Monthly Archives: November 2011

Mangia! Mangia! – Thanksgiving in Florence

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to like? Great food. Good friends. Uncountable thanks. Football.

This year I got three out of four.

American Thanksgiving at Osteria di Giovanni
American Thanksgiving at Osteria di Giovanni

Usually I try very hard to be in the United States for the fourth week of November. Thanksgiving dinner never seems quite the same in any other part of the world. Probably because the roast turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes are hard to source and recipes never result in just that taste I remember from New York or New Mexico or California.

Giovanni and Carole Latini
Giovanni and Carole Latini

So last week when on a unseasonable sunny day in Florence I called one of my favorite restaurants Osteria di Giovanni to make dinner reservations for five clients and got Giovanni Latini, himself, on the phone. After taking the reservation, he exclaimed that his wife Carole was hosting Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant and that I must be there. Carole’s famed desserts would be enough to get me to go anywhere, anytime she issued an invite (I don’t favor traditional Italian desserts, but Carole, an American, has for years embellished the Osteria’s menu with fabulous sweets) and I jumped at the chance of Thanksgiving dinner.

Carole and Francesca - happy host and guest
Carole and Francesca - happy host and guest

Francesca came too, of course. Although she is Florentine with no “roast turkey/cranberry/ pumpkin pie/mashed potato with gravy/sweet potato with marshmallows/wild rice stuffing” genes in her DNA, she loves Thanksgiving dinner and has been honored to grace many a table in the United States in the late afternoon on the third Thursday in November.

Menu created by Caterina and Carole
Menu created by Caterina and Carole

Simple words fail to express how scrumptious Thanksgiving Dinner at Osteria di Giovanni was. The menu was traditional American with a dash of Italy (pea soup with basil, pumpkin ravioli with peppercorns). The turkey was roasted to succulent perfection and the crumbly corn bread was pure Pilgrim. Carole, Giovanni, and their daughter Caterina were gracious hosts as always. I suspect Caterina should get most of the credit for assuring that Carole’s inspiration was realized in each dish and Giovanni kept the packed Osteria running smoothly around the six or so Thanksgiving tables, but the dessert was pure Carole.

The perfect pumpkin cheesecake
The perfect pumpkin cheesecake

The pumpkin cheesecake was a gift. Light as a cloud, but full of flavor. Not one of those ricotta or gelatin “cheesecakes” frequently found in Italy. Carole demands Philadelphia cream cheese for her recipe and a traditional graham cracker crust. The pumpkin was so present that it could have been a pumpkin pie, but without the dense heaviness. I tried to convince Carole that the Osteria should have a cheesecake offered on the menu all of the time.

Carole with more of her Thanksgiving friends
Carole with more of her Thanksgiving friends

Thank you Carole, Caterina and Giovanni. And what about Chiara Latini? Well I’m having Christmas lunch at Ristorante Latini located between Certaldo and San Gimignano. The menu? Pure Tuscan.

Antipasto classico con salumi locali e Prosciutto Salato.
Crostini misti
Sformati di Verdure
Fagioli Neri cotti nel Vinsanto

Tortellini fatti a mano in Brodo di Cappone
Caramelle di Patate Dolci con Sugo di Cervo

Nana al Forno
Faraona in Umido
Filetto al Forno con riduzione di Vino Rosso

Carciofi Fritti
Patate Arrosto

Tortina di Mele profumata alla Cannella
Panforte ai Fichi, Cantuccini, Tartufini
Ricciarelli del Panificio Catullo

All I can say in anticipation is “Gnam, gnam.” (Look it up.)

Thank goodness there are thirty days available for dieting and exercise …