Category Archives: Life in Italy

The Kids Are All Right

These are people who know and care about local food.


For years I would ask my Arabic students, Where do you eat? In what restaurants do you find the best, most authentic Arabic food? The response was predictable: a bewildered smile. Then, also predictable, the answer: At home. Whatever they ate in a restaurant was, by default, going to be second best. Eating around in Dearborn, I tended to look toward the kitchen, hoping to see an old lady or two. If there was a grandma back there, that was a good sign.

In the last couple days, we’ve eaten in establishments with kids in charge. Kids? Okay, people younger than us, a lot younger, fully in command of local food tradition.   Continue reading

Once More to the Table

Food so beautiful you can’t believe your eyes, food so good you can’t believe your tastebuds.

If you grow up and come of age at the dinner table in Michigan, the way I did, it can be hard to fathom the variety of foods in Italy.

For 40 some years now I’ve been plumbing those depths, coming up for air with a smile on my face, then diving deeper.  In these next few blog posts, I’m going to try to warm up to this subject; in words and pictures, sharing some of the food fun we have when we come to Italy.   Continue reading

The Cheese of Forgiveness


don oreste benzi

Asked how I feel today, I’ll say, “Fresh as a fish.”

It’s a figure of speech I heard on the TV yesterday. The program examined the quality and safety of fish from the Adriatic. We were at an inland restaurant eating brassato, a braised beef dish our friend Lidia makes. At noon, for the workers who come for lunch, Lidia turns on TV news. The focus was on fish. This was long-form journalism. Three journalists in a studio were importantly holding forth, along with reporters and scientists in the field hoisting octopi aloft by their tentacles, displaying crates of sole, mussels, and clams; a full half-hour expose on fish. Given my limited fish vocabulary, I couldn’t follow much of what they were saying. I recognized a few fish names; every so often I heard inquinamenti, the Italian word for pollutants. Continue reading

Dalla Maria, Best Overall


I’ll have the tagliatelle with beans, please.

If you’ve made it to Pesaro, you are in the land of good eating. In the old town you will eat well at Zongo, Pasqualon, La Guercia, and Il Moletto. Venture out of town, to Il Sentiero, for example, or to Gennaro, and you will experience both extraordinary natural beauty and culinary excellence. Continue reading

The Enjoy Agenda


I’m not feeling so good

A couple Sundays ago we spent the afternoon in the emergency room in Santarcangelo di Romagna.  We went to Santarcangelo because it was a sunny day in April. We went because it’s the beginning of pea season.  We went because we thought we might shop around a little and then have lunch.

We were in this store and my wife was looking at sweaters and I was trying on a pair of pants in a changing room in the back when I heard her say, Oh. Continue reading

Say What?


Learning Italian in Italy

When you learn a foreign language, it’s difficult not to despair at first. How do you know which words you’ll need? One of the first sentences I learned in French was a question. Where is the library? In hindsight, I now know it would have been more practical to learn Where is the bathroom? A pal in high school taking German impressed me at lunch one day with a complete sentence. When I asked him what he said, he smiled and translated: How many fingers has Anne? Continue reading

Death by GPS

murlo from above

He had been delivered to us by GPS.

“We could go for vespers,” my wife said.

It was late afternoon. We were leaving Murlo, which I have to say was something of a disappointment. Somewhere along the road in Tuscany we’d seen a billboard or two for Murlo, with its iconic cowboy image. And somewhere along the road in Tuscany we’d talked to someone, probably in a wine bar, who told us about it: Murlo, town of the Tuscan cowboys. I said it sounded like a football team. Continue reading

Bite Down


I’ve never had a toothache in Italy.

“We could stop and get one on the way back,” my wife says. We’re lying in bed, both of us awake at 3:00 a.m.

She’s thinking about cake.

In particular, about certosino, a dense almond and pine nut and dark chocolate cake that’s covered with candied fruits and slathered over with honey, a seasonal delicacy you find in Bologna around Christmas time. It’s late November. In five days we’re flying back to the U.S., but first we’re going up to Venice for a night, which we will reach by train, with stopovers in Bologna.

“We could get one on the layover,” she says. “Coming home from Venice.”

“Let’s see,” I say, “a layover in Bologna, a cab ride from the train station to Tamburini. It’s tempting.” But… Continue reading

Bean, Fagiolino, Haricot Vert


Why do green beans in Italy taste so good?

I’ve been feeling lonesome for green beans since we got home from Italy.

Early Tuesday mornings over there, in the piazza just up the street from our building, Marco Stanchini sets up his fruit and vegetable stand. He’s open for business until noon. By the time I get there around 8:00 a.m., the old ladies, some with husbands in tow, are busy bagging their produce. Continue reading