Archive for the ‘Food in Italy’ Category


Pasticceria Nando Orvieto

Instead of an oversize bunny rabbit leaving a basket of candied eggs, citizens of Orvieto wake up on Easter morning to a breakfast of Pizza di Pasqua (it’s not really a pizza, but it’s not exactly a cake either).

Pizza di Pasqua is a yeast-filled bread (similar to Christmas pannettone) that’s served during the holy days of Pasqua (Easter Sunday) and Pasquetta (Easter Monday).


Bar & Pasticceria Montanucci Orvieto

A cherished tradition typical of central Italy (Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche), Pizza di Pasqua comes in both dolci (sweet) and al formaggio (cheese) versions.

Folks in Orvieto take great pride in their Pizza di Pasqua, so you can imagine there’s lots of fighting discussion about who has the best recipe (there are as many as there are cooks). For the past 14 years, Palazzo del Gusto Orvieto has sponsored a bake-off to decide whose is the yummiest. Both professionals and amateurs are invited to compete for the coveted culinary distinction of “Best Pizza di Pasqua di Orvieto”.


IMG_1795Exuberant baker Gaetana Olini has been preparing the Easter specialty for decades and let’s us in on her secret for making a great one.

“You must have patience and allow the pizza to rise in a warm spot for at least 18 hours”, she warns. “It’s in this way that you can be sure it will turn out very soft and airy.”

Gaetana P di pasqua

Pizza di Pasqua: It isn’t Easter in Umbria without it.




4 yeast cubes (from the refrigerated section, not the powdered kind!)

1 kg of flour 00

250 grams of sugar

1 cup olive oil

6 eggs

300 ml of water

300 ml of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or one package)

1 lemon zest

1 small glass of anisette liqueur and ‘rosolio di cannella’ (cinnamon liqueur)



Dissolve 2 cubes of yeast in 250 ml of warm water.

Meanwhile, in a large plastic bowl put 300 grams of flour.

Add the yeast mixture into the flour and mix with a fork until all the water is absorbed into the dough (be careful not to let it get hard). Add flour gradually making sure the dough remains soft!

Cover with a cloth and put in a warm space (inside a shut-off oven is best) and let the dough rise (about 1 hour).

Melt the remaining 2 cubes of yeast in 300 ml of warm milk. Remove the bowl from the oven and add the eggs, sugar, olive oil, lemon zest and milk with yeast. Blend with an electric mixer, adding more flour gradually, by hand.

Pour in two glasses of the liqueur and the vanilla.

At some point, if you did everything right, you will see that you will be forced to stop mixing because the dough will stick to the whips and it won’t be possible to continue. At this point use your hands to knead the dough, still continuing to add flour until you find that the dough comes off easily from your hands. But beware, it must not become a nice smooth ball! It must always remain soft and wet!

Grease two baking pans (large and tall) and put a quantity of dough that must not exceed one quarter of the height of the container to allow the dough to rise more than twice its size. It’s ready when the dough reaches the edge of the container.

Put in a preheated oven at 100C, then increase the temperature to 180C. The pan should be placed on a lower rack but not resting on the bottom of the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Pasticceria Nando, Via dei Sette Martiri, 68, Orvieto Scalo

Bar Montanucci, Corso Cavour, 23, Orvieto

Palazzo del Gusto Orvieto, Via Ripa Serancia I, 16, Orvieto TR


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Slavic Montanucci

Coffee bars in Italy are its life’s blood. For over 100 years, Bar Montanucci has been pouring caffeine-addicted Orvietani their morning cappuccinos (in my case, caffe latte) as well as offering fresh, handmade pastries, cakes and…..wait for it…chocolate! At lunch choose from fresh salads, sandwhiches and pasta. After lunchtime, the case transforms into a gelato counter, and in the evenings you can order cocktails with small plates. The terraced patio is a great place to hang-out on warm, summer days and nights, too. Like! Share! Visit!




‪#‎31daysofOrvieto‬‪#‎orvietoorbust‬ ‪#‎Orvieto‬ ‪#‎barmontanucci‬ ‪#‎coffeebarsinitaly‬ ‪#‎Italytravel‬

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baffo The typical cuisine of Orvieto tends to lean heavily on ‘meat’: Cinghiale (wild boar) and its cousin, maiale (pork), as well as dishes made of pigeon or dove (yes, I said pigeon). These ancient recipes also make room for our vegetarian friends. Umbrichelli is Orvieto’s pasta, often served with porcini mushrooms or ‘tartufo’ (black truffles). My favorite dish, Guanciale/Baffo (pork cheek) in a sage-tomato sauce, can be found at Trattoria del Moro Aronne where owner Cristian Manca provides great service and doubles as the entertainment. You’ll always ‘mangia bene’ in Orvieto! Like! Share! Visit! 


umbrichelli tartufo

#‎31daysofOrvieto‬ ‪#‎orvietoorbust‬‪#‎iloveorvieto‬ ‪#‎trattoriadelmoroaronne‬ ‪#‎Italytravel‬ ‪#‎orvieto‬

— in Orvieto.

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Paolo and Elizabeth needed help harvesting their olives. The window of opportunity was closing and with rain in the forecast, this was possibly their last chance for raccolta delle olive.

Temperatures have dropped considerably in Umbria and a chilly wind was blowing. However, being the good friend that I am, I didn’t hesitate to offer my assistance. After all, what are friends for if not to come to the rescue in times of need?

The promise of free olive oil and a homemade meal prepared by Paolo’s mother, Franca, had absolutely nothing to do with it.



by Toni DeBella

Read more about life in the Umbrian countryside in Elizabeth’s blog: My Village in Umbria 

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In Orvieto they do. 

They say LOVE is the universal language, but really it’s FOOD.  Bridging the gap between languages, cultures, and traditions – food is humanity’s common denominator.  “Yum” translates in every language.

Last evening, a large contingency of rowdy Americans, along with a strong delegation from the Eurozone: Italy (of course), Germany, England, Scotland and Finland, gathered to share a meal, wine and friendship.

It’s my understanding that in preparation for this turkey dinner, Carlo, the owner of Ristorante Dell’Ancora, was bombarded with weeks of strict and precise instructions on how to properly prepare a traditional “Norman Rockwell-style” Thanksgiving meal. The anxious, but well-meaning party organizer’s fears were finally quelled by Carlo’s confident annunciation, “Don’t worry, I will make a Thanksgiving dinner better than they do in the United States!”

To use a typically American expression…Carlo hit this one out of the ballpark!

by Toni DeBella

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The Etruscan Chef by Lorenzo Polegri & Kim Brookmire is not just another book about food or cooking, although it tells of both. 

It’s a window into the past and present lives of Umbrians and their cuisine – a memoir of food and its genesis from their ancestors, the Etruscans.  Lorenzo writes, “We used to be Etruscans.  I don’t know if we still are, but we love to think so.” 

Chef Polegri presents us with a book that is written by a boy who is now a man.  After reading it from cover to cover, I feel as though I know him, and the people he introduced me to, just a little bit better.  The smiling faces of the vendors I see at the outdoor market every week now have names. Absorbing Lorenzo’s words, I will try to remember that a farmer toiled in a nearby field to bring these delicious and real foods to my table.  Grandparents, parents, children and friends: Through Lorenzo’s stories from his childhood, his teenage years, and now his adulthood, I see more clearly the strong and beautiful people of my adopted home, and for this I am grateful. 

The Etruscan Chef is a pleasurable and emotional glimpse into the soul of a life in Umbria, Italy.

Lorenzo & Kim

To learn more about Chef Polegri and his work go to www.ristorantezeppelin.it or find him on Facebook

by Toni DeBella

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As far back as I can remember I loved baloney sandwiches!  My childhood obsession was so famous that family, friends, and neighbors referred to me as “Toni Baloney”.  Undaunted by the nickname, I was actually quite proud to be so closely associated with my favorite pink, slippery and quintessentially American cold cut.  After all, “Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.”

But as it happens, I grew up and had my first taste of baloney’s sophisticated Italian cousin, Mortadella, and I was a goner!  My boloney-eating days were over – this smooth, sweet and spicy, pistachio-filled deli roll is the “caviar” of lunchmeat.

I haven’t been to Bologna, Italy yet, but I am planning my pilgrimage once I’m settled in Orvieto.  The city of Bologna is famous for this finely ground, heat-cured pork salumi, produced there since the 14th century.  Suspected to have originally been a Roman sausage, Mortadella di Bologna has achieved the epitome of food recognition – it has a Protected Geological Indication status designated by the European Union to preserve the regional names of products.  In strict accordance with these delicious guidelines, a classic Mortadella di Bologna must be prepared with 15% evenly distributed squares of fat, no preservatives, fillers, or additives.  Naturale!

When in Italy I will be living-off Mortadella’s mouth-watering yumminessI’ll eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a bedtime snack.  I’ll eat it between two pieces of bread, thinly sliced “as is” with a glass of wine, cubed, fried, moussed and spread, and stuffed into tortellini.  Any way you slice it…Mortadella e’ bella!  

P.S.  I’m thinking of changing my nickname.  How does “Toni DeMortadellaBella” grab you?

by Toni DeBella


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It’s already bad enough that I have to be so far away from Italy right now, but on top of that, I’m completely tortured by the separation from the food in her restaurants!

San Francisco is a big, big foodie city known for its fine, cutting-edge dining, exquisite winemaking, and a strong, Italian-American heritage.  Whenever possible, I eat in Italian restaurants but honestly, lately there seems to be something missing.  The Olive Garden just isn’t cutting it for me any more.

Dining in Italy is the sum of its parts; a package deal where food and wine don’t tell the whole story – relationship, personal connection and graciousness are also part of the equation.  When I am in San Francisco it’s not so surprising then, that the places I feel the most comfortable and want to frequent are those owned, operated and staffed by native Italians. Ristorante Ideale in North Beach is one of my favorites. (Read 7 Tastes of Italy).  Owner and Chef Maurizio Bruschi creates a scene that makes the walk through his door, a walk into Rome. 

…and then there was dinner last evening at Ristobar in the Marina District.  The food was amazing in taste and presentation, but the icing on the cake was a personal visit to the table from the new Chef de Cuisine, Michele Belotti from Bergamo – young, talented and an artist with food.  I was transported again…this time just a little farther to the north.

Ristorante Ideale: http://www.idealerestaurant.com/; 1315 Grant Ave, SF 94133 (415)391-4129

Ristobar: http://www.ristobarsf.com/; 300 Chestnut Street, SF 94123; (415) 923-6464 

by Toni DeBella 

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February, 2009

A friend was visiting on a sunny, frigidly cold winter’s day when most people would have preferred to stay indoors and keep warm. Not us. We hopped on a bus that dropped us in Bagnoregio, then hiked up to the footbridge to the top of Civita’.

CivitaCivita’ di Bagnoregio (“the dying town”) is located 145km north of Rome in the region of Lazio, overlooking the Tiber Valley. The village seems to float above the earth in a cloud, but has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the world’s most endangered places; the town is slowly crumbling and sliding down its cliffs.

This little borgo has always had a strange allure for me (as it has, I’m sure, for millions of others who have experienced visited). The atmosphere that day was a little eerie because there didn’t appear to be any other souls in town (except  two ambling cats in the main square). It’s a favorite stop of tourists in the spring and summer, but on this February afternoon, the streets were quiet and deserted; underscoring the heartbreaking reality of the city’s inevitability. I’ve visited Civita’ three times in my life. The first was as a tourist. The second was as a dinner guest at the home of a friend (which was pretty amazing considering there are only a dozen residents remaining in this little hamlet). My last visit was by far the most memorable.

A small sign hanging in a courtyard is the only indication that there’s a thriving business inside a grotta at the end of the enchanting patio. Bruschetteria L’Antico Frantoio is too tiny to be called a cafe’, and the menu is too limited to be a restaurant – so it’s simply called a “bruschetteria”. I imagine it’s like no other bruschetteria in Italy. The Rocchi family has been operating this iconic destination of travelers for decades with its 1500 year-old olive oil mill (frantoio) in the back. The mill, which still functions (although it’s retired) has been in the family since 1520. Today, the family’s Agriturismo “Le Corone” in a valley nearby produces all of its oil.

On this day, Felice Rocchi was our host and chef. A remarkably efficient use of space, there is only a fireplace to grill the bread, a counter to assemble and serve the bruschetta and wine, and a few tables covered in tablecloths. I think we were Felice’s only customers that day and since we were in no hurry to return into the freezing wind, the three of us passed a very pleasant afternoon talking and eating the most amazing olive oil-soaked bruschetta and drinking the freshest house red wine. We chatted about Felice’s family, got a private tour of the Etruscan well in the cantina, and together devised a kooky plan to help bewildered Jtourists how and what to order. He promised us a cut of the projected profits from our little scheme, but I think when I return, I’ll ask for my share to be paid in bruschetta.

by Toni DeBella

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Two extraordinary women and cutting-edge chefs embarked on parallel life paths that take them on separate journeys of discovery, leading them to their passion for food and wine. Both were born in tiny farming communities in the fertile and luscious region of Umbria. They returned to their ancestral home of Orvieto, Italy, where their paths finally cross to reveal a serendipitous family connection and, as a result, they form a special bond of friendship and sisterhood. I’m extremely lucky to know them, both individually and together, and I love telling their story – it’s a story of how fate can bring surprises in the simplest ways…surprises that might be waiting for you just around the corner – or, in the case of Velia and Valentina – in your own backyard!

Velia’s story

Velia De Angelis’ family’s love for cooking dates back many generations to her great, great-grandfather Giuseppe “Peppe” Chiasso. Nonno “Peppetto” would prepare meals for the workers returning from the countryside and, as the story goes, Peppetto couldn’t help inviting everyone in the village to join them at their table – sometimes more than 30 people would be found eating in the courtyard! Just like her great-grandfather before her, Velia takes pleasure in sharing her enthusiasm for cooking, food and wine. She believes food can be the key to understanding lands, regions and people. Maybe it’s archetypical memories or the family stories passed down from generations before her that helped form Velia’s unique and creative way of cooking and inspired her to endow this gift to others in a most vivacious and effervescent way!

Velia was born in Monterubiaglio, 7km from the Etruscan hill town of Orvieto. She studied to become a primary school teacher, but in 1996 she left Italy for the United Kingdom – following her dream to create a life full of exciting and new adventures. Graduating from the University of Derby, she returned to Italy with the Virgin Company to launch the opening of Palazzo Sasso, one of the most luxurious and elegant hotels on the Amalfi Coast. It was in Positano that she opened her first cooking school and fell in love with the local cuisine of this spectacular seaside region. In 2006, Velia returned to Orvieto with her partner in life and business, GianLuca Antoiniella, and opened the energetic, trendy and late-night, La Champagneria. Along with her cooking school “Velia’s Cooking Style”, she appears weekly on “Chef Per Un Giorno” (Chef For a Day), a popular television program filmed in Rome.

Valentina’s Story

Valentina Santanicchio was born and raised on an organic farm in the feudal town of Ficulle in the countryside, 20km outside of Orvieto. It was there that she learned the importance of fresh, local and sustainable products. Located in the “Green Heart of Italy”, this region of Umbria is the capital of the “Citta’ Slow”(Slow City) movement. For centuries Italians have been thriving on “La Cucina Genuina” (genuine/authentic cuisine): Seasonal fresh ingredients and produce, locally grown and simply prepared. Returning to Orvieto after years living in Florence, Valentina’s appreciation of the deep traditions of food and wine that surrounded her as a girl had resurfaced. She took a position at a small cafe in the medieval center of town and fell in love with cooking and the restaurant world. In 2009, at the young age of 28, she opened Ristorante Al Saltapicchio, a bright, warm and instantly-popular restaurant located on the Piazza San Domenico. The perfect mix of modern ambiance and classic, authentic dishes, Valentina’s charm and energy bring something special to her innovative menu.

Velia and Valentina

I met both Velia and Valentina in the winter of 2009, nearly one year before they had been introduced to each other. It’s late February and I am back in Orvieto for my bi-annual pilgrimage to this town that I love. Valentina, Velia and I are sitting at La Champagneria late one evening, laughing and talking about life. They remind me of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz – it’s like they’ve been best friends their entire lives. It’s astounding to me that they actually managed to live, go to school, work, become chefs, open restaurants and, in a town of only 5,000 people, not collide until two years ago. Velia remembers that from the beginning she felt they were strangely connected. Valentina laughs about how they often finish each other’s sentences, are so similar in appearance (both are beautiful blonds) and approach life with the same fearlessness and audacity. It was discovered one day, by chance, that Velia’s grandmother helped to raise Valentina’s mother, Velma, after the death of Velma’s mother at a young age. To Velia and Valentina, this surprising revelation was the confirmation of what they knew in their hearts – they are “la famiglia.”

These two remarkable “forces of nature” have now combined their efforts to bring their innovative spirits and unique cooking personalities to special events and guest-hosted dinners in Umbria and throughout Italy. They have a tireless work-ethic, an unending wealth of energy, and are bottomless pits of enthusiasm. I get tired just thinking about their long hours and grueling schedules. But Velia and Valentina remain bright lights – original, strong, passionate and visionary. They are very different women, yet they are very much in tune – they are “le sorelle d’anima: Soul Sisters”.

YouTube Video:

You can see and taste the work of Velia De Angelis at La Champagneria, Piazza Marconi, 2, 05018 Orvieto (TR), tel. 0763 344102, e-mail info@champagneria-orvieto.com; at Velia’s Cooking Style, Via delle Coste, 2 – 05010 Monterubiaglio (TR) Tel 0039 338 94 63 464 | e-mail: info@veliascookingstyle.com; www.veliascookingstyle.com; and on “Chef per Un Giorno” at LA7.tv

Valentina’s Santanicchio’s wonderful Ristorante Al Saltapicchio can be found at Piazza XXIX Marzo 8/a, 05018 Orvieto, (TR). Tel. 0039 339 66 72 909. See interviews with Valentina at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXIq6Q_o5cg; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YRgDKP2R48; and you can read about her in an upcoming article for Conde Nast’s Traveler.

by Toni DeBella

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