“Don’t tamp it this time,” my son says. “What?” “With my Gaggia,” he says, “I’ve stopped tamping. I get better crema. Try it.” The coffee, he means, in the filter basket. It’s a Saturday morning. I’m making him an espresso in my Delonghi Dedica Deluxe Pump Stainless Steel Espresso Machine. When you make espresso with a machine, tamping is a thing. It’s part of the process, the ritual. I’ve always tamped. The pros in coffee bars tamp. Every machine I’ve […]
A friend asked once: “Are you one of those people who makes his own breadcrumbs?” No, I’m not. I had just pulled a sheet of roasted tomatoes out of the oven. Topped with seasoned breadcrumbs, they perfumed the house, then ravished the palate.
I’ve got wellness on my mind. “Canducci Tiziana.” That’s how they call my wife when it’s her turn. Last name first. We’re at the Repubblica di San Marino Instituto di Sicurezza Sociale (aka the hospital), where she’s here to see an orthopedic doc. A few weeks ago at the Bargello museum in Florence, while I was in the gallery at the top of the stairs, the one with Donatello’s David and Giambologna‘s Mercury, two fleet-footed guys, looking with new-found interest […]
These days, when I make reservations in Italy I give my wife’s maiden name. A table for four at 7:30, for Canducci. Same thing when I call the heating repair man (it’s cold in the apartment or there’s no hot water). I say, “This is Canducci on Via Olivella in Serravalle. Can you come and check out our boiler?” Always last name, Canducci. I never say Bailey. Ever. Names are essential. And they can be complicated. How hard do we […]
“Breakfast of champions,” I say to the kid sitting at the next table. We’re in the hospital bar. It’s nine in the morning. I’m here with my wife, who’s going to have some stitches pulled. (She fell down a stairs, sliced her knee, broke her wrist. No, we say when someone asks, and everyone seems to ask, I didn’t do it.) The boy takes a big bite from his breakfast pizza, tomato and cheese, and leans toward his father, who’s […]
Persimmons galore. We’re on our way to Ro e Buni for a fat pasta lunch. This restaurant (called a “tenuta,” meaning an estate), is off the main road that passes through Villa Verucchio. A sign says there’s a golf course back here somewhere. I’d look for it but I’m totally distracted by the orchard next to the road. Orange fruit heavy in the branches. Looks like oranges. But, no, these are persimmons. In Italian called “cachi” (pronounced “CAH-cky”).
Twice now I’ve chosen not to eat polenta. My wife and I are in restaurants. It’s a choice between tagliatelle and beans or passatelli in a vegetable sauce, or polenta, I reluctantly say no to the polenta. Last night it happened again. This just has to stop. Oh, polenta. It comes to the table vivid yellow, this cooked corn flour mush with a sauce ladled over the top of it. Last Sunday, at Osteria del Pisello, their polenta with pea sauce. […]
And I do mean truffle, the white ones and the black ones, those gnarly, earthy nuggets of delight, the ones you dream about, their shavings falling like heavenly snow flakes on your tagliatelle. Yes, those truffles.
In Italy they sometimes extrude the food. In the case, for example, of passatelli. Eaten in broth or with sauce, passatelli are a mix of breadcrumbs, egg, a grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano or pecorino, lemon zest, and nutmeg, all mixed together into an “impasto” and then extruded. Passatelli would be a quintessential farmer or contadino food, the base being dry leftover bread. (Ribolitta, a typical Florentine and Tuscan dish with leftover bread as its base, also comes to […]
My wife’s cousin sat a few chairs down from me. It was Christmas 1984. We were having cappelletti in broth, a typical–and beloved–dish we look forward to at holiday time. After spooning (scarfing) for a few minutes, the cousin looked up, turned to me, and said, “I could kill myself eating these things.” They’re that good.
Fish lasagne? Don’t think about it. Just try it. We’re eating at Trattoria alla Rivetta in Venice. We’ve been coming here for over 20 years—for the seafood risotto, the moeche (soft shell crabs), the branzino, and whatever else they have that day that’s fresh. And always, in addition to great fish, there is a generous assortment of fresh vegetables that are boiled, sliced, and served with a generous anointing of olive oil. Was ever a potato so good?
“Signorina?” I say. My wife and I are in an airport restaurant in Venice, waiting for a friend to arrive. We have an hour or so to kill. There’s no better way to do that than by eating. I’ve ordered the pasta; my wife has the prosciutto and mozzarella. We need some bread. Well, my wife needs some bread. She shakes her head. “You really should call her signora,” she says.