Italian Food Rules – Italians Only Drink Tea When They Are Sick

Tea drinkers of the U.K. and the U.S. might as well give up the idea of a good “cuppa” in Italy. Italians only drink tea when they are sick – at home.

You can ask for, and receive, hot tea in a coffee bar. First, the barista will give you a searching glance from a distance to see if you are obviously infectious. Then, he will run some hot water out of the coffee machine into a cappuccino-cup. The water will be unfiltered tap water, which may taste great, but in Florence, for example, is highly mineralized, a taste hidden … Read More

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – A Winter Earthquake in Chile

Tuscan Traveler escaped the extreme weather of Florence in November by going south of the equator to Santiago, Chile, to visit warm friends and hot weather. There we were urged by on by our good friend, Gerardo, to visit an only-in-Santiago, have-to-try-it-once, eatery for the soon-to-be-famous Terremoto Cocktail. With the proviso that this place was too dangerous to visit at night, we ventured forth.

Supposedly the Terremoto Cocktail only dates back to March 1985, when some German reporters came to Santiago to cover the damage caused by the recent earthquake. Due to the heat (probably in the mid-70s) they went … Read More

Italian Food Rules – Only Dip Biscotti in Vin Santo, Not in Coffee

Italians are very particular about what they dip their biscotti into. Pretty much it is a list of one – Vin Santo. The Italian Food Rule — Only Dip Biscotti in Vin Santo, Not in Coffee.

There is nothing more satisfying for dessert at the end of a long Italian meal than a couple of  almond -studded biscotti and a small glass of Vin Santo. The hard biscotti become sweetly moist after a few seconds dipped in the sweet late-harvest wine. Not too filling. Just a sweet note to the perfect repast. All that’s needed is a shot of espresso … Read More

Italian Food Rule – Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil

It was at least twenty years ago when I first broke the Italian Food Rule: Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil.

Or, to clarify: Don’t serve bread with a bowl of olive oil with a swirl of balsamic vinegar as an appetizer (or any other part of the meal).

Back to my first experience: I was so enchanted by the new food presentation, I never forgot the moment.

It was my first dinner at Farallon, that fantasmagorical Paul Kuleto restaurant in San Francisco. Sitting under the jellyfish chandelier, I watched with curiosity as our waiter presented with a flourish a … Read More

Italian Food Rules – No Cheese on Fish

Except for ordering a cappuccino or a caffellatte after your dinner, nothing is more likely to raise the ire of your Italian waiter than to ask for some grated parmesan to go on your spaghetti alle vongole or pasta al baccala’.

So, as you drive down Interstate 5 munching on your Filet o’ Fish with extra cheese, remember the Italian Food Rule: No Cheese On Fish.

The reasons for the rule are: logic, location, and tradition. But can there be change on the horizon?


Except for salt cod (baccala’), canned tuna, cured sardines and anchovies … Read More

Dove Vai? – To Savor ‘Cake Thinking’ at Palazzo Coveri

For a sugar high on a beautiful Spring day in Florence, walk on by Cake Thinking, a new free exhibit on display at the Gallery of Palazzo Coveri. The show, featuring the indulgent works of Tuscan artist Marina Calamai, is entirely dedicated to the theme of the dessert, interpreted in multiple manners and variations.

Arezzo-born Calamai’s creations depict a simple world that joyously combines the antique with the modern. These works are inspired by the art of Renaissance pastry-cooks, rediscovering and reconstructing the forms and colors of the sweetmeats that graced the table of Eleonora and Cosimo I de’ … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Doggy Bags, 2nd Serving

This is how I learned about the Italian Food Rule: No Doggy Bags!

Years ago, I was a regular at La Maremma on Via Verdi in Florence. I loved their penne pasta with mushroom and truffle sauce. I adored their fruit tiramisu. In fact, I don’t think I ever had a dish I didn’t like there. Everything was cooked to order, the service was fantastic, and the ambience with its slanting floor was warm and comfortable. (Since then, the restaurant has been renovated, but the high quality of the food is still getting rave reviews.)

One evening, I … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Doggy Bags!

History of a Food Rule

Some of the best stories are those that start in the same place where they end. The more things change the more they stay the same. The Italian Food Rule: No Doggy Bags! has strange antecedents because according to some the doggy bag’s first appearance was in the 6th century BC … in Rome.

Apparently, when invited to a banquet at the neighbor’s villa the ancient Roman would bring a napkin or two. It was a compliment to the host to take some of the dinner home wrapped up in your napkin.

But perhaps … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Cioccolata Calda, Florentine Hot Chocolate

Winter is the season for hot chocolate, preferably with whipped cream. To me, the most perfect hot chocolate in the world was served at Café Angelina in Paris in 1977. (I tasted it again in 1996, but although it was still fabulous, it wasn’t perfect (that may have had something to do with the guy eating steak tartare, topped with a raw egg, at the next table).)

Hot chocolate at Café Angelina is an event. A polite uniformed waiter arrives with a silver tray. On the tray is a silver dessert spoon, a small china pitcher of hot aromatic chocolate, … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Sherbeth Festival in Sicily

By now even a glance at (see here, here, here and here) will tell you of a greater than average interest in gelato. Imagine my distress to find that I would not be able to be in Cefalú on the north coast of Sicily for the fifth annual Sherbeth Festival.

If you love gelato and especially sorbetto and are traveling to Sicily in mid-September, head straight to Cefalú for four days of ice cream heaven.

From September 15 to 18, the historic center of the town will be transformed into the Gelato Village.

Whereas Florence (and … Read More