The CASAGIOVE blog– a collection of stories, updates, recipes, special events and more!
~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?
As a young girl, I spent many summers in the Campania region of Italy. One of my favorite everyday things to eat was a panino. A panino is the Italian word for sandwich, but it is nothing like the sandwiches that are often called “Italian” in the United States. It is easy to make, tasty and very satisfying without making you feel stuffed. I love making these sandwiches for others; it is a simple way to show you love someone.
What makes the perfect sandwich?
I. Good bread
Good bread is the most important ingredient and makes all the difference- which is why I intend on carrying only the best at CASAGIOVE! Good bread for this type of sandwich needs to be slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and partially hollow. This describes my absolute favorite bread for a panino which is called the rosetta and found all over Campania. There used to be an Italian market in San Pedro that carried rosette, but sadly, it is no longer open. It is very difficult in general to find any type of bread with the qualities I mentioned. And looks can be deceiving, so I always give the bread I am considering a quick squeeze to make sure it’s slightly crispy and not too soft or hard. I have found some good rolls at Whole Foods, and some slightly hollowed out ciabatta rolls could work, however, my favorite reasonable and convenient option at the moment is the Trader Joe’s Organic Artisanal Baguette. It comes in a closed sleeve (which helps it to stay fresh); it is frozen and brought out each morning. All you need to do is pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for a few minutes, and it’s ready to go. I normally don’t recommend anything frozen, but this bread works and it’s always good! If I get to Trader Joe’s early enough and the organic baguettes are still cold, I buy a few and pop them in my freezer so that I can use them throughout the week as needed. When I am using the baguettes for sandwiches, I cut them into 3-4 medium sized pieces or 2 larger pieces. If I am not lucky enough to get an organic baguette, I can use a baguette from the local market and trim out some of the bread inside to help make it more hollow.
II. Fresh, high quality ingredients
Meats – I always opt for the better meats. Although no markets near me carry the quality of meats found in Italy, I choose from the organic, nitrate free, low sodium, artisanal meats offered at whichever market I go to. I pay close attention to the color of meats as well. If it looks gray or tan or is even the slightest bit sticky, it’s not fresh. I make sure to give it a taste at the counter, and also make sure that it’s sliced to order. I rarely go with pre-sliced (even though they say it was sliced that morning), and I am very finicky about the thickness of the slices. It needs to be on the thinner side, without being too thin. Most deli slicers will ask, and if they don’t, be sure to say something.
Cheeses – My favorite cheese to use is fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/8″ slices or the little balls of fresh mozzarella, called “ciliegine”, cut in half.
Lettuce – Butter lettuce, baby greens or arugula (depending on the type of meat I am using) are all great lettuce options. I take the time to check dates on any packaged lettuce and make sure there are no browning leaves.
III. Keep it simple
One type of meat, one type of cheese, a little lettuce with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon (or a little balsamic vinegar) and a sprinkle of kosher salt… and that’s it! Nothing more is needed!
IV. Wrap it up
There is something about taking the time to wrap up a sandwich that makes it extra special. I like using tan sandwich paper liners with a little twine, and then I add the person’s name and/or a little love note. If it’s a sandwich that will sit in the refrigerator until lunch time, I wrap it in plastic wrap before adding the tan sandwich liner.
V. Preferably eat outside, with a beautiful view and good company
In Italy, especially in summer, you are ALWAYS outside! You walk everywhere, you eat outside, you talk outside…it’s a beautiful thing. Eating outside with people you love and a pretty view is always a good idea, and it helps to bring a little bit of summers in Italy to California… so grab a friend and a panino and enjoy the fresh air and the perfect sandwich today!
~the following is N°1 in the series, Un’estate senza fine // An endless summer~
It was the trip of a lifetime, and we enjoyed every minute— and every bite. There is something about the sights, sounds and smells of the Campania region in Italy that instantly charms you. Even in the intense summer heat and humidity, you just don’t stand a chance against all the beauty, liveliness, love and good food surrounding you. Not only was I inspired all over again, but I could see that this region had instantly captured the hearts of my two sons and husband as well. We had just arrived, and we already didn’t want our incredible Italian summer to end. Magari! If only! We needed to find a way to make this an endless summer…
Without saying it aloud, I determined to soak it all in, to take notes, and to find ways to continue our Italian summer back home and to share it with all of you. So, andiamo! Here we go!
Our first stop was the lovely town of Sorrento. It had been 13 long years, and as the popular Neapolitan songs says, it was time to come back. And I am so glad that we did! Sorrento is at the same time peaceful and energetic, old and new, tourist-y and local. Our little apartment was located up five flights of stairs in a worn apartment building that was filled with the perfect balance of contemporary style, old-world charm and modern amenities.
The view from our balcony was breathtaking; it didn’t take long for the boys to settle in and enjoy! When in Sorrento…
We couldn’t wait to bite into our first Pizza Margherita. Luckily, there was a pizzeria right across from our apartment. The owner listened patiently as I stumbled over my first few Italian phrases of the trip. She smiled lovingly and called me bella, while encouraging us to take a seat and relax. We talked and laughed and shared parts of our day until our pizza arrived. And then it was silent, as we savored each mouth-watering bite.
After our first pizza (of many), we went for a stroll down the main street for our first gelato (of many!) and were taken aback at the simple beauty of the enchanting lights. The electricity in the air was intoxicating!
On our way home, we stopped at the local market to pick up a few things. We were greeted by the helpful shop owner who hand-picked the most delectable fruits and vegetables for us to enjoy. I couldn’t help but notice the market’s American name. I laughed out loud. To me, everything sounds better in Italian, and apparently to Italians, they are just as enchanted by the English language. (Not pictured is the infamous dessert bar down the street, called, “Sugar Party”, pronounced “Shoo-gahr Paar-tee” . Giggles all around!)
Over the next couple of days, we explored every part of Sorrento. We took nothing for granted.
Each patterned cobblestone pathway,
each unique door,
the bright colors of the buildings,
the gorgeous views,
… all of it was extraordinary.
We ended each night gathering around the table for dinner, known as “cena” in Italian, and shared our favorite moments and pictures of the day. The late-night dinners at our new Sorrentine home were simple and featured two of the most precious ingredients of the Campania region, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) and pomodori (tomatoes). So fresh and so tasty- just a little sprinkle of local olive oil, salt and basil, and we were in heaven… It was the perfect way to unwind after a long day of walking and exploring.
Our time in Sorrento was the perfect way to start our Italian summer. We were able to ease into the Italian lifestyle under its gentle care. Our next adventure would take us to Positano, a slightly more remote and rustic (but just as charming) little town located on the Amalfi coast.
and who knows what treasures we might find?