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Archive for January, 2013

IMG_1646Just a few kilometers outside the center of Orvieto there’s an area known as Localita’ Ponte del Sole.  Drive slowly on the winding road and be careful not to blink or you might miss it: A small hand painted sign with the words “Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella nailed to a tree.  The arrow points you down a white road that leads to a clearing…you’ve arrived at Zia Graziella’s place.

At first it might seem a bit unorthodox to find a pizzeria operating out of a private farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.  However, when you consider that Italy is a country where food is one of its greatest sources of pride and cuisine part of its national identity, a speakeasy-style establishment thriving on a word-of-mouth reputation makes perfect sense.

IMG_1645Chef Zia Graziella has been creating pasta dough for over thirty-five years – first as the proprietor of a fresh, homemade pasta shop in the historical center and now as a highly regarded, wood-fired pizza cook.  What makes her famous dough so extraordinary is that each batch is produced from an eighty-year old “mother” starter that she rolls out to a paper-thin consistency.  Her recipe uses no oil and toppings are made with only the freshest ingredients picked from her garden or gathered from local area farms.

IMG_1641The price for a pizza dinner is fixed but the menu is fluid and dictated by the growing season.  The meal includes antipasti, three or four different kinds of pizzas, dessert, wine, and coffee. Tonight, for example, we dined on Pizza Margherita (fresh tomato and mozzarella), Pizza with Fennel, Potato and Spicy Salami, and finally, Eggplant, Mozzarella and Tomato pizza.

The pizza flows like the nearby Tiber and can be stopped by leaving at least one slice on the platter – a signal to the kitchen that you’ve finished with the main course and are ready for dessert: a Pizza Nutella I think it was somewhere between the coffee service and the pouring of Limoncello that I slipped into a Graziella-induced coma.

IMG_1640Honestly, I’d love to tell you that this amazing, one-of-a-kind restaurant is the best-kept secret in Umbria, but I’d be lying.  Everyone knows the charming and talented Graziella: Martin Scorsese claims her gnocchi is the best he’s ever eaten and Richard Gere has her on speed dial. Not a VIP?  Don’t worry – when you eat at Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella, you’re more than just a celebrity, you’re family.

Risto-Pizzeria da Zia Graziella, Localita’ Ponte Del Sole, 38, Orvieto, Italy 05018, +39 389 792 5102

by Toni DeBella

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Finding Rome on the Map of LoveShortly after arriving in Italy, I accepted an invitation to a book signing and reading event in Rome.  When I learned of the book’s subject matter (a thirty-something woman who finds love with an Italian and moves to Rome) I thought, Oh no, not another fairy tale about coming to Italy, having an affair with Marcello Mastroianni and living happily ever after!  Needless to say I was skeptical.  Seriously, is there anyone out there who could bring freshness to this tired and overly saturated genre of storybook fantasies alla Three Coins in a Fountain, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love?  I know I sound jaded, but my expectations are low.

IMG_1262After a brief introduction author Estelle Jobson sat down on a cushion in the courtyard of The Beehive Hotel, opened her book, Finding Rome on the Map of Love, and began to read.  As I listened to her recount the stories, I noticed the corners of my mouth began to spontaneously turn upward.  Her elegant and proper South African accent was in sharp contrast to the wry, sardonic and sassy repartee.  Hey, this girl gets it!  When she finished I was a bit sad, but fortunately I’d purchased my very own autographed copy of the book and immediately cracked it open on the train back to Orvieto.

During the first couple of chapters, I was gulping down Estelle’s pages the way a typical American might eat their dinner: swallowing without taking time to taste.  Perhaps I’ve been in Italy long enough that a voice inside my head warned, “Don’t be in a hurry. Savor each flavor and texture.”  This book was just like a good Italian meal; I never wanted the literary feast to end. And when it did end, I felt warm and utterly satisfied.

IMG_1263Estelle Jobson is a talented writer who has a true gift for observation. She describes things that, as an expatriate, I’d experienced but was never able to fully articulate.  What appreciate most about Estelle’s storytelling is the way she doesn’t laugh at Italians, she laughs with them. Her book is filled with intelligent humor, compassion, and edgy insight. She’s sarcastic without being mean; clever without being pretentious; and emotional without being overly sentimental.  Estelle sees Italians the way they really are and reconfirms, at least for me, why I love living among them.

I’ll stay with the food analogy just a little bit longer. I really enjoyed chewing slowly on every single delicious “bite” of Finding Rome on the Map of Love. Her words were proprio buonissime! 

Enjoying my copy...

Enjoying my copy…

...in front of the...

…in front of the…

...Duomo di Orvieto.

…Duomo di Orvieto.

by Toni DeBella

You can contact the author at findingrome@gmail.com

Find her and her book on Facebook

ebook on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Rome-Map-Love-ebook/dp/B009HBLYYO/ 

Online extract here: http://italianintrigues.blogspot.ch/2012/10/the-socialization-of-italian-man.html

 

 

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