Category Archives: Life in Italy

There’s Truffle in River City

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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. Continue reading

Please Pass the Passatelli

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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 mind.) Continue reading

So Many Ravioli…

siamo felice

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. Continue reading

Meet Me at Rivetta

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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? Continue reading

Ciao, Signorina?

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“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. Continue reading

Calamari and Seppia: Happiness Plural

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Is there a more guilty pleasure than a fritto misto (frittura, as they say here)? You can see what you’re eating, sort of–rings of sliced calamari, curled shrimps, spongy scallops, a stray chunk of fish, and, if you’re lucky, some thinly sliced or shredded zucchini–all lightly covered in a crispy brown batter, lightly salted. Continue reading

Cassoni to go—che piacere

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When I was in college, on many a drunken evening roommates and I ordered a thing called a “faz” from a local pizzeria. It was pizza dough loaded with a ghastly tomato sauce and grated domestic mozzarella, folded in half, sealed, and baked in the oven. When a faz arrived at your dorm room door, its gooey molten interior oozed out on your first bite. It was dangerous. Of course we scalded ourselves every time. To a nineteen-year-old, a faz was nothing if not delicious. Until recently I had blotted this culinary error from memory; now, having retrieved it accidentally, I wish it back to oblivion, where it belongs. Continue reading

Erbe in abbondanza

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A staple at the table around here is “erbe.” Google Translate says erbe means “herb” in English. Google Translate is entitled to its opinion. The word erbe covers a wide spectrum of green stuff. (Plug “cut the grass” into Google Translate and you get “tagliare l’erbe.”) Continue reading

Piadina e Stracchino. Meglio di cosi?

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If you are eating in Romagna, you’re eating piada.  Piada is the standard issue flat bread they bring to the table, usually hot off the griddle. Each eating establishment puts its own thumbprint on their piada (aka piadina, the affectionate diminutive)–ranging from flaky (frolla) to brittle. Continue reading

Maltagliati, Ceci, Clams, and Porcini

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This too we ate at Trattoria La Marianna in Rimini. It’s a soup made of maltagliati, clams, ceci beans, and porcini mushrooms. You can very easily use a variation on a theme on this soup (sans clams, for example, or hand-crunched tagliatelle in place of maltagliati) and be very happy. Continue reading

Poached Cod with What?

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Who thinks of these things? In conversations I’ve had with Italians about talented chefs, they refer to “fantasia,” which  translates as something like “imagination.” This cod dish, served as an antipasto at Ristorante La Vela in Pesaro, is an excellent example. And as with most things on the table in Italy, particularly in my wife’s regions (Emilia-Romagna and le Marches), the guiding principle is simplicity. Continue reading

For Dessert? Baked Pears

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This dish falls into the “life is short, eat dessert first” category. You could eat this dessert without feeling guilty. Poached pear and prunes.

We enjoyed this dish the other day in Rimini at La Marianna, a seafood trattoria. Pears and prunes are baked in red wine, with a couple cloves added. These looked like Bosc pears. They were baked whole, peel and all, then sliced for serving. We split one between us.

To add just a little guilt to this dessert, the pears came with a small dish of gelato on the side. The gelato was whitish–I’m guessing crema. My wife tilted the dish and drizzled a little of the wine-pear-prune sauce over the ice cream. She tasted it and gave it her O.F. (oh fuck!) approval.

Definitely try this at home.

http://www.trattorialamarianna.it

A Reading at Hannan House

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Happy to be reading at Hannan House, 4750 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan on September 16, 2018, 2-4 p.m.  Music, open mic first. Then the reading.

They say, “He’s funny, warm, and peevish.” Yup, that’s me.