first

May 3, 2018
paninigirl

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I Left My Heart In Calitri

countryside

It’s hard to describe this magical corner of Italy in words. Yes, it holds a special place in my heart since both my grandparents emigrated from here, but there’s more to it than that.

more poopies

Calitri is definitely off the beaten track and there’s no train service here so you either have to take a bus (which we did on our first visit thirteen years ago) or rent a car. You could certainly stay there without a car as all you really need in the way of shops is within walking distance, but then you would miss out on driving through the spectacular countryside, most often on roads where you might only pass one or two other vehicles.

ruin

castello

There’s the ancient castello (castle), which I’ve yet to visit-it’s only open limited hours on the weekend and for some reason every time I try to go, it’s closed. Definitely next year!

The town is known as “the Positano of the South” for its brightly colored homes which seem neatly stacked one over the other. There are walkways and stairs winding down from the top (where we stayed) to the very bottom and let me tell you it’s a hike to go all the way back up.

 

out of town view

I could wander around for hours admiring the doors (check out some photos here) in every color and size. It’s easy to get lost, but as long as you keep going in the same direction you’ll eventually get to where you’re going. One piece of advice-don’t head down to a restaurant located at the very bottom (when you’re starving) unless you’re sure it’s open…

red doors

The views are amazing, especially from the top of town-green rolling hills as far as the eye can see and an ancient volcano (Mt. Vulture) off in the  distance. How I loved waking up to this vista every single morning.

window view

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from balcony

In 1980 an earthquake struck this part of the Campania region and although Calitri was affected, it was not nearly as severe as in other towns in the area. Much of the borgo did experience some structural damage and at the time many residents took the opportunity to move to the newer housing that was built just outside the older section. There is restoration ongoing in the borgo and it seems that there are variety of houses for sale. It’s tempting to consider buying a small place that we could call our own.

new

town view

What is it that we love about Calitri? Well at this time of year there are virtually no tourists and I’m not sure that there are ever very many travelers that venture here.  It’s a real slice of life in an Italian village. Mornings start with a coffee and a pastry. At any time of day you’ll see small groups of older gentlemen sitting on benches or standing outside a bar discussing who knows what! You go to the market for your vegetables, another for chicken and yet another for meat. Shops close up in the middle of the day and reopen around 4. Sunday lunches are family affairs and if you want to dine in a restaurant you must have a reservation. And did I mention how quiet it is here…

passeggiata

And let’s not forget one the highlights of the week-the evening passeggiata where they even close down the main street and everyone is out strolling and chatting. I have to admit that we sort of stuck out as we weren’t dressed entirely in black, but I’m fairly certain that they already knew we were stranieri (foreigners).

from below

Arrivederci Calitri, we’ll be back.

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April 24, 2018
paninigirl

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With The Locals-The Art Of Cingul’

 

I don’t really have much of a bucket list probably because being anywhere in Italy is always at the top. I’m happiest when I’m here and when I’m not, I’m dreaming about when I’ll come back. Anyone who really knows me knows that my other great passion is food and cooking so yesterday I combined my two loves-I learned to make cingul’the pasta native to Calitri-the birthplace of my grandparents.

 

 

When I knew we would be spending time here this spring I enlisted the help of B.( an American who moved to Calitri and just happens to be our neighbor here) to help me find m a class to learn the art of cingul’.  B. knew two local women who were happy to help out and they volunteered to give up their morning to give us a hands on class. Lina was the teacher while her friend Titti acted as translator and I was happy to say that I understand most of what was being said!

 

We started with making the dough which is just two ingredients-semolina flour and hot water-no eggs involved in this pasta. I did attempt this once at home but now realize that I used the wrong flour and didn’t knead nearly long enough-this dough needs fifteen minutes of serious kneading. No wonder mine were a bit too heavy.

 

Lina was quite patient with us and if I thought kneading the dough was difficult, it was nothing compared to the actual forming of the cingul‘. There’s certainly an art to this and I now have a new found respect for my grandmother whipping up batch after batch of this delectable pasta. I have no doubt with some practice I will be able to properly form the dough, but let’s just say that the ones in the photo below were Lina’s, not mine.

 

 

You can see from the photo at the top that we made quite a few cingul‘, but I’ve yet to cook them. We popped ours into the freezer for tomorrow’s supper. The photo of the finished product is from our favorite restaurant in town-Tre Rose. I can only hope that the ones we made are as good as these were. I was instantly transported right back to Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s table.

group

April 23, 2018
paninigirl

3 comments

Pizzarium-Rome

 

In Rome there’s two types of pizza-thin crusted which we ate our first night at Nuovo Mondo and then pizza al taglio which you can find all over the city. Pizza al taglio is baked in large sheet pans and comes with a variety of toppings. Literally al taglio means “by the cut”. The case is stocked with pizzas with a variety of toppings and you tell them (or point) which you would like, how much you would like and they will slice you off a piece with a scissor type implement.

There’s pizza al taglio and there’s pizza al taglio. Enter Gabriele Bonci creator of Pizzeria Bonci. This is the pizza al taglio that dreams are made of. It’s a bit more expensive than anywhere else in the city, but there’s something about Bonci’s dough that makes it well worth the price.

pizza

We fought our way to the counter (be sure to take a number), picked our pizzas and went to a stand up table outside to enjoy them. There’s just something about the crust that kicks this pizza up a notch. It’s a bit chewy, crusty on the bottom, yet not at all heavy.  As usual we chose a margherita and a pizza bianca (no sauce) with potatoes.  All I can say is that this pizza was worth the effort we made to get to this pizzeria behind the Vatican.

Pizzarium

Via della Meloria, 43
00136 Rome

If you happen to live in the San Diego area make your way to Na’Pizza where you’ll find a pretty good version of Rome’s pizza al taglio.

 

 

 

April 21, 2018
paninigirl

4 comments

Trapizzino-Rome

Just when you think there’s nothing new to be had in the way of Italian food you meet the trapizzino. We had planned on trying this creation last year, but never got around to it. This time I had it on our “must eat” list and we only made two mistakes-going on our last evening in town and only ordering two trapizzini.

The first Trapizzino location to open was in northern Rome and the second in Testaccio, the neighborhood where we stayed. Now there are a variety of shops around Rome and other parts of Italy, as well as one in NYC.

trapizzino2

The concept behind this is pizza meets tramazzino (a triangular shaped sandwich you find all over Italy). Unlike a calzone where the stuffing is baked inside the dough, the trapizzino’s dough is baked separately, sliced open and stuffed with the filling of your choice. It’s sort of the Italian version of a pita. There are about seven or eight fillings available and you can see them in containers on the counter. There are the very traditional Roman dishes such as tripe in tomato sauce or braised oxtail, chicken and peppers, eggplant parmesan and my favorite-polpette al sugo-meatballs in tomato sauce.

The only other thing on the menu are suppli and I mistakenly didn’t order one. I love the way the food is served-check out the metal stand where these triangular delights are placed.  The dough is not at all heavy and there’s plenty of stuffing. Yes, I did have the meatball served in a good amount of sauce. These aren’t very big and next time I would probably order more than one. Had we had another day in Rome I’m sure we would have eaten there again!

Should you be In Florence there’s a location in the Mercato Centrale.

Trapizzino
Testaccio: Via Giovanni Branca, 88
Ponte Milvio: Piazzale Ponte Milvio, 13

April 17, 2018
paninigirl

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Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo

 

What to do on our first night in Rome after a very long travel day of trains, planes and automobiles? Why-pizza, of course! Last year while in town we spent a morning eating our way through the Testaccio area of the city with the Eating Rome walking tour. It was our first time venturing into this part of the city and we were immediately enamored with this untouristy neighborhood located across the river from the better known Trastevere. Right then we agreed that we would make this our home base on our next visit to Rome.

 

 

Testaccio is known for its food and there’s no shortage of places to eat. I had originally planned on heading to the well known Da Remo, but changed my mind to Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo after reading about it on Natalie’s blog, An American In Rome. Seeing that we were tired and starving  I was hoping that we might be seated quickly and we were.

 

 

There are pasta and other dishes on the menu, but pizza is the focus here. I have a soft spot for suppli-the fried rice ball similar to Sicily’s arancini- and this was the perfect starter. We are pretty much traditionalists when it comes to pizza, especially on the first visit to a pizzeria and ordered a margherita and a funghi. The pizza was thin and crispy with just the right amount of toppings. Initially I thought I would never finish the whole pie, but before I knew it my plate was empty.

 

pizzze

Looking at these photos I think next time I would order a pizza with zucchini blossoms or maybe what looks like spinach and sausage in the first picture. And here’s the man who makes it all happen-Nuovo Mondo’s pizzaiolo.

pizzaiolo

Pizzeria Nuovo Mondo
Via Amerigo Vespucci, 15
Rome, Italy

April 3, 2018
paninigirl

3 comments

Pizza Rustica di Pasqua

torta

 

torta 2

another slice

Without fail my grandmother made her version of this torta  every spring during Easter week. I remember her packing up a piece for me to take on the train ride back to college. We always called it Easter Pie. After she passed away it was years before I attempted to recreate this specialty from Campania. One day while perusing the LA Times food section I saw the following recipe.  When I made it  I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s kitchen. I wish I had her actual recipe (she never wrote anything down) but I have to admit that this one comes pretty close. I hope your Easter was wonderful.

Pizza Rustica Alla Napoletana (adapted from the LA Times)

Pasta Frolla (Crust)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large eggs

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in bowl of food processor and pulse to mix. Evenly distribute butter over mixture and pulse until very finely powdered, about 10 times. Add eggs and continue to pulse until dough forms ball.
Remove dough and press into disc. Wrap and chill. Dough may be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen. If frozen defrost in refrigerator overnight.

Filling
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 pound shredded prosciuitto
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 egg beaten with dash salt (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place ricotta in mixing bowl and stir in eggs, 1 at a time to make a smooth mixture. Stir in pepper, cheeses, prosciutto and parsley.
Butter 9 inch springform pan. Cut off 1/3 of dough and roll into a disc and set aside. Roll remaining dough into large disc (about 14 inches) and ease into prepared pan. Spoon in ricotta mixture and spread evenly. Top with smaller piece of dough and fold down edge (of dough in pan) to seal. Brush with egg wash. Make 4 small slits in top of dough.
Bake on bottom rack set on lowest level for about 45 minutes until filling is set and top is golden. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before unmolding. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 10 servings.

March 17, 2018
paninigirl

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Biscotti di Greve

biscotti

I am of the sort for which breakfast constitutes a cappuccino and something sweet, preferably a cookie. I’ve been known to have a piece of chocolate with that morning coffee if nothing else is available. I really try to have a tin of homemade cookies on the counter at all times and if J. had his way, it would always be filled with these biscotti. They are incredibly crunchy, very nutty, yet not too sweet-the perfect way to start the day.

Biscotti di Greve

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups whole almonds,toasted and coarsely chopped
egg wash-1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In bowl of electric mixture fitted with paddle, blend flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and combine well. In small bowl whisk together eggs, yolk and vanilla and add to flour mixture, blend until dough is formed and add almonds. If your dough seems too dry, add the remaining egg white.

Turn dough onto lightly floured board, knead several times and halve . With floured hands form each piece into a flattish log, about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide and place on parchemnt lined baking sheet. Brush logs with egg wash.

Bake the logs on 300 degree oven for 50 minutes and the let them cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes.
On a cutting board cut the logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices, arrange cut sides down on baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes on each side.

Transfer to cooling racks and cool. Store in airtight container. Makes about 48 biscotti.
You can vary this recipe by changing the nuts (I love them with hazelnuts) or by adding freshly grated orange zest or chocolate chips. Use your imagination!