After a week in Italy, I’ve cashed in my return flight and have decided to stay indefinitely. Well, not really, but it’s nice to pretend right?
We left JFK on a rainy Friday evening headed for Roma. Even though we were dreaming of pasta and pizza, the flight seemed to go by quicker than expected and we were standing in front of the Pantheon in no time.
Rome, full of culture and history, is bursting at the seams with different flavors and places to eat. From granita and pizza Margherita to fresh pesto on homemade pasta and charcuterie, there truly is something for everyone to enjoy.
After a quick siesta, we wandered sleepy eyed and hungry to the plaza surrounding the Pantheon in search of dinner. We sat and perused the menu and were’t disappointed. The fresh flavors of our spaghetti con vongole, caprese, and pesto gave us a warm welcome to Italia.
Our second day, after an amazing tour of il colosseo, we made our way back past the ruins to our square for a lunch of cacio e pepe and wine, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. During this lunch, we met our new favorite waiter, Roberto, and decided to go back for dinner the next night.
On our final day in Rome, we toured the Vatican to work up our appetites. We marveled at the Sistine Chapel, meandered around St. Peter's Basilica and tried to get a glimpse of Pope Francis in his Pope Mobile (no luck).
On our last night, we decided we wanted an apertivo before dinner. Lucky for us, there was a salumeria right across the square from our hotel. As soon as we walked in, we knew we were in for a treat. Fresh housemate cheese and meats lines every inch of the walls and ceilings. Cookies and pastries lit up display cases and bottles of vino glistened in the candlelight. As we squeezed into our table, huddling around our menu, we ordered the house red and said “surprise us” for our cheeseboard. As you can probably guess, we weren’t disappointed. Freshly sliced prosciutto, salami, parmeggiano reggiano and countless other choices were piled onto the board in front of us. As we ate in near silence, because it was truly that good, we vowed to eat a light dinner (like that could ever happen).
After taking our pictures in the salumeria, we walked out into the square. Eventually we made it to dinner and said goodbye to Roma and Roberto while eating fresh clams, mussels, and risotto.
And we’re off! Piled into a giant van with all of our luggage, we began the nearly 4 hour drive from Roma to our villa in Fuore. Halfway through, our awesome driver Michele took us to a gas station where he promised we could find the best sandwiches. Boy was he right. A giant display case full of panini of all different flavors took center stage while a giant espresso machine quietly hissed in the background. Believe me when I say this humble gas station made one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. I chose prosciutto and fresh bufala and toasted bread and was in heaven as I made my way back to the car to finish our journey.
After getting a little bit lost, we found the villa. We unloaded our groceries and bags and settled down for a night in. My grandpa, being the chef that he is, took charge and made fresh sauce and pasta with garlic bread for dinner. We enjoyed some local wine (for 1,50€ !!) and had a quiet night in, deciding to adventure the next day.
After a sleep in, we woke up and made breakfast while trying to get in contact with my friend Jamie who flew in to meet us. She made it to Naples airport and found the car to bring her to the villa but the driver got lost. “Mamma mia!” and “fudge!” was all he kept saying as he stopped to ask for directions. Eventually he got her to us and we got ready for to drive into Ristorante Torre Normana in Maori, a castle turned Michelin star restaurant. There, we walked down to la conca, a private beach for restaurant customers where we enjoyed the seclusion and the crystal clear water. It seems that one beach in Italy is more stunning than the next, though it would be hard to top this secret little cove. We swam, enjoyed a drink, and changed for dinner.
We made our way to our table and marbled at the view of the Amalfi coast, as the sun went down, light began to turn on and the whole town lit up in the mountains. The food was even more spectacular than the view. Saucy eggplant cooked just right sat under a blanket of cheese, while fresh pastas held any type of seafood you could dream up, and all fished from the waters right beneath us. We left, stomachs full, and ready to slip into an inevitable food coma.
The next day, we packed our bags and headed to the beach. La conca di Marini, a beautiful beach about 20 minutes away by windy roads cut through the mountains, was 300 steps down from the main road. Each turn of the path took us to a better view. When we finally made it down, we set up camp and sat in the breaking waves of the Mediterranean. We enjoyed a giant lunch, including fresh caprese, potato croquettes filled with ham and spaghetti with spaghetti con olio e pepperoncini, spaghetti with olive oil and hot peppers, a “light” beach lunch.
When we came back to the villa, we got ready for Cliona and Kevin to join us, our friends from Ireland. They ran down the stairs to us and we caught up while waiting for our hosts, the owners of the villa, to come and show us how to make pizza in the villa’s brick oven, quite possibly one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.
Catia, the owner, brought her husband, 9 month old son, mother and father, along with bags full of ingredients into our kitchen and took over. Her mom, “nonna” got to work on the dough, by mixing fresh yeast, milk, and a variety of flours. While we waited for it to rise, we picked fresh vegetables from their garden to put on top of the pizza. We found fresh eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers to prepare. They even had a pig wandering around the vines. We came back to the kitchen and nonna got down to business, whipping up toppings at the speed of night, while her husband got to work preparing the oven. About three hours later, since pizza making is no joke, we began to cook the pizzas. I’ve eaten a ton of pizza in my life but nothing quite like this. Fresh pizzas flooded our kitchen table, each with a different topping: onions and tuna, pesto and bufala, fungi and sausage, just to name a few. Even though nonna had enough dough for 12 more pizzas, we had to tell her to stop! There were just too many to eat -such a difficult problem to have.
I’m writing this while lounging on the balcony of our villa, overlooking the Mediterranean and trying resist the urge to eat some leftover pizza. I know, I know: tough life. We’re waiting to leave for our next adventure, the beach and shopping in the town of Amalfi. Hopefully we’ll make it back down those windy roads. Ciao for now!