Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bella Vista...

Guests staying at Villa Rocchetta took this photo a few nights ago.

Can you imagine spending a week with that view each day/night???

Calamari and Me,

Round Three!

Another simple and delicious recipe starring one of my favorite foods from the sea:

1/2 kilo of calamari (cleaned and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

250 grams of cooked cannellini beans

8-10 cherry tomatoes

1/2 red onion

3 springs of rosemary

1 garlic clove

teaspoon of salt

peperoncino to taste

olive oil

Mince the onion, rosemary and garlic together.

Add the mixture, olive oil, salt and peperoncino to a sauté pan. Let them heat and simmer for about 2 minute. Add the calamari pieces and coat well. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes and simmer another 2 minutes. Add the beans and stir, coating it all well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

And there you have it. Serve it with some good bread (or focaccia) to soak up the juices and you have a wonderful and healthy meal for two.

Buona Appetito!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Si Mangia Bene e Costa Poco

“Eat well and it doesn’t costs much.”

A sentence that used to be used much more than it is now in Italy. In fact, a part from the occasional pizza outing (which to me, never feels like an actual eating event) I had kind of forgotten about it. Until this past week. While working in Genova, I remembered someone mentioning to me a great little trattoria where you should forget any thoughts of style and ambience and concentrate on the food. Sounded good to me.

Upon a small “vicolo” off Via XXV aprile, I found “da Maria”. Upon entering, I was clearly the only “stanieri” and even more so, the only female blond AND eating alone. The place was filled with a mixture mostly of working people, from the simple operai to the elegant man in an Armani suit. The place is literally a “hole in the wall” - cavernous with lime green painted walls and florescent lights, sounds lovely huh?

I was “shoo-ed” up the stairs to a table with 5 men who all smiled at me with a total of maybe 10 teeth (between all of them). I smiled back, said “buongiorno” and then took my seat next to the dumb waiter shoot in which the waitresses seemed to be constantly yelling into (the cook’s name was definitely “Robby”). One of the waitresses handed my an almost illegible menu (a combination of the script and Genovese dialect) and immediately asked “Cosa vuoi”? I hadn’t gotten passed translating the first dish on the antipasto section. She wasn’t going to wait though, so I quickly eyed the word pest and thought “when in Rome” and ordered it.

My pesto plate arrived within 5 minutes (I was already thinking doesn’t it take longer for the past to cook?). A thick mound of green, just about the same color as the walls, on top of a bountiful supply of trenette. Honestly it didn’t not look like pesto I was used to but rather thick like peanut butter. I realized the entire table of toothless men were staring at me so I started swirling the pesto into the pasta. “Buon appetito” they said in unison. I said it back and then got back to my somewhat strange pesto. But as I swirled, the pesto seems to melt into the trenette and suddenly it looked absolutely delectable. I took a bit and there it was. Perfect pesto. Living in Liguria for the past 6 years, I have become a quasi-consessieur, or so I like to believe, but this was without a doubt the most tasteful and un-oily pesto I have ever eaten. Had the waitress not whisked my plate away upon setting down my fork, I might have tried to lick the plate!

Again “cosa vuoi” for my second plate came before I even got a chance to see the menu again, so I had no clue what there was. I had seen a plate of acciuge ripieni (stuffed anchovies) pass me by, so I went for it. Again, less than five minutes and this glorious plate was placed in front of me. And again, I was introduced to a whole other world of anchovies. While the restaurants of Le Cinque Terre may claim to have the best anchovies and make the best anchovy dishes, they could take lesson or two from “Robby” down the dumb-waiter shoot. These were divine! (Oh, and the toothless men stared at me in approval as I devour ever last morsel.)

I was tempted to try the house dessert, not knowing what the heck it even was, but I was full and more the satisfied. I decided not to ruin this gastronomic moment by becoming "troppo sazia” and settled on a caffè (which was also good).

Following suit from the others, I headed downstairs to pay my bill by the verbal honor system they had (nothing written and you just tell them what you ate):

1 primo (the pasta with pesto)

1 secondo (the anchovies)

1 acqua

A quartino of wine


10 euro...

10 EURO!

I cannot remember the last time I ate in a restaurant for 10 euro (don’t even know if I ever have) and a phenomenal meal at that.

Si Mangia Bene e Costa Poco really does exist still!

Trattoria da Maria

Vico Testadoro 14r (off Via XXV Aprile)

Tel: 010/581080

no reservations taken for groups under 15

Open for lunch Monday-Saturday and

dinner on Thursday and Friday

Friday, March 12, 2010

Gratitude Friday:

My Very Own Real, Live “Palush”

(Stuffed Animal)

She wakes me up most morning and keeps me company throughout the day. It’s hard work! So I make sure to put her to bed every night and give her a head massage to make her sleep. How can I resist?!

Buon weekend!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Craving Calamari - Part 2

You know I love it. And now I’m back with another very simple yet delicious way to prepare calamari.

Calamari for Two

2 large carrot

2 large celery sticks

2 small white onions

1 pound (or a bit more) of calamari (preferably the body chopped up instead of rings)

peperoncino (red pepper flakes) to taste

salt to taste

olive oil

1/2 cup of white wine

Chop up the vegetables ingredients (also peel the carrot first). Heat up at medium-high a large sauce pan with olive oil, peperoncino (or even a good spicy salsa) and a little salt (about 1 minute). Add all the vegetables and stir , so that get well coated (about 2-3 minutes). Add the calamari pieces and stir also coated them (about 2-3 minutes). Then add the white wine and stir a bit more.

Turn down the heat to medium-low (more than a simmering pace) and cover for about 5 minutes, checking and stirring every once in a while.

The whole process should not take more than 10 minutes. And you have is:

Can it get any easier than this?!

Buon Appetito!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Another Sunny Sunday

Not much to report except to say

it was sunny and very cold

Not exactly springtime yet.

But there was a touch of it in the air.

And so much beauty to enjoy.

Buona settimana.

A colorful carruggio in Vezzano Ligure

San Terenzo
(home sweet home)

The snow & marble-capped mountains of Carrara
from Bocca di Magra

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fabulous Rental Series:

Beauty and Peace Amongst the Vineyards

in Chianti

I am thrilled to announce that I am officially opening a new division of my company called Bella Vita Italia Rentals. There will be about 25-30 wonderful properties to choose from located in the Italian Riviera, Chianti, the Lucca hills, Forte dei Marmi and the Maremma (Tuscan coast).

I thought I would introduce you to one of my newest properties, Villa Rupoli, which I think is very special and perfect for anyone looking for that “Under the Tuscan Sun” experience! Here it goes...

Just a few kilometers outside of the charming hill town of Panzano, Villa Rupoli is a gorgeous home with private pool, situated upon landscaped grounds with several terraces and gardens, and panoramic views of Chianti countryside. The villa is about 350 m² and was restored to a very high standard using top-quality, local materials.

On the ground floor you will find a fully equipped kitchen, spacious and bright dining room which opens to the large living room with Tuscan fire place and the panoramic terrace, a studio, a sitting room with fire place, one full bathroom with shower plus a laundry and storage room (separate entrance).

On the 1st floor, there are 3 air-conditioned bedrooms and two bathrooms (one of the bedrooms has an en-suite bathroom).

Below, on the garden/terrace level, there is another kitchen leading out to a beautiful garden with covered terrace and lovely views for dining al fresco, plus a storage room and full bathroom with shower.

One level below, you will find the infinity swimming pool strategically positioned to appreciate the surrounding vistas, offering the perfect place for sunning and relaxation.

The property is approached by a private gravel road through woodland and vines.

Amenities included: daily cleaning service 3 hours a day, towels changes 3 times a week, bed linens changed twice a week, cold welcome dinner, ingredients for the first breakfast, satellite TV, Internet, air conditioning & final cleaning included in rental price.

You can read all about Villa Rupoli and see more photos on my web site (FYI - new, fancy web site coming later this year!).

Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

What a weekend in sports, worldwide. I finally watched my first rugby game in full (Italy vs. Scotland) and then was able to finally see one entire olympic competition (thanks NBC for being such “jack as*es” about what could be viewed and when overseas!), the gold/silver hockey game between the US and Canada. Both left me impressed, proud and pleasantly surprised.

A friend my mine (you know who you are) explained to be that while it may look rough (understatement), rugby is actually a very gentleman-like game. So I did my best to not close my eyes when a swarm of giants without padding/protection tackled the giant with the ball. If you could get pass the distorted faces and crunched bodies, you actually discover the game is a bit of a dance. And while the players rip, tear, push, prod, attack, the game is played with very precise and understood rules, that the teams seem to follow! Besides that, everyone claps at everything. It’s almost joyous to watch. Frightening.

The final hockey game was just epic. Two outstanding teams who played their hearts out. One had to win but there were no losers in this battle. In fact, there were three winners. The two teams and the sea of red (Canadians that is) who cheered on not only their home team but embraced their adversaries (the US that is) with a standing ovation of respect and class.

Back here on Italian soil, the 26th week of series A soccer was played. And as usual, there were “dramatic” (I use that word lightly) battles between the top few teams trying to make their way into the European league tournament or to capture the “Scudeto”. But it was business as usual: arrogant coaches talking their Svengali best (since when does a coach win the game instead of the players?), players taking low blows at other players (I do not understand why more are not reprimanded...oh wait, the referees are sometimes paid off), players on the same team bickering in the middle of the game (now that’s cohesiveness), ultra fans lighting parts of the stadium on fire - and nothing changes week after week. Inter is still numero uno and chances of anyone surpassing them is slim to none. Juve still sucks, even if there are “my” team. And Francesco Totti is more entertaining in his Vodafone commercials than on the field.

All those pretty boys of calcio and their ridiculous “tifosi” could take a lesson in class from the beast like players and fans of rugby and hockey. Seriously, who really is the beauty and who is the beast?