Mangia! Mangia! – Zabaione, the Italian Dolce, Rarely Found in Italy

In the mid-1980s, I was sitting at the counter of the newly-opened Jackson Filmore Trattoria in San Francisco. I had finished a dinner that included gnocchi “come nuvole” (like clouds) as the Jack, the chef/owner, liked to say, when the subject of a dolce came up. “Have the zabaione,” Jack said. “Trust me.”

My seat at the counter was only a few yards from the kitchen stove. I watched as the pastry chef whipped up egg yokes in a deep round copper bowl, adding only Masala wine and sugar, and heating the mixture slowly as he whisked. Copper … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Al Covo Introduces Its Offspring CoVino in Venice

While Francesca was savoring the best pizza in Florence, I was at the Biennale in Venice making my own fabulous food find.

Fifteen years ago, I tasted eel for the first time at Al Covo in Venice. Tasty eel, devoid of fat, is hard to find (or so I’ve been told) so it was good that my introduction was an eel prepared by Cesare Benelli. After two or three more meals at the up-market Al Covo over the years, I am happy to say that this past May they opened a more casual place around the corner — CoVino, a … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Meatballs On Top of Spaghetti

“Mamma, mia, thatsa spicy meatball,” the red-faced “Italian” man said each time his stereotypical wife plunked down a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs … until the antacid commercial hit its punchline.

“Spaghetti and meatballs, now that’s Italian!” is found in the script of many a b-movie.

Even Lady and the Tramp have their first kiss over spaghetti and meatballs served up by Tony, the mustachioed Italian singing cook in 1955.

Now, it’s time for the Italian Food Rule:  Spaghetti is not served topped by meatballs in sauce. Do not order “spaghetti and meatballs” in Italy!  At the very least, … Read More

Italian Food Rule – No Gaudy Dressing, Keep Salad Simple

To dress a salad in Italy is simplicity itself: bring a bowl of salad greens (preferably one to three varieties of radicchio tossed together – that’s all) to the table, add some of the best extra-virgin olive oil available, a small splash of red-wine vinegar or lemon juice, a generous sprinkle of salt and a bit of pepper; toss again and serve on a salad plate (don’t infect the leafy greens with left-over pasta sauce or juice from the ossobuco.)

The only debate is whether inexpensive balsamic vinegar (not the traditional DOP stuff from Modena) is an acceptable substitute … Read More

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.

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.

So last week when on a unseasonable sunny day in Florence I called … Read More

Mangia! Mangia! – Marco Stabile Cooks an Egg

Francesca gave me a sorpresa one rainy day in September. She had gotten reservations for Chef Marco Stabile’s presentation at the Wine Town kitchen in the upper level of the Mercato Centrale of San Lorenzo.

Marco Stabile is my favorite chef in Florence. I wrote about lunch at Ora d’Aria and Frank Bruni recently remembered a dinner that included a deconstructed panzanella con coniglio affumicato (bread salad with smoked rabbit) in the New York Times.

But that day in September, Chef Stabile was cooking an egg – or, at least, that was the most interesting part for me – … Read More