zara to H&M to Max Mara under beautifully decorated “portici” (loggias).  Dare I say, I am starting to prefer Genova over Florence for my every once in awhile shopping sprees?!
  • Chris’ house - You can actually visit the little home where Columbus was born.
  • Mercato Orientale - Sensory overload of sights, tastes and smells in this wonderful market filled with stalls of produce, fish, meats and spices.
  • The Port - Great place for kids and adults alike. Explore an old pirate ship, visit the world class aquarium or take a ferry boat out to view the city by sea.

A word on the food and where to eat. Pesto is king here but other wonderful dishes can be found as well. The thing is in Genova, it’s not about the “name” because just about every “mom and pop” trattoria is going to serve you a gastronomic delight. Be bold and enter where your nose takes you. But if you need a little coaxing, here are a few places to keep in mind:

Maxela - Vico Inferiore del Ferro 9/r
Tel: 010 2474209

Enoteca Sola - Via C. Barabino 120/r
Tel: 010 594513

Bakari - Vico del Fieno 16/r
Tel: 010/291936

Hope you can make a visit soon...

A dopo!