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Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.

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Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I kept bumping into Erica and her parents at the market.

We do have great markets in Rome but the market in Ortigia is on another level.  I think it’s because the food doesn’t have far to travel.  The freshness and variety is unreal.

I’m still going on and on to Erica about the peaches I had.  I’m sure she’s tired of hearing about them.

I didn’t buy any fish but I did eat my share from the market.  I’m still talking about that too.

A MUST is the shop, Fratelli Burgio, located near the end of the market closest to the sea.  It gets very crowded so be patient.  I hear they have fantastic sandwiches and aperitivi.   The line for sandwiches was long and there was only one person behind the counter.  Poor guy.

I bought some Pachino sun dried tomatoes in olive oil there.  At thirty-two euros a kilo they were not cheap but were worth every single euro.

A bowl of said tomatoes.  Pachino tomatoes are grown only on the Southeastern coast of Sicily.

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The fishmongers were quite lively (and flirty).  I was too shy to snap a photo of the very attractive gentleman who called me Ms. New York.

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Baked ricotta cheese at Fratelli Burgio.

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 Photos: Me with my iPhone

 

You can see and taste the Greek, Spanish, and North African influences in Sicilian cuisine.

The rich agricultural diversity of the island (the interior landscape is completely different from the coast) has also played a role in making this cuisine so unique (and delicious).

A separate post will be written about the Ortigia Farmers Market.

Some of my favorite Sicilian foods/dishes are:

Arancini – Rice balls fried with either a ragu sauce inside or eggplant (and sometimes both).

Capers – Picked by hand, these small flowers buds can be quite pricey outside of Italy.

Caponata – An eggplant dish usually served as an antipasta.  Every region of the island has their own way of making it.  I heard it takes a long time to cook.  Maybe I can convince my friend Gina to make it in Rome.

Couscous al pesce – Couscous with fish.

Fish -  It’s usually prepared simply.  No need for extravagant sauces and spices when the food is so fresh.  Anchovies, Vongole, Sea Urchins, Swordfish, Amberjack, Grouper,  Tuna, Sardines, and Sea Bream are some of the local fish you will find in Sicily.

Granita –  Nobody does it better than Sicily.  Nobody.

Pasta alla Norma – Originally from the city of Catania, this pasta dish is made with lightly fried eggplant, grated ricotta salata, and basil.  I’ve never made this dish.  I think it’s time to try it.

Pasta con Sarde – Pasta with sardines. Usually has pine nuts, fennel, and raisins.

Sicilian Bread – Yes, it is different from the bread on the mainland.  It has a golden color thanks to the durum semolina flour used from locally grown wheat.

Sfincione –  A pizza type dish.  The dough is thicker and airier.

Wine - There is a lot of excitement about Sicilian wines and their talented producers.  I usually drink Piemontese, French, (and a few Lazio ones when making Roman dishes) wines at home but I’m learning more about this region thanks to my knowledgeable friends.  I really enjoy wines from the Mt. Etna area.

I know this sounds outrageous but I’m not a big cannoli fan.  Meanwhile my partner on this series, Erica, was on a mission to try every single cannolo and cassatina in the neighborhood.

 

Pasta alla Norma.  So good.

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Little cassata cakes.  AKA cassatiini.

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I never had a Rosé from Mt. Etna before.   The waitress at Clandestino recommended it.  It was very good.

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Pasta with swordfish, vongole, and cherry tomatoes.

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Sigh.

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A white wine from Agrigento.  The owner of a little shop on Via Savoia (n. 2) recommended it after I told him I was invited to a lunch featuring risotto with shrimp.  It was a big hit.  I went back to buy another bottle.  I hope there’s a shop in Rome that sells it.

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One of my favorite things about late spring and summer is drinking homemade iced tea with lemon granita (tè fatto in casa con limone granita).  It’s like an Italian Arnold Palmer.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

 Of course now I’m starving.  What are some of your favorites?

While my family and friends in the States are enjoying the last sunrays of Summer 2014 this Labor Day, it’s Il Rientro here in Italy.

This time I am ready!

As I wrote earlier this summer, even after all the years I’ve lived here, I was still resistant to the European way of vacationing. I felt guilty and unproductive.

Well, I am happy to report that major progress has been made regarding my efforts to partake in the great Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.  I’m not completely out of the workaholic woods yet but these things take time.

I went to Siracusa, Sicily for my birthday, staying in the historic center called Ortigia.  The first two days the Internet in my apartment was down, which was a blessing in disguise.  I couldn’t obsessively check my emails or read news headlines.

When I arrived in Oritiga, I was a one big ball of stress.  By the end of the week, I was so calm not even the chaos at the Catania airport and my delayed flight could wind me up.

This calmness was short-lived as it ended by my first evening back in Rome but that’s a different story.

It was my first trip to this area of Sicily and just what the doctor ordered.  I didn’t realize how badly I needed a vacation until I had one. Yes, it was a short one but I still appreciated it.

The architecture, design, history, and culture were inspiring.  The food was on another level.  My friend and her family just happened to be staying at an apartment around the corner.

I will write more about my Sicilian adventures once I sort through all my photos.

It took a few days into my trip for my major breakthrough.  One morning I ditched my itinerary.  I kept my plan to jog along the seawall at sunrise, and then hit the farmers’ market after.  That was it.   I’ll be honest. At first it was an odd sensation to not know exactly what I was going to do the rest of the day.

When Erica called and invited me to lunch with her family at their place I said, “yes” instead of my usual freak out about impromptu plans.

It was a glorious day of having a delicious lunch with my friends on their terrace (which had this view),

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going to the “beach” (which was two block away),

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reading my books and magazines while drinking a lot of homemade Tè Freddo con Limone Granita,

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and enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing.

I went on to enjoy this sweetness several times during the rest of my trip.  I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday the UN, and people all over the world, celebrated International Day of Happiness.

Given all the horrible things happening here on planet Earth, it would be very easy to shrug and think there’s nothing to be happy about.

Sometimes when I’m in a very good mood, I get a little freaked out.  Why am I in a good mood?  I should be cynical, depressed, and anxious.   It’s as if I have no right to be happy.   I meet a lot of expats in Rome.  Many are not happy and are suspicious of those who are.  Being happy is not “keeping it real.”  We end up fueling each others’ fire.

One of my dear friends said I should avoid miserable people.  Why get sucked into their constant negativity and pessimism?   True, we all have bad days, weeks, even months, but as I get older I find I have less patience for people who complain ALL the time but never do anything to change/improve their situation.

I tend to worry a lot, mostly about my future.  How will I pay my bills?  Will my business continue to grow?  Will I ever be fluent in Italian? Why is Drake so popular?   I lie awake at night and dwell on things I have no control over.  This is not healthy and I’m working on it.

When I’m happy it’s not because anything has really changed.  I still have the same bills, worries, and issues.  However, sometimes I do remember that I am extremely fortunate in ways that cannot be measured in dollars or euros.

It won’t be easy but I’m going to try my best to do the opposite of what I normally do, which is to worry and complain.

Another friend proclaimed that this was going to be a great year.  Based on what?  Nothing.  She believes it and therefore is going to do everything in her power to make it so.

I like the why she thinks.

Buon weekend!

(I adore this video.  I have to restrain myself from dancing when I hear this song while jogging.)

The holiday season is upon us.  Lights have just started to go up in my neighborhood and I saw a few festive window displays this morning on Via Condotti and Via Babuino.

I haven’t seen any panettone movie commercials.  Several friends have assured me they are coming.  Excellent.

One of my goals for 2014 is to entertain more.  Yes, I know it’s a little early to think about these things. I can’t help it.

My apartment is small but I had a friend, Susan, in New York City who lived in a studio that was smaller than my place and yet she had dinner parties, Oscar parties, cocktail parties, let me introduce you to my new spinning teacher parties, etc.

Her space had a different layout.  However, I can still be inspired by many of her fantastic ideas.

My mom, like Susan, has a great selection of serving trays and platters.  Some she received as wedding gifts fifty years ago.

I actually enjoyed setting the dining room table when my parents had dinner parties.  My mom was occupied with cooking, my dad was the bartender, and us kids were “in charge” of the table.

Okay, so my mom really had the last word about what was going on the table. When I was old enough, it was my job to iron the tablecloth and the napkins.  While I STRONGLY dislike ironing my sheets (it takes forever), this party prep was fine with me.

The last time I was in St. Martin, one of my friends (and former boss) was on the island and stopped by for a visit.  I looked through my parents’ collection to find the right tray for aperitivi and thought about all the fun holiday dinners and parties. I also realized that I need to step up my platter game.

This one is gorgeous.  It’s from Williams-Sonoma and made in Umbria.

This shade of blue is one of my favorites.

img85oThis platter is stylish simplicity.

My friend Taiye finally had a break during her international book tour and was making lunch at her place.  I wanted to pick up some flowers.

I went to my flower stand in Campo dei Fiori but none of the flowers I had in mind were in season.

Instead, I decided to go with some peperoncini.

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I love the burst of color they bring to a room on a cold fall day.   I plan to pick up some red ones later in the week.

If you haven’t read Taiye’s critically acclaimed book, Ghana Must Go (La Bellezza Delle Cose Fragili in Italian), get thee to a bookstore or online.  It’s fantastic.

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