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Tag Archives: Pizza

What I dread about returning to the U.S.

23 Oct
22 October 2016. I listed my beefs with Roma the other day. Turnabout is fair play, so here are the things I am not looking forward to in gli stati uniti.
  • Having to fly to go to Europe. How we have loved jumping on trains! 10 hours or more on a plane is not fun, even in Business Class. When we come back to visit, we will take long trips (we have time!) to make the flights worthwhile. In the meantime, I am overusing my United Mileage Plus Visa to accrue as many points as possible. I wonder if we can charge a house?
  • Incredible choice of squash, and the pumpkins--of various kinds--taste amazing, as does everything.

    Incredible choice of squash, and the pumpkins–of various kinds–taste amazing, as does everything.

    Food additives, wooden produce, and high prices. Food in Italy tastes like it should taste. Red peppers zing, potatoes require no butter for flavor, and the overall need for everything from basil to thyme is minimal because the produce is so darn flavorful. In the U.S. we wax our fruits and veggies to preserve them, and God-knows-what is done to cattle and chickens. I am hoping that between the Farmer’s Market and Nature’s Foods I can find good organic stuff. It will cost significantly more to feed us than it has in Italy. I shudder to think of what wine costs in the U.S! And good olive oil!
  • Car-orientation and having to drive again. Yes, the buses in Rome are problematic, but it is possible — even desirable — to live without a car. Unless we want to live in a 700 square foot condo in downtown Portland, we’re going to have to buy a car. It just is not feasible to depend on buses, light rail, and trains. Ric has not driven in 3 1/2 years, and I have not done so in 18 months. We may have to have our son take us to a big parking lot and give us driving lessons.
  • Few trains. Sniff.

    Now THAT's Italian...Pizzeria Al Forno della Soffita.

    Now THAT’s Italian…Pizzeria Al Forno della Soffita.

  • Pizza. Papa Murphy’s Take-and-Bake will no longer cut it. There is good pizza in Portland: Apizza Scholls and Ken’s Artisan Pizza are renowned, with wood-fired pizzas and high-quality ingredients, but you have to line up about 17:00 to get in. We can barely stand to eat before 20:00 anymore. Nostrana has great pizza, too, but costo molto!
  • Eating dinner at 18:00. In Portland, we used to go out on Saturday night and leave the house at 17:30 so we could get a table without a reservation. Now at 18:00 I can barely think about eating except on occasion a little aperitivo. We like to sit down at a restaurant between 20:00 and 21:00. Even eating at home we seldom tuck in before 20:00. By 20:00 in Portland, most restaurants are thinking about shutting down the kitchen. The afternoon just seems longer and more useful when you aren’t thinking about dinner at 17:00. 
  • Lack of social outdoor life. As much as the sidewalk traffic in Roma can make me crazy, I do love the passeggiata tradition in Italy. It is most fun in the smaller towns. Take a walk, have a coffee or an aperitivo, do some shopping or just lick the windows, as the French say. In Paris, there are the terraces and in London the pubs. In Roma, we have the tiny bars. It is an excellent pre-dinner habit to take a walk, sit with friends and visit. In the U.S., we all pull into our homes using an automatic garage door opener and settle in without chatting up the neighbors. 

    Giant cappuccino in the U.S. The Italian version costs us about €1.20, even sitting down at our neighborhood place. It is JUST RIGHT.

    Giant cappuccino in the U.S. The Italian version costs us about €1.20, even sitting down at our neighborhood place. It is JUST RIGHT.

  • Giant cappuccini. No, I did not mistype. cappuccini is the plural of cappuccino. I think I will have to order the child-size. No one needs 12 ounces of milk to one ounce of espresso. 
Maintaining our Italian lifestyle after our return is going to be about as difficult as playing darts with spaghetti. We shall persevere and let you know how it is going. Four days until we fly!!!
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Pizza addicts

1 Feb
As many of you know, pizza is a major food group – and always has been – for Ric. 
Spring 2013 at Dar Poeta.
Spring 2013 at Dar Poeta.
When I met Ric in 1984, I thought pizza was a once-in-awhile treat, something eaten at Pizza Hut, for a child’s birthday party, or all-too-often pizza at my house was a frozen one from Totino’s consumed as Sunday night supper. Marrying Ric changed my ways. I don’t always make the bed in the morning, especially if one of the cats is sleeping on it, and now I know that pizza is nature’s most perfect food, meant to be consumed at least weekly.
Moving to Italy added a layer of adventure and charm to our pizza eating. As we eat at least 52 pizzas a year, I thought documenting the journey a worthy endeavor both for us (“Where did we eat last weekend?”) and for those who dream of eating pizza all over Italy. I hope you will join the journey and click on over to my newest blog, Our Weekly Pizza.
Buon appetito!

Even further away…

13 Jul
Another cute Italian village, nestled in the Gran Sasso.

Another cute Italian village, Castelli nestled in the Gran Sasso.

Santo Stefano was only the beginning of our long weekend in Abruzzo.

Do you ever yearn for deserted roads? How about hiking trails with no oncoming foot traffic, nor any foot traffic at all for that matter? Have you encountered ponies in the woods? Or restaurants where you pay half of what you’d pay in the big city? Plus lovely people delighted to help you practice your Italian and artisans of magnificent pottery? Welcome to Abruzzo, in particular, welcome to Castelli.

Castelli is known for its ceramics, but is less famous – and less touristed – than the Tuscan destination of Deruta. We learned of Castelli quite by accident. In May, on our way home from Puglia we decided to spend a night in the mountains. On that trip, we selected a hotel in the tiny hamlet of Ornano Grande, right beneath the highest peak on the Italian peninsula, the Corno Grande.  Il padrone of the hotel told us we had to go to Castelli before we left the area. “Bellissima” he said, and he was right. It is rated as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.  That brief taste convinced Ric and I we had to return to Abruzzo and to Castelli. Then, in what can only be described as a happy coincidence, when we mentioned this lovely place to an Italian friend he said, “That’s my mother’s home!” So with an insider’s knowledge we were directed first to Santo Stefano and then to Castelli and environs for continued rest and relaxation.

Castelli is tiny: really tiny. A couple of restaurants, minimal lodging choices, a generous number of

Abruzzo is not the pizza capital of Italy, but this salmon, mozzarella and pistachio pizza was to die for.

Abruzzo is not the pizza capital of Italy, but this salmon, mozzarella and pistachio pizza was to die for.

ceramicists. The views are amazing and the town has a great “hang out” factor, but lodging is not abundant. There are a few agriturismos in the area, and the Parco Nazionale Gran Sasso has a resort hotel nearby, but we wanted to be more in town. Luckily we found B&B Vecchio Mulino (Old Mill). There Luciana made us welcome at her modest but pristine home. Originally a mill, 13 years ago it was remodeled into a five room B&B. A quieter place does not exist. Only the babble of the nearby stream and the occasional crow of her rooster provided background noise.  Old Buc, her dog, quit barking once he knew we were guests, and the new kitten kept us entertained.  Goats, horses, chickens, and bees round out the livestock, and Luciana puts her homemade acacia honey on the breakfast table each morning.  As it was in a jar equipped with a pump, I almost had to restrain Ric from squirting it directly into his mouth.  Once again, we slept for 9 hours each night.

Castelli ceramics institute: gigantic nativity figures. Absolutely stunning in person.

Castelli ceramics institute: gigantic nativity figures. Absolutely stunning in person.

We hiked, we shopped for ceramics, and we ate too much: A perfect getaway! The residents were only too happy to help us find our way and enjoy the treasures of the area. One man, a ceramicist, encouraged us to go to the Istituto D’Arte “F.A.Grue” Castelli  (Institute of Ceramics) just up the road. This is a 107-year-old institution that attracts students and artists from all over. When we saw him later in the day, he we very disappointed we had not seen it – yet.  In fact, when we tried to go there it seemed closed.  By now it was almost 7:00PM, but he phoned his sister, who works at the school and arranged a private tour for us. It was truly a highlight!

Only 2 hours from Rome, we’ll go back for fresh, cool mountain air. Forest hiking, beautiful views, and the welcoming Abruzzese people again when we get a chance.  Following are a few pictures from the region.

There are two Castel del Montes in Italy: a true castle in Puglia and this charming town in Abruzzo. It suffered damage in the L'Aquila earthquake.

There are two Castel del Montes in Italy: a true castle in Puglia and this charming town in Abruzzo. It suffered damage in the L’Aquila earthquake.

Lovely fresco in Castle del Monte.

Lovely fresco in Castle del Monte.

Mosaic inlaid in a wall in Castel del Monte.

Mosaic inlaid in a wall in Castel del Monte.

Roadside picnic stop in Abruzzo, on our way to Castelli. A herd of cattle relaxed, unencumbered by a fence, just around the corner.

Roadside picnic stop in Abruzzo, on our way to Castelli. A herd of cattle relaxed, unencumbered by a fence, just around the corner.

This little guy was looking for apples or carrots.... Acted more like a puppy than a pony.

This little guy was looking for apples or carrots…. Acted more like a puppy than a pony.

I didn't get a great shop of this work in progress. The pony kept getting in the way. Momma horse was hauling firewood out of the woods.

I didn’t get a great shop of this work in progress. The pony kept getting in the way. Mamma horse was hauling firewood out of the woods.

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