Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Have Moved, and Improved!

Not only birds migrate; we have too!

It made sense for Flavor of Italy to try to consolidate everything we have to offer, all in one place. The good news is that you can now access our food blog, food vacations, and culinary activities all through the Flavor of Italy ( website; but if you'd like to just keep reading our Flavor of Italy blog you can do that directly at The choice is yours.

We hope to keep all you loyal followers, so be sure to follow us on our new blog location!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tomino Cheese

Braised radicchio with pan seared tomino cheese (radicchio brasato con tomino appena sfuso, saltato in padella). It's a perfect meal served with a nice crusty bread. Tomino cheese looks like a tiny Brie cheese and when pan seared it melts in the middle and has a lovely crunchy, golden brown exterior.
Tomino is a fresh, soft cheese from the Piedmont region. It's a DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin) cheese. In other words production is highly controlled, and the Piedmont region guarantees adherence to strict, traditional methods of production.
Try it as an appetizer too! Pan seared, drizzled with honey and topped with walnuts. Or with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and arugula. Be creative; the possibilities are endless...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pipero al Rex - masters of Spaghetti alla Carbonara

You'd probably miss Pipero al Rex if you weren't specifically looking for it, but inside the Rex Hotel on Via Torino is a rather special restaurant. Diners beware: it also has very special prices. You'll pay double the market price for classic Roman dishes, but the quality of Pipero's signature dish, Spaghetti alla Carbonara, will not be found elsewhere.
The restaurant is lovely. Sleekly elegant and well-appointed with unique tableware and dishes. Bread is served on a striking pale green, leaf-shaped silicone dish. The water glasses are a uniquely designed small plastic glass. They are a glass within a glass, with a half centimeter separating the two, creating a lovely visual effect. These glasses were not intended to be glasses but instead small pots for plants. The glasses can be purchased in Rome for three euros at a restaurant supply shop in the Ciampino area of Rome. Another unique feature of Pipero's table presentation are the appetizer plates: ceramic tiles that resemble a dark, charcoal gray -almost black - slate.
We were served several complimentary appetizers, mere tastes. First a paper thin slice of lardo with a balsamic reduction. Tiny and tasty. Another was a small deep fried meat ball prepared from bollito di manzo, served on a drizzle of port reduction. The port was strongly, and unpleasantly, alcoholic.
The goose breast tartare with apple and stone-ground mustard was delicious and beautifully presented: finely cubed and couched between two paper thin crostini rounds (prepared with pane casereccio, sugar and water, pan fried), alongside geometrically perfect cubes of spiced apple. The cardoon, pecorino Romano and anchovy appetizer was once again beautifully presented and with an interplay of flavors that worked beautifully. The cardoon was crunchy but not too.
We were never brought a wine list. Owner Alessandro Pipero served us a white wine as an appetizer and then continued to fill our glasses with it throughout the meal. It was lovely so we happily stuck with his choice. The wine: Sara - La Luna del Casale, a chardonnay made with organic grapes by the organic wine producer Sirbu Nicoleta in Lanuvio south of Rome.
Service was impeccable. Charming waiters who didn't hover but at the same time anticipated customer needs. Just what you look for in fine dining.
Owner Alessandro Pipero began his culinary career as the sommelier and right hand man to chef Antonello Colonna, for five years. He then branched off to open his own restaurant, il Ristorante Pipero, in Albano Laziale just outside of Rome. A little more than a year ago Pipero al Rex opened. The restaurant's chef is twenty-seven year old Luciano Monosilio, originally from Albano Laziale. He brings solid experience to the restaurant, including Uliassi, Tordo Matto and Roscioli. Hotel Rex owner Pino Cau was a regular customer at Il Pipero in Albano, ergo the restaurant's location.
Pipero al Rex devotes an entire page of its menu to Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It's priced by weight. For 50 grams of pasta (half a normal portion size) the price is ten euros. One hundred grams is twenty euros, on up to a hefty price of fifty euros for 250 grams. We ordered 50 grams and it was just the right amount: so rich and creamy with an abundance of flavorful, crunchy guanciale that a larger portion would have been too much. Carbonara is a mainstay of Roman cuisine, but Pipero's Carbonara ranks among the very best.

Here's their recipe:

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti, 100 grams
Guanciale (pork jowl) 50 grams
Egg yolks, two large organic
Equal parts grated Parmesan and pecorino romano
Reserved pasta cooking water


Cut the guanciale into roughly 1/2 inch by 1/8 inch strips.
In a saucepan large enough to hold the pasta, cook the guanciale over a very low flame until crisp and crunchy.
Remove from the heat and set the pan aside.
In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and cheese together with a fork until you have a hard ball.
Set aside.
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to package instructions but drain one minute earlier than indicated, reserving the cooking water.
Add pasta water to the egg & cheese ball and whisk until creamy.
Reheat the guanciale, remove from the pan and quickly toss the pasta in the remaining fat over a medium flame.
Turn off the flame and quickly mix the egg mixture into the pasta.
Place in a serving dish, top with the guanciale and serve.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flavio Viola's shop in Monti

There's a charming little shop in Monti that bills itself as an antique shop cum furniture restoration location (Restauro mobili, AntichitĂ ), but in reality it's mostly a shop selling a mishmash of antiques, dishes, art work, old publications and more. Once you get chatting with owner Flavio Viola he confirms that this is really what his shop is all about. Flavio is usually sitting right at the desk at the shop entrance and he is ready to greet you with his cordial and gentle manners.It's the kind of shop I love: it's all cluttered and you just know that if you sniff around long enough you'll find something you love.Actually there was no sniffing around involved at all. I'd first spied some hand-painted ceramic cups, plates and tea / coffee pots last week when I was strolling around Monti and after a few visits decided to go ahead and purchase them. The ten cups, plates, pot plus creamer and sugar bowl are an unusual brown-tone hand-painted set from the Gualdo Taldino area of Umbria, from back in the 1930's. A very satisfying purchase that is now both handsomely displayed on the credenza in my tinello and very useful.But that's not all there is in Flavio Viola's shop. There are water and wine glass sets, furniture, paintings, lamps, vases, chairs, candelabras, more hand-painted ceramics, mirrors. It's not easy to make your way around the shop as it's so chock full of goodies, but at the same time everything is very visibly displayed albeit quite precariously stacked. Stop by; it's a fun shop to browse around and like me you just mind find something special worth purchasing. By the only.Flavio doesn't have a website but he's easy to find when you're next in the Monti area of Rome. Via del Boschetto, 100. Tel. +39 3496622578

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wine & Products of Rome

There's a tiny little shop that opened up a few weeks ago on Via Monserrato, just a sliver of a place you'd hardly notice if you were taking anything but a leisurely stroll down the street. Which we were.
It's hard to assess what the theme of this little emporium is, but then once you talk to the owner you realize that it's simply a small shop to sell what he produces, along with things that he likes.
The center of this sliver is a table filled with all kinds of vacuum packed sausage and salumi that all looks delicious. When I asked him where it was from (expecting to hear the name of a Laziale or Umbrian producer) the answer I got was Spain. Why Spain? Because it's good and the owner likes it.
But mostly what you'll see is what the owner's company produces: lots of honey, limoncello, arancello, other liqueurs, wines.
The bottles and packaging for many of his products are exquisite. I purchased a small jar of pine nuts and hazelnuts in honey. I visualize eating this with a spoon straight from the jar... Seriously though it would be amazing on ice cream, panna cotta, on cereal. And it's so lovely it would make a great gift.
The same goes for the limoncello and arancello: beautiful labels and presentation. His liqueurs delve into the more unusual as well such as a pistachio liqueur.
I also purchased a bottle of the owner's wine which apparently won an award in New York: Nerone, a Sangiovese wine. I haven't tried it yet but it looks extremely promising.
The company produces seven wines.
De Sanctis Italy is located on Via Monserrato, 11 just around the corner from Piazza de'Ricci. The parent company (a small family owned business) is located in Lanuvio: Wine & Products of Rome,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Spaghetti with Gorgonzola Sage Sauce

One of my favorite pasta dishes which, guess what, happens to be just about the easiest dish to make is pasta with Gorgonzola sauce. And the quickest! Like all Italian dishes start with fresh, quality ingredients and you just can't go wrong, you really can't!

Here's what you need, to serve one person:

Spaghetti, 100 grams
Gorgonzola cheese, 60 grams
Butter, 20 grams
Sage leaves (fresh), 5 finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

While your spaghetti is cooking in boiling, salted water prepare your sauce. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until hot and sizzling. Done!
Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti in the Gorgonzola sauce. If it's not creamy enough add a tiny amount of the cooking water.
If you wish you can sprinkle the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese. I don't as the sauce is so rich and tasty it really doesn't need it.
Note that there's no salt in the recipe. Gorgonzola is naturally salty so it's quite unnecessary.
Is there a rhyme or reason as to why spaghetti is used? Yes, actually. But first let me say this: go where your instincts take you in choosing the type of pasta you use. You may also be guided by what you have on hand!
A creamy sauce like this one adheres beautifully to a long, thin pasta. Other sauces work better with a short, tubular pasta variety (penne, rigatoni, etc.) when you need the pasta to hold the sauce.
One final note. Feel free to vary ingredient amounts to suit your individual taste. Really, you can't go wrong with this sauce. If you're a Gorgonzola lover use more of it! Same goes with the sage and butter. Buon appetito!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Yesterday I spent a good part of the day with wine maven Robbin Gheesling of VineyardAdventures sampling some of Italy's fine wines at the Luca Marroni 2012 wine show. Each region was represented by about eight or ten wineries and we did our best to make the rounds of the wines that have been selected to appear in the Luca Marroni 2012 Annuario dei Migliori Vini in Italia.
The guide is a tome featuring hundreds of wines, written in Italian, and well worth the purchase. Among the local wineries, we enjoyed the Falesco wines the most. Located in southern Umbria / northern Lazio, Falesco ( boasts an array of fine wines. I particularly enjoyed the Tellus and have for years, as did Robbin. The company recently changed the Tellus bottle to a shorter, stouter bottle...very appealing.
Another plus of this event was the tastings of local food products. The best by far was a panino made with pane casareccio and stuffed with crunchy, flavorful porchetta from nearby Ariccia. Porchetta is the true destiny of the pig; so simple but incredibly delicious. It was a divine accompaniment to quite a few of the wines we sampled. Try it out if you find yourself near Ariccia: