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Traveling back-roads looking for artisans who hand craft the best
products, prepare the best food, make the best wine.
E' curtiE' Curti is the kind of trattoria I dream about, in the region of Campania, outside Naples, on the slopes of Vesuvius. Its name is dialect for "short guys"--two Lilliputian midgets, retired circus impresarios, who opened this trattoria in 1924. Their niece Angela had to stand on a stool to ...
DarioI love to visit Dario Cecchini, Italy's most famous butcher. His shop in Panzano in Chianti has always been a hang-out for food-lovers from all over the world, who come for a taste of his Chianti "butter" (ground fat-back and herbs), Cosimino (named after the Medici, meatloaf meets huge meatball), Chianti ...
Damini and AffiniThe elegant graphic sign reads Damini Macelleria e Affini, "Butcher Shop and Affinities". The Damini brothers-butcher Giampietro and chef Giorgio have created a polyvalent gastronomic paradise, in the village of Arzignano, outside Vicenza. Begin the tour at the entrance, with baskets of breads--fresh and local, long-lasting Altamura from Puglia, slender ...
Le Chiave dOro and Hotel PatioI've got two new reasons to visit Arezzo, as if one of my favorite frescoes in Italy wasn't enough. The restaurant "Le Chiave d'Oro" is in Palazzo De'Bacci, built by the family who commissioned Piero della Francesca's frescoes "The Legend of the True Cross" in 1452 at the church in ...
Sicily's Greatest GranitaGranita is one of the greatest gastronomic joys of Sicily, a tradition dating from Arab dominion and the "nevari" snow dealers, who hauled blocks of snow to the city from the slopes of Mount Etna. The translation "ices" is inadequate, sounds so insignificant for such an incredible treat. There are ...
Antichi Sapori Grocery in NaplesI'm wild about Antichi Sapori, a grocery in the heart of Naples that's evolved into a trattoria. Owner Gennaro Canfora impressed me on my first visit with a taste of spectacular provola cheese that he'd aged himself, and there was a display of artisanal pasta from Setaro and a terrific ...
A Classic in RomeI met Anna Dente at an event--she was cooking with young chefs who all tried to outdo each other with weird combinations, foams and gels. She made classic rigatoni all'amatricana--the best dish of the evening for me. Of course I had to visit her restaurant, "Osteria di San Cesario", outside ...
Wild Boar Festival with Peppe ZulloIt's an annual appointment I simply can't miss. Peppe Zullo's Festa del Cinghiale, Wild Boar Festival, a two day event at his restaurants in Orsara di Puglia. Clients, friends, local dignitaries and restaurateurs make the schlep to this unknown area of Puglia, in the province of Foggia for a series of ...
A Recipe for AnarchyItalians typically have a hard time following recipes. Is it because they are basically anarchists, even in the kitchen? Yes! But it's also because Italian recipes are often so vague that they function as a mere series of hints. Italians who observe me weighing and measuring during recipe testing are ...
Espresso Shake UpNo one seems to know where it came from or when it appeared, although it's been around for at least 15 years. Today, caffè shakerato is an Italian summertime favorite, served in bars throughout the country. Shaken, not stirred, it is the greatest version of iced coffee I have ever ...
Capuccino BluesI've just returned from a trip to the United States, where I discovered that I don't know how to order a cappuccino. In Italy I know the rules. The base of cappuccino is espresso, freshly made by a machine that forces water at 20 degrees below boiling (as I learned ...
The Crema in my CoffeeI know I'm obsessed. I love espresso. Before I moved to Italy, I thought a tiny cup of dark, bitter coffee with a lemon-twist garnish was the height of sophistication. In Italy espresso becomes an everyday habit, consumed just about any time of day - for breakfast, as a mid-morning ...
Bringing it all HomeGetting through customs - for food lovers!For years, many of my food-loving friends and I have hidden our Italian culinary supplies and souvenirs (such as porcini mushrooms, white truffles, hunks of cheese, or Italian vegetable seeds) in our luggage and attempted to sneak past United States customs officers. We never ...
A Trip Across the NorthI've just returned from a trip to northern Italy with food-loving friends. My luggage was light except for gifts for my favorite restaurateurs, lemons from Sorrento and bottles of incredible, just-pressed extra virgin from Castello di Ama. Vito Santoro, "l'artista", picked us up in his van, we headed for Piemonte, met ...
Artusi-inspired hot chocolate3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (use the finest quality available) 1 cup water 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened whipped cream In the top of a double boiler over boiling water melt 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in 1 cup of water. Pour into a blender and whip for 30 seconds (or use an emersion mixer). Return ...
Olympian SeafoodDining at Bagno Olimpia, in Cecina Marina.A friend recommended I try a restaurant on the Tuscan coast that is part of a beach club, and although I was a bit skeptical (after all, bathing facilities are not known for fine food) I fell in love. Ristorante Olimpia doesn't look like ...
Bittersweet in TuscanyTwo Tuscan chocolatiers.Tuscans like their flavors full bodied. Here olive oil is preferred nuovo - fresh from the local mill, peppery, and raw. The everyday wine, Sangiovese, is a red that's austere, earthy, and bold compared to a French Cabernet. And when it comes time for chocolate, Tuscans also crave ...
The Good Lardo of ColonnataLardo from Colonnata and dining at da Venanzio.I've just returned from the village of Colonnata, in the mountains above Carrara near the Tuscan coast, an area well-known for its marble quarries, but worth a gastronomic pilgrimage for those who love lardo.Not to be confused by English speakers with lard (called ...
Springtime Fava RightsSpringtime fava beans and pecorino.I know it's really spring when I spot farmers at the market selling large, lumpy, bright green pods - fava beans, fave in Italian. In most regions Italians cook fava beans. I'm in love when someone makes me a labor-intensive, but delicious, braised vegetable stew, a ...
Fruit Catalogs, c.1700The paintings of Bartolomeo Bimbi, C.1700.I'm crazy about the paintings of Bartolomeo Bimbi. Born in 1648, outside Florence in Settignano, he apprenticed with artists in Florence and Rome, then returned home to work in a studio that turned out flower paintings. The ruling Medici, Cosimo III, hired Bimbi to work ...
A Sicilian BreakfastSicilian breakfast at a fanastic gelateria in Florence.I love Sicily. Just thinking about the place makes me want to book a seat on the next flight to Palermo, even if I know I can't go. Whenever I do visit, I come home laden with capers, wild oregano, hand-painted marzipan fruits, ...