"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nonna Cecia and Sicilian Cannoli!

Two of my favorite things about Sicily: Julietta's Nonna Cecia (Grandma Cecia) and the cannoli. Nonna Cecia is one of the kindest and warmest individuals I've ever met. She welcomed me into her home as though I was one of her own family members. Every evening we had dinner with Nonna Cecia at her home and she always prepared a delicious meal of lightly seasoned cooked vegetables, grilled meats, and fresh bread. The meals were simple because the natural flavors of the ingredients spoke for themselves. Here is a picture of me with Nonna Cecia:
On my last evening in Sicily, she bought some traditional Sicilian cannoli from the local pasticceria. After having these cannoli, I feel it would be an injustice to eat another cannolo from anywhere else. I should point out that cannolo is singular for cannoli. I guess we always have referred to them in plural, as cannoli, because it is impossible to eat just one. These were beyond delicious. The crust was perfectly fried to the right crispness without tasting oily. The cheese was delicious thick ricotta with pieces of chopped dark chocolate and chopped pistachio. Each end of the cannoli had a piece of candied dried orange. The blend of the flavors and the mixture of textures made this one of my top three desserts of my life. Here is another close up of these bits of heaven:
Should you find yourself in Siculiana here is all the information you will need to find these cannoli and have them for yourself!
Pastocceria Pinzarrone
Via Puccini, 10
Tel. 0922.815689
Siculiana (AG), Sicily

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sicilia! Beautiful People and Places!

I fell in love with Sicily. It is a truly special place that I hope to return to again and again. To me, Sicily felt almost like a country of its own. The landscape, climate, and cuisine was very different from the rest of Italy, but now I am understanding that every region within Italy stands on its own with a completely separate history and cultural attributes that make traveling through  Italy so exciting. Julietta's family lives in a small town in southern Sicily called Siculiana. It is a situated on a hill with fertile pastures for cattle grazing every morning! We stayed with Julietta's Zia Asunta (Aunt Asunta) who's balcony provided sweeping views of the town on the hill and the cattle during their morning grazing. Here is a picture of Asunta's back  balcony:
It is difficult to convey the sense of peace and tranquility of Siculiana and Sicily through pictures. Something about the fresh air, the ease of the people, the social aspects revolving around meals, and the changing colors of the sky and landscape throughout the day...it was all so peaceful and so different than anything I was used to in my day to day life.
Evert Wednesday there is a traveling market that arrives in Siculiana and all the people meet at the market to purchase goods ranging from nail polish and clothing to local cheeses and fresh fruit. Here is a picture of Julietta with her Aunt Asunta infront of the formaggi truck:
We always had fresh bread with lunch and dinner that was very soft. It all came from the same local baker pictured below:

There is a castle that is perched on top of Siculiana and here Julietta and I are at the top with gorgeous vistas. You cannot see it from the picture but someone had spray painted "Hollywood" in white on the hill in the background.
Here is a picture of Julietta's uncle Giacomo and Aunt Marie Theresa with their youngest son, Flavio.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adventures in Taormina, Sicily

Taormina is a dreamy beach town in the northern part of Sicily. We went  on an overnight trip there with Julietta's uncle Giacomo, Aunt Marie Theresa and 3 year old cousin Flavio. The drive there was easy and happy as you can tell by the picture below...unfortunately, the three hour drive home wasn't so easy and Julietta and Flavio ended up fighting over who could sleep on my lap. The fight somehow lasted most of the drive. You wouldn't have thought we were twenty years older than Flavio. This is the three of us on the way there:
As you drive in to Taormina you come from above since the majority of the town is on a cliff above the beach so you have lovely views, like this one, of the town at the edge of the mountain with the water in the background.
We were down at the beach in no time and the water was seriously crystal clear. The beach was all flat stones, which is probably one of the main reasons the water was so perfectly pristine. Taormina is a large cove with a little island in the center that in times of low tide can be reached by walking on a sandbar. It was wonderful to swim so far out and still be able to see the bottom of the ocean.
The actual town of Taormina is very cute and has many long and narrow staircases going up and down the cliffs such as this one:
There are also many cute antique stores:
Here is a picture of Marie Theresa with a seafood salad, insalata de mare, for dinner!

Roma: Purple Shoes, Purple Cars and a Dessert Gone Wrong

Upon arriving in Rome, you can instantly see the differences between Rome and the other main metropolitan cities in Italy. For starters, Rome has a significantly more diverse population. Now that I have been in Italy for about two months, I've had the opportunity to talk to many different people from different regions and there is a special pride that the Romans have. Their meeting points and everyday life is intertwined with an ancient history that is perhaps one of the most magnificent in the world. Romans are proud people. They are open minded, friendly and happy to share that they are from Rome....maybe this is how many New Yorkers feel about New York. I found it wonderful to be in Rome. Strolling the different neighborhoods and getting lost, multiple times, in the cobblestone streets. There is more history and art in Rome than I knew what to do with so I just explored  by foot and took in as much as possible. Above is a photo of Julietta and I in the people's plaza.  Below is a picture of us at the Trevi Fountain. It was beautiful, romantic, and terribly crowded with tourists taking the same exact picture.
While browsing the streets, Julietta found these amazing leather purple shoes that deserve a picture on this blog. While they have nothing to do with food, they are very cute and could be a wonderful cake topper.

Then we came across this matching purple truck which we unfortunatley could not pack up and ship home.
On our last night in Rome we went to a restaurant near the Trevi Fountain and I had the best seafood linguine yet which was followed by the worst dessert yet. Our waiter was excited to have us at his restaurant and so he had the chef bring out a nicely decorated plate with their house dessert specialty. I rarely meet a dessert I don't like. While we definitely appreciated the thought, this was so bad that we had to sneak it into a napkin and into my purse to throw away later - we didn't want to offend the waiter or chef! So I had to squish this thing in a wetwipe in my purse and then toss before getting gelato. Here is the dessert before we tried it:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Florence: Fantastic Risotto and a Psycho Dinner Party

After an all night long dancing and drama event at a disco in Milan we took a morning train to Florence: the land of baby-lamb skin leather jackets and cute cobblestone streets. Yes, I bought a black baby lamb skin leather jacket for those nights when I have to meet up with James Bond and go to the casinos. Julietta knew of adelicious restaurant in Florence called the Golden View Open Bar and it overlooks the Ponte Vecchio. It is a goregous restaurant perched along the river and it has exquisite food. What stood out most from our meal there was the vegetarian risotto. The carrots and zucchini were lightly cooked so that you could still recognize them and the flavors were rich and healthy. This was definitely my favorite meal in Florence. Here is a picture!
Another night we went took a train outside of Florence to have dinner at the home of someone we met the previous night at the disco....it sounded fun but we quickly learned we were in the home of a psycho person which mediocre cooking skills. The highlight was the home itself. It was his parents home and gorgeous and almost seeming as though it were out of  a magazine. Here is a picture of me in the library/study and this was before realizing we were dining with a complete nuthead. Regardless, his home provided Julietta and I with a lot of great scenery to take model pictures.
And he made us a very large and heavy meat and cheese dish that made me throw up the following day.
Normally I wouldn't put pictures up of bad food and bad people but this story is actually rather funny. We thought we were invited to a dinner party. Turns out our little friend from the Disco was setting us up on a double date that went horribly wrong when he turned nuts. After stomaching the horrible food he served us we quickly had to come up with reasons to leave. Because he lived so far outside the city we needed him to drive us 45 minutes back to Florence and the entire drive he sang opera at the top of his lungs. This is just a small small part of his nuthead-ness. Also, the whole night he kept referring to himself as King. Okay, here is a picture, we have King blurred out on the left, his crappy meal is on the table, and his friend is sitting on the counter:
Another night with Julietta in Florence!