Exploring the town of Vernio
This past summer myself, my immediate family, some extended family, and some family friends decided to do the stereotypical “when in Tuscany….” we rented a villa in Tuscany for 10 days. The whole villa experience wasn’t quite what we thought it would be, but the food was definitely something to write home about (or blog about). First of all when you’re in a small Italian town an hour away from Florence or Bologna by train, then you must take advantage of the local grocery store. If you’re like me you’ll find yourself ogling over the fresh Italian foods and produce that I can only dream about getting here in Victoria. An abundance of fresh Mozzarella di Bufala, beautiful Zucchini flowers, salami, prosciutto, squid, octopus, fresh pasta, and inexpensive Chianti of course. As I said “when in Tuscany….”
Private Tuscan cooking class
Before leaving for Italy I had arranged for a chef, Chef Giuseppe Cimino, to come to our villa for a private cooking class. It was great and so much easier than going into the city. Chef Giuseppe arrived at our villa with all the ingredients and cooking utensils we would need to prepare our Tuscan meal. Fortunately for us he spoke perfect English (from his years in New York) and conversation was great! For our starter we prepared tuna tartar with avocado, raw quail egg, and basil lime dressing. For our Primi we were shown how to make a ricotta stuffed pasta with a leek cream sauce. For the Secondi we made a sole fillet wrapped around potatoes and olives. Then for dessert mascarpone with fresh berries. All the dishes were paired with a local wine and each dish was delicious. Nothing could beat enjoying that great food while sitting on the patio overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany. Ya ya now I’m getting sappy I know, but really it was a great experience and I highly recommend it. I found that lots of cooking classes offered on the internet offered more simple food items such as Tuscan steak, fresh pasta, sauces etc. If you’re a beginner that’s great! But I was after something a little different, something a little more gourmet and that’s exactly what we got!
Pizza lesson in Florence
Another cooking class we signed up for was a pizza class at the ‘“Cordon Bleu” a Firenze’. Affiliation to the actual Cordon Bleu is to be determined. This cooking school offered a variety of great cooking classes focused specifically on Italian food. They offer everything from day classes to intensive semester long courses. I recommend booking before your vacation as they do fill up fast. The class was taught by two great women, Cristina and Gabriella, taught in both English and Italian. The class/kitchen was a bit cramped though and it was less hands on due to the limitation in space. However, I quite enjoyed this class simply because they made (and we ate) about a dozen different types of pizzas. I don’t just mean thick crust or thin. I mean deep fried pizza, calzones, thin crackers, focaccia bread, dessert pizza, and my favorite, a Naples style pizza. A pizza where mashed potato is mixed right into the dough to create a pizza crust that’s so soft and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. I probably would have enjoyed the class more if was less cramped and more hands on, however I walked away from this class feeling quite inspired with new ideas and also feeling very full!
This was my second time to Bologna – food capital of Italy and home of Bolognese sauce and all things delicious. On my last trip to Italy I remember having the best food in Bologna and this time was really no different. My brother took me to a restaurant about 20minutes walk from the main train station ‘Osteria del’Orssa’ . It was a café packed with locals and no tourists in sight, always eat where the locals eat! They served up fresh pastas, open faced sandwiches, and a giant steak apparently because that’s what I decided to order. This was a welcome change after a week of pizza and pasta and man was it good! I probably could have eaten it with a butter knife it was so tender. I’m sure there are lots of restaurants in Bologna serving more traditional Italian fare, but the del’Orssa sure hit the spot.
After the villa we had to overnight in Rome in order to catch our flight early the next morning. After being conned into eating terrible pizza at a tourist trap near our hotel I took matters into my own hands and checked out trip advisor. I stumbled upon a restaurant called ‘Il Tajut’, the reviews were good so I made a reser.
Il Tajut was a small (4-5 table) restaurant just a short walk from the coliseum. The décor was eclectic and somewhat avant garde. Our waitress was very friendly and between the photos of menu items, my dismal Italian, and her broken English, we got along just fine. The pastas were made fresh and were even finished off table side by the chef himself. The gnocchi was excellent and was my favorite dish of the night, but overall we enjoyed all our dishes that night. We had fun taking pictures with the owners and he even opened a bottle of bubbly with a saber/sword. It was a night to remember and a great change from the usual tourist traps that one can almost not help but fall into in Rome.
A gelato franchise found throughout Italy. You have to try this place! Your soul will never be complete unless you do. I ate gelato here everyday. I took the train for an hour just so I could have gelato here every day.
Half of us loved it and the other half weren’t too blown away. I actually ate here twice I enjoyed it so much. You can be the judge. Oh and don’t miss the Nutella and marscapone Calzone for dessert.
I didn’t have a chance to eat here but I heard great things and the inside of the restaurant was beautiful and charming. Be careful as it is a franchise. The location in Florence has great reviews but can’t say the same for their Rome locations.