You'd be surprised by what we didn't do in Italy. We didn't see a lot of churches.
Well... we saw a few. It's required.
Nor did we make it a mission to hit every piece of art.
But sometimes you'd simply walk into a building and look up and Italy surprises you.
We ate a lot of this.
And this - yes - chocolate tortellini. From Bologna - the city of tortellini and tagliatelle. Even their food is musical. And I continued my search for tortellini in brodo. There's something about those little stuffed pastas - years ago I wrote a script - Commedia Delight where the very tall character - Teeny Tortellini was a character. Some things stay with you.
After seeing this, I was begging Paul to rent me a kitchen so I could make my own.
We did a lot of people-watching in the piazzas. Found a medieval art fair, ate a hippo's weight in gelato, consumed every meat and cheese platter that winked at us and investigated side streets.
We walked off most of the calories. Just turning a corner brought smiles. Nothing looked like home. Nor should it.
The bruschetta was so simple but we loved how it was placed in a small puddle of olive oil and fresh pepper - the reverse of how I do it. Messy in the most luxurious way. When I came home to a bounty of cherry tomatoes and the arugula still hanging on, my husband requested this over and over again. And I complied.
This is not the way to take off the Italy weight.
Fresh tagliatelle with a Bolognese sauce. We had a required pasta for every city and town we visited. Some people have sights to see and our sights were food. I think we thought we would slide into the Italian state of mind by walking the streets and tasting all.
Every side street held a promise. Somewhere out there was tortellini in brodo.
And a lot of these. I am looking for a no-fail torrone recipe if anyone has - mine is always too soft. And we are a torrone-family. Sometimes I think torrone is the glue that binds us. Every time I open one - a conversation starts with "remember..." All too soon, it is "remember?" Gilberto's - where the torrone is from. And where my husband patiently waited while I investigated every centimeter of the store.
And then Taburini's (all in Bologna).
This is a place where you really wish you had rented a kitchen.
I could get even chubbier at Tamborini's.
I remain a soup-fiend and a ricotta addict. And this is where the ricotta spread its magic.
7 Archi - very touristy. But during the course of a long lunch, the restaurant worked it's charms and we could see the torches and the craftsmen of Medieval Bologna. Until this jolted us back to our time -
Simple. Some vanilla gelato perched on a diminutive ricotta tort - laced with chocolate and tiny chocolate bursts. I never ate anything so slowly in my life. But like a good book -when the last page comes and you finally must read it - the last spoonful was downed. And this delectable was memory.
After the Medieval Fair, we were back in the piazza - waiting for sunset and restaurants to open again. We were in no hurry.
In our last night in Bologna, I was in despair. Obsessed with finding a simple toretellini in brodo, I led Paul down side street after side street reading menus. We had had the ragu, the tagliatelle served every way but I could not find tortellini in brodo.
Until a dark side street showed promise - Vicolo Colombina in Dove Lane - an alleyway just steps from Piazza Maggiore. Part art gallery, part wine bar and part ristorante - with a small but succinct menu that showcases the food of Emilia-Romagna.
It boasted of the best meat platter in Bologna.
These were no hastily cured meats. Delicate, a touch of salt, a classic - gracefully aged meats to be savored. This restaurant did not idly boast.
And then - yes it is simple - yes - it is peasant - but there it was - my tortellini in brodo. I fell in love with this at a dive restaurant in Rome years ago and have flirted with it, longed for it and have become staunchly devoted to it ever since.
By the time I was finished, I was attached to the restaurant. I wanted to move in and write plays all centering on tortellini.
And I so trusted them that when it came time for dessert, I asked the owner to surprise me.
And his choice did surprise me.
Panna cotta - silky, smooth cooked cream surrounded by caramel - so simple. The way a simple gold bangle resting on your wrist is - the way one milky white rose can greet you and so fitting for a place that specializes in not only local fare but art.
I asked to take some photos. Inside the gallery was featuring the work of Carlo Ferrari. His studies of flowers - particularly of roses caress the senses. Heavily influenced by the Flemish paintings of the 17th century, Ferrari offers a sweet nod to the past while making it his own.
The owner disappeared while I tried to do justice to the exquisite rooms with my simple point and shoot. And returned with a booklet for me to take home - containing photos of all of Ferrari's 'study of roses' paintings.
Truly I am in the land of generosity of spirit.
And now, I slowly move through the pages of Ferrari's glorious roses - now - as I write this - remembering. In front of me is a hastily prepared tortellini in brodo. Good for what ails you - when you are remembering.
Tortellini in Brodo
(This is a broth that takes canned chicken broth and enriches it. While I am a a lover of and cooker of fresh chicken broth , you may recall that I can also be a great, lazy-bones and if making broth is not in the cards, I will do this - from the wonderful Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table. Her long-simmered poultry stock is truly a winner - but after this long post - I thought I would leave you with something simple.)
1 medium onion
58 ounces low-sodium chicken broth (preferably organic)
1 large celery stalk with leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 large carrot - coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, unpeeled (trim root ends) coarsely chopped
2 sprigs Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove crushed
generous pinch of dried basil
Preheat broiler. Trim root end from first onion but do not peel. Cut it into 4 thick slices. Arrange them on broiling pan (aluminum foil if you wish) and slip under broiler - broiling for 15 minutes until browned on both sides - turning once.
Pour broth into large stockpot and skim off the hardened fat (easily done if the broth has been chilled). Add broiled onion and all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat so the broth just simmers, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat and strain. Use broth immediately or refrigerate or freeze.
The tortellini - given that my ravioli skills are in preschool - I will admit it - I buy the tortellini - the fresh stuff. Maybe this is the winter when my patience will increase and true Bolognese tortellini will come from my kitchen. I did note that the tortellini in Bologna is much tinier and more delicate than the American counterparts.
France is said to be the land of cuisine while Italy is the land of ingredients but I don't know - for what is cuisine without the ingredients?