The CASAGIOVE blog– a collection of stories, updates, recipes, special events and more!
~the following is N°3 in the series, Un’estate senza fine // An endless summer~
The next part of our journey brought us to Napoli for the wedding of my cousin, Maddalena, to Giancarlo. The anticipation was palpable. We couldn’t wait to see our precious Italian family and to celebrate with them. What a gift it would be to share in such a special day, with people we love so much, in a region that held so many beautiful memories.
In Napoli, each sight, each sound, each bite… is a reminder of the incredible beauty that exists in simplicity. Although I may be biased, it’s difficult to ignore that there is something very raw and real about southern Italy. It’s not about glitz or glamour or status. Instead, it’s about how much you can do with just a little. It’s about sacrificing for the benefit of others and doing so in a big, yet humble and loving way. As much as I try to put it into words, words don’t do it justice. It’s something you must experience. As I watched my Bertie and our sons interact with family and the people of Napoli, I could see them embracing it and even more importantly, relishing it. It really is a magical thing to know and be a part of something so authentic. A true gift.
Ana Akhmatova puts it perfectly, “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” It was so dreamy; everywhere we looked, everything we did, everyone we met was part of a dream that would provide inspiration for years to come. The gift that keeps on giving.
Our first night there, my cousin Nicola and his wife Maria brought us to the most amazing pizzeria. It was late and there were people EVERYWHERE, talking (so fast and with their hands, of course!), smiling and laughing. We walked inside and knew right away that this was the real thing. We walked past several busy tables and up a narrow staircase to the secret spot upstairs. Nicola started ordering and before we knew it, there were plates of delicious fried food in front of us, refreshing drinks and lots of smiles all around.
And then the pizza came. Mamma mia! Ma che buono! (Oh my goodness! But how good!)
I saw this quote recently at Fuoco Pizzeria, an authentic pizzeria napoletano in Fullerton, and it gave me chills because it’s so true…
Peasant’s food served on the tables of Kings,
Has no fathers.
It has no masters,
It is the fruition of genius from the people of Napoli.
What the people of Napoli are able to do with just a few fresh ingredients is truly incredible. We enjoyed every bite.
And we never wanted the night to end…
For the rest of the week, we walked for miles and miles in the intense heat and took it all in. Each and every laundry-filled balcony, all the patch-worked walls, as many chaotic street scenes as we could muster, and market after charming market. Together these vignettes created quite the masterpiece.
At the end of the week, the time came to witness these two beautiful souls become one.
I could go on and on, but for now, I will wrap things up the best way I know how. I want to share with you two recipes inspired by the simplicity and beauty of the sights, sounds and people of Napoli. My hope is that these recipes will help bring you to the table with your loved ones. Beauty in simplicity. Che regalo! What a gift!
I will always treasure the time I spent in Casagiove with my Zia Ninuccia and her family. They had a way of making me feel so special. My Zia was sure to make all of my favorites while I was in town. At the top of my list was Carne alla Pizzaiola. She knew that, so it was always the first meal she would lovingly prepare for me. It’s a delectable meat dish, made in the style of pizza. Like with most of my favorites, there isn’t a lot to it. You would think something this tasty would take hours to make, but it doesn’t. The key is to use a lot of fresh oregano and garlic. The cut of meat is very important too. Thanks to my mom’s suggestion, a filet mignon roast, cut into 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick slices is what I’ve found works best. This is a leaner version of meat than what is traditionally used. However, the quality of filet mignon helps mimic the quality of beef you’d find in Italy. My mom always tells me to add a little extra olive oil to make up for the lean-ness! Also, my dear cousin Nicola recently reminded me that you should use fresh tomatoes when making this dish; however, again, our tomatoes can’t compare, so I opt for a San Marzano tomato puree imported from the Campania region – a brand I love and trust is Carmelina’s.
After many years of practicing, I finally have a version that I am excited to share with you…
Carne alla Pizzaola
I will always treasure the time I spent in Casagiove with my Zia Ninuccia and her family. They had a way of making me feel so special. My Zia was sure to make all of my favorites while I was in town. At the top of my list was Carne alla Pizzaola. She knew that, so it was always the first meal she would lovingly prepare for me. It's a delectable meat dish, made in the style of pizza, and served with pasta.
- 6-7 cloves garlic chopped
- 3 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped
- 1-2 tsp Calabrian chile paste
- kosher salt to taste
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 15-16 filet mignon 1/4" - 1/2" thick slices
- 24 oz Italian tomato puree
- 1 lb pasta
Heat up pan. Add olive oil and kosher salt.
Add garlic, herbs and chile paste and saute for just a bit (making sure to not burn the garlic).
Add tomato puree and mix well.
Let sauce simmer on low for 20 - 30 minutes.
Add 7-8 filet mignon slices and cook for a few minutes on each side. Be sure to not over cook. Remove and set aside. Add in remaining slices and repeat.
While meat is cooking, start making the pasta.
Add pasta (when it is almost al dente) and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce.
Serve with a baguette and enjoy!
~the following is N°2 in the series, Un’estate senza fine // An endless summer~
While staying in Sorrento, we knew we had to set some time aside to visit the Amalfi coast. Located on the southern side of the Sorrentine peninsula, it is an enchanting place, dotted with pastel-colored villages. The last time we visited the Amalfi coast was so long ago; however no amount of time could erase our first impression. We couldn’t wait to go back and decided to visit one of the most popular towns on this coast, Positano. This town is nothing short of magical, and every dangerous twist and turn of the almost hour long, crowded bus ride to reach this destination was well worth it!
The bus dropped us off near the top of Positano. We carefully followed the path to the heart of the town. It was such a lovely walk…
lined with door after incredible door,
and even a market on wheels, just in case you needed to stop for a tasty and refreshing snack!
By the time we made it near the shore, we were ready for a nice lunch, or in Italian, pranzo. There were options everywhere, but luckily for us, we ended up at Buca di Bacco. It was amazing.
So amazing that I only got a picture of the menu at the beginning… and my shot of espresso at the end! However, the rest— Matthew’s pillow-y soft gnocchi, Ben’s mussels in the incredible broth, Bert’s ultra fresh fried fish platter and my delicately stuffed and melt-in-your-mouth fried zucchini blossoms are all indelible memories.
Next, we headed to the beach. The water was as blue as could be and incredibly refreshing.
As I sat on the shore, and looked across the sea, the lyrics of that famous Neapolitan song that my dear mamma always sings, came to mind, Vir o’ mare quant’è bello…
the first two lines perfectly captured the moment I was having: “See the sea how beautiful it is, it inspires all kinds of emotions…”
Although it was time to head back to Sorrento for the night, Positano was so captivating, we weren’t ready to say goodbye. So we decided to come back and do a little more exploring.
The next morning, we got a later start, but it didn’t matter because Positano already felt like home. We knew the path to the beach well and took more time to stop and smell the proverbial roses.
As we made our way down all the winding cobblestone streets, our stomachs recalled yesterday’s feast and hoped for another great meal. We started to search for a little cafe. Everything looked and smelled amazing, but we were at the point of wanting just the perfect bite and struggling with which bite would truly satisfy. My hungry, cranky men looked to me for the answer, and I knew I needed to deliver. The time had come to share one of my most favorite things to eat in Italy (and simplest of pleasures), un bel panino— a nice sandwich.
Now, granted, they know and love my sandwiches, but I am always comparing mine to the ones that inspired me from my summers in Italy. I needed them to understand the simple goodness I had been talking about. And don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for more complex sandwiches, with lots of fancy components and spreads, (or even the grilled variety, that Americans call “panini”) but to me, there is nothing that can compare to a panino, in its purest form.
Just then, we happened upon the dreamiest little market. I took a quick peak inside – it was crowded and the aroma of homemade bread and the finest meats and cheeses filled the air. It was the perfect spot to get un bel panino.
The market was run by a darling family. The dad greeted everyone who walked in the door with a big smile, while continuing to tease his son and daughter who were helping him at the counter. His daughter walked up to us and got right to business: “Cosa volete?”, meaning “What would you like?” and took our orders. We got to choose from an assortment of freshly baked rolls (soft, crispy, rosetta, ciabatta, baguette), meats, and cheeses… We went with the classic rosetta, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and insalata or salad. Everything was sliced to order and “insalata” meant she topped the meat and cheese with some butter lettuce, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of salt. She wrapped each one up, placed it in a brown paper bag and we were off to the church steps to enjoy.
Eating our panini on the church steps was quite the moment. And in that moment, nothing needed to be said. My guys knew exactly what I had been talking about all these years… Un bel panino, the perfect sandwich. And yes, I can make them at home. (What a great way to bring our Italian summer home with us!)
What makes the perfect sandwich?
- Good bread
- Fresh, high quality ingredients
- Keep it simple
- Wrap it up
- Preferably eat outside, with a beautiful view and good company
Want to make your own perfect panino? I share my tips here:
<<<<<<< Un bel panino// The perfect sandwich >>>>>>>
It’s that easy! And we have had one almost every day since our return. Here’s to that endless summer!
The time had come for us to go to our next stop, the reason for our whole trip…Where two would become one! It was time to say goodbye to the quaint little beach towns and say hello to something much different…
Who knew our time in Napoli would be such a gift?