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Spring Tour USA 2016 - Events Schedule

Seattle Events February 5-12

Feb 5 - Delaurenti - Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 1:00 - 6:00
Feb 6 - The Shop Agora - Terre Margaritelli wine & Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 2:00 - 6:00
Feb 9 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 10 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 11 - Barnacle - Terre Margaritelli & Trampetti wine & olive oil tastings 3:00 - 6:00

Nashville Events Feb 15-17
TBA

Washington DC Events Feb 19-28 at Via Umbria in Georgetown:

Feb 19 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 20 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 24 - Trampetti Olive Oil tasting
Feb 25 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 26 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 27 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 28 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner

Grand Cayman Feb 29-March 11
(ok, this is vacation, but if you are there and want to organize something or just hang out, let me know!)

Philadelphia & NYC Events March 13-23

March 15 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
March 16 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
TBA - Urbani Truffles (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting

rest of dates TBA


Spring Tour USA 2016!

As some of you already know we are planning our big US Tour!  In each city we will be holding private dinners, Terre Margaritelli wine tastings, Trampetti olive oil tastings, cooking classes and much more!  Below you will find the dates for each city, if you would like to organize a private wine dinner (minimum 8 people), send me an email and we will do our best to accommodate you.  Follow along on my social media for our upcoming event calendar!

Seattle: February 5-12

Nashville: February 15-17

Washington DC: February 19-28

Grand Cayman: March 1-11

Philadelphia/NYC area: March 13-23


Weekend Escape: Naples & Pozzuoli (part 2)

IMG_9663Finally on to Naples!  Now I have heard 2 versions... one that it is a chaotic, dirty, crime-ridden mess, and two that it is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.... obviously I will have to see for myself!

We took the standard Metro train (line 2) from Pozzuoli to Naples, which, in theory, takes about 30 minutes... but could take much longer for no apparent reason as this train likes to just stop for awhile every now and again.  Do not take this train if you have an appointment that you need to be on time for!  But if you just want to arrive in Naples at some random point in time during the day, it is fine.  Welcome to Southern Italy. 
The train dropped us off in the Chiaia district of Naples which is pretty much the opposite of everything you have ever heard about this city.  Large, tree lined boulevards, gorgeous palazzos, and all of the major designers from Prada to Gucci to Louis Vuitton... there was even a nice Umbrian representation from our high end designers like Brunello Cucinelli and Luisa Spagnoli.

But I did not come to Naples to see the same shops I can see in every major city.  I want to eat!  So we walk along through the center for two very important first stops:  Sfogliatella Mary and Gran Caffè Gambrinus.  I have eaten a few sfogliatelle in my day, but never hot out of the oven, crispy pastry, with warm, steaming lemon scented sweet ricotta on the inside... I now fully understand what all of the fuss is about.  Don't let your eyes be bigger than your stomach - there is a lot to eat in Naples so do yourself a favor and keep moving. 
Up next is an espresso from Gran Caffe Gambrinus, one of the most famous, historic bar-caffetterie in Naples, known as a meeting place for the cultural elite of Italy.  Apart from the beautiful 19th century decor, you will be amazed by the service.  The day I was there, the long bar was packed with people 5 deep, and 3 men all in their 60s & 70s (maybe even 80s) served us in minutes - these guys will put any coffee house anywhere in the world to shame.  And the coffee..... it takes a few extra seconds to make a true caffè Napoletano with the traditional manual lever machine, but it is worth the wait.  Served in a screaming hot porcelain tazzina, the stiff crema on top is enough to bring tears to any coffee lover's eyes.

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Moving deeper into the centro antico, the streets narrow and the air becomes laden with the perfumes of deep fried food and pizza.  So we stop again for a snack (why not?).  This time a frittatina napoletana.  I don't even know how to begin describing this... I only know that 4 days later, I am still full from having eaten it!  Basically it is gooey macaroni and cheese (but made with broken spaghetti) formed into a ball and stuffed with meat ragù.  Then closed back up, breaded, and..... fried.  You get the picture.  Across from the frittatina place was a (self described) enoteca.... this is one of those 'only in Napoli' type places - a guy with a few bottles (wine, prosecco, beer) sitting on top of a barrel with plastic cups.  Everything that could be misspelled was and everything cost either €1 or €1.50.  Sooooo, yeah, why not?

We decided that maybe it was time for a little culture break to aid the digestion so we dove into the Napoli Sotterranea, or Naples Underground.  Here you can do a guided or self guided tour through 2400 years of history - into the real 'old town' of Naples!  We also popped into the Chiesa di Gesu Nuovo a church which looks like a fascist war barracks from the outside, but inside holds a bomb of Baroque religious art and architecture.  And of course, no visit to Naples would be complete without a trip down Via San Gregorio Armeno, aka, Christmas Alley.  Here you will meet all of your Nativity scene needs, as it is packed with workshops and stores hocking everything from made in China holy family knick knacks to elaborate handmade porcelain and silk models.  This was the busiest, most congested street in all of Naples. 

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Believe it or not, all of the above was accomplished before 1:00pm, and believe it or not, it was now lunch time and we were starting to feel a little peckish... Naples is the first and only city I have ever been in in Italy (so far) that did not completely empty out at 1:00, especially on a Sunday.  Usually, this is when restaurants open for lunch and anyone in town either dives in hoping for  a place or heads home.  Honestly, other than pizzerie, I didn't really even see a whole lot of restaurants in the old historic part of Naples... and this is because this area is known for its Street Food (of which we had been partaking all morning).  Walking back up Spaccanapoli, the main road of this quarter, we stopped at a Friggitoria with a huge line (mob of people), so, we got in it too.  We pushed our way up to get paper cones overflowing with fritto misto (mixed fried fish & vegetables and of course, fried dough).

Do I want to explode at this point? Ummm.... yes.  We took a break at another local bar for a much needed digestivo and another amazing caffè, this time sweetened, at Bar Mexico, before meandering our way back through the byways of Naples.
The food portion of the day was pretty much over now, so how about a little shopping?  One aspect that really stuck out for me were all of the small, locally owned artisan shops, especially the Sartorie - you can find amazing tailored men's clothing all over the city - I was actually a little jealous - the women's clothing were all pretty standard... but the men's....!

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A walk along the waterfront to take in a cloudy view of Vesuvius and Capri and our day in Napoli was complete.  So what is missing from this anecdote?  Crime, trash, chaos....  I didn't see any of this.  Naples is a city, and like any city, it has a certain grime to it, but I found it to be much cleaner than Rome.  I also didn't see any obvious pickpockets and gypsies like I do in Florence and Rome.  Obviously there are bad areas in Naples, really bad, but they are far enough from the historic center and you wouldn't go walking around looking for trouble in those neighborhoods, just like you wouldn't go walking around in South Central LA...common sense.  The town moves at a frenetic pace as it is densely populated but I didn't feel overrun (of course, I was visiting in January... I don't think I would have enjoyed myself as much with the added tourists and heat of July).  I found Naples to be vibrant, lively and completely charming, not to mention delicious, and I cannot wait to return!

*****
Grazie Mille to Bryan & Ellen Barletto for guiding us through Pozzuoli and Naples!!!

 


Weekend Escape: Naples & Pozzuoli (part 1)

FullSizeRender-3Naples is not for first time visitors to Italy.  Even I have been wanting to visit Bella Napoli, home of the only real pizza (in my opinion) for  a very long time, but, we all know the stories about Naples... pickpockets, trash, mafia... so I wanted to wait to visit to go with someone who knows their way around.  Lucky for me, a few Americans living in Pozzuoli came up to Umbria to do a Food & Wine Tour with me and we quickly became friends... and consequently, I got a tour guide for Naples!

We opted to stay in Pozzuoli, a lively little port town just west of Naples.  This is  a great place to base yourself if you want to ease yourself into the Napoletano experience.  Like most towns along the Campanian coast, it is built into steep cliffs.  We stayed in a residence at the top of the town, which gives the option of escaping the late night revelry of the port, plus the climb helps you to walk off all of the fried food and pizza that you will inevitably be eating!
You do not need a car once in Pozzuoli.  In fact, I discourage it.  I haven't seen so many banged up and beaten cars since the last time I drove through North Philly.  If you arrive with a car, make sure your hotel has a parking lot (preferably gated... things happen... wheels get stolen...) and just get around (easily) on foot.

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Pozzuoli is bursting at the seams with bars, restaurants and pizzerie.  In the morning you can enjoy a fantastic brioche or sfogliatella (more on that later) with the best caffè and cappuccino in Italy and an amazing freshly squeezed orange juice - it was mandarino season, so they threw a few of those in as well!
For lunch try one of the seafood restaurants down by the port.  Most serve an antipasto misto of cold and hot seafood dishes, accompanied by little balls of fried dough, called zeppollini.  You will become extremely acquainted with zeppollini by the end of your stay.  Then, if you have room, everyone serves the standard seafood pasta dishes and main courses.  Wash it all down with a local Falanghina, the white wine of the area.
If you can stand to eat more food, check out a traditional Pizzeria for the best pizza you will ever have in your life.  This is the area where it all started, so you might as well take advantage!  We had a Cornucopia (fried dough filled with fried things) before our pizza (which was after an Aperitivo (accompanied by fried things)) to really make sure that we weren't going to go hungry.... don't worry, a limoncello afterwards helps with the digestion (I guess.... ;-) ).  We had an especially good time at La Dea Bendata - apart from the amazing pizza, when the owner/head Pizzaiolo, Ciro Coccio found out that we were from Umbria (he makes a special "Taste of Umbria" pizza with products imported from our region), he immediately bumped up our reservation and a table appeared out of nowhere for us - true Neopolitan hospitality!

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One caveat about the restaurants in this area:  there is always a TV and it is always on.  Usually it is muted so that you can hear music but not miss any of the Italian game shows or sporting events that might be happening during your meal.  We happened upon one restaurant where the TV was actually off (shocker), but alas, at a certain hour, the music went off and the TV went on, with the volume relatively high because it was time for the news.  And by news, I mean all things related to Napoli calcio (the Naples soccer team) with a sprinkling of Formula 1 and motorcyle racing thrown in for good measure.  Welcome to Naples.

Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to explore the sites (we were too busy getting from one meal to the next), but there is really a lot to see and do, especially if you are fond of Greek and Roman ruins - Pozzuoli is even home to the 3rd largest Roman amphitheater in Italy.
The port area is great for food shopping.  We found a fruttivendolo who was also selling homemade passata (tomato sauce) and preserved peppers.  The bakery had wonderful bread as well as local Taralli - which is basically a type of savory biscuit composed of lard, flour, black pepper and almonds.  In theory, you could eat tons of these things, but you will feel the lard aspect hit you like a ton of bricks!  Nearby the local caseficio (cheese shop) has fresh mozzarella di bufala daily as well as scamorze and provolone.  Every morning you can also find the local fishermen with their catch of the day down by the water if you feel like trying a local recipe at home.

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Next stop, taking the train to Naples... (to be continued...)

Where to stay: Villa Avellino Hotel Residence

Best Bars:  Giorgio's Caffè, Bar Primavera, Il Capitano Cafè

Where to eat:  La Dea Bendata Pizzeria, Ristorante Il Faro a Ninella, Putipù Bistrot, La Cucina degli Amici