Food & Drink

Panettone aPlenty

This past April on a trip to VinItaly, Suzy and I snuck off for a day to indulge our sweet tooths with a tour with two of our favorite Panettone producers—Loison and Filippi. One step (or really one sniff) inside the baking facility at Loison and we knew we had made the right choice. Even during their off season, a time when there are no ovens on, no cakes baking, and no ingredients in sight, the entire factory smelled like sugar, butter, and fluffy, decadent cake. We wandered around the production line—looking at the giant (seriously huge) stand mixers where they carefully mix the panettone dough, coaxing the ingredients to combine together in just the right way to create the light, airy cakes, the enormous ovens that bake hundreds of carefully handcrafted cakes at a time, and the inventive machines that flip those cakes upside-down straight from the oven to keep their shape. If you’ve never seen the process I definitely encourage you to take a look—it’s pretty incredible. And for those of you who have ever had any doubts about whether or not the Italians are some of the most thoughtful, patient, and purposeful people on the planet take my word for it- one bite of a perfectly baked Panettone is all you need to change your mind.

In addition to the attention to detail during the baking process two other aspects of the production of the Panettone really stood out to me. The first being the pride that emanated from the bakers at both facilities as they walked us through each flavor of Panettone they were preparing to make for this holiday season (between 20-35 each) and exactly where every single ingredient in each of those cakes was sourced. Single origin chocolate drops from Domori, untreated Madagascar vanilla beans (and never any artificial flavors), free range eggs, figs from Calabria, Lemons from Sicily and fresh milk delivered every day during the baking season; each ingredient is carefully selected for it’s quality of production and taste to create the perfect marriage of flavors for each cake. As the Pastry Chefs at Filippi say “Just as in an orchestra, to create a symphony, every instrument has to be in harmony with the whole, so it does not suffice that every ingredient is good on its own. Each ingredient has to amalgamate well with all the others…” Each year they revisit the flavors of the year prior, sampling dozens of varieties of fruits, nuts, and honeys, ensuring that their cakes are always created using the just the ideal balance of flavors and ingredients.

The second aspect that the Pastry Chefs at both Loison and Filippi were quick and proud to point out is that each one of their cakes is hand wrapped in paper and tied with a bow. Out of context that may not seem like a big deal but when you think about the thousands of cakes being produced every Christmas and the intricate and precise wrapping each of these cakes is adorned with you really start to get a sense of the magnitude of this process. And the result is spectacular—3as they said at Loison “The result is a product that is more than just a baked good: it’s also a gift, a furnishing item and a piece of art.” It’s clear in speaking with them that there is no detail of the panettone making process that is overlooked and the result of all of that effort and attention to detail is the essential (and most delicious) emblem of the Christmas holiday.

Don’t just take my word for it though- come see and sample for yourself! On July 25th we’ll be celebrating Christmas in July- we’re so looking forward to the holiday season that we can’t possibly wait any longer. Stop by our market and taste samples of this year’s spectacular concoctions, see that intricate and delicate paperwork and ribbons adorning these beautiful parcels and pre-order some of your favorites.

This past April on a trip to VinItaly, Suzy and I snuck off for a day to indulge our sweet tooths with ...

Simone’s Summer Salad Recipe

Filled with toasty fregola sarda and delicious summer vegetables like sweet peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, Chef Simone’s panzanella is a classic summer cookout staple. The crisp vegetables offer a bright contrast to the tender cooked grains—Simone’s Summer Salad is the star of every BBQ.

SIMONE’S SUMMER SALAD
INGREDIENTS

I cup raw Fregola Sarda
2 cups hot water
Carrots
Celery
Fresh onion
Sweet peppers
Cucumbers
Cherry Tomatoes
Basil
     DIRECTIONS

– Boil the water and cook the Fregola. Once tender, drain and let cool.

-Dice all the veggies and toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

-Once the Fregola is cool, mix with the prepped vegetables and sprinkle with fresh basil.

 

Filled with toasty fregola sarda and delicious summer vegetables like sweet peppers, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, Chef Simone’s panzanella is a classic ...

Quick Summer Salads

ASPARAGUS AND RHUBARB SALAD
INGREDIENTS

10 stalks asparagus – ends broken off

3 stalks rhubarb – slightly shaved

2 cups pea shoots

¼ cup lemon juice

¼  cup extra virgin olive oil

1T honey

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Lightly brush asparagus with olive oil and roast until tender.  Slice into 1” pieces. Slice the rhubarb into matchsticks. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and honey.  Toss asparagus and rhubarb with dressing in a serving bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with pea shoots and lemon zest.

STRAWBERRY AND ASPARAGUS SALAD
INGREDIENTS

1 pint strawberries sliced

4 cups baby arugula

10 stalks asparagus – ends broken off

Goat Lady Chevre

Marcona Almonds

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Lightly brush asparagus with olive oil and roast until tender.  Slice into 1” pieces. Put arugula in a serving bowl and add strawberries.  Whisk together vinegar and olive oil – season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss the arugula and strawberries. Top with dollops of goat cheese and almonds.

FAVA BEANS AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
INGREDIENTS

1 pound fava beans shelled

3 Portobello Mushrooms cleaned

¼ pound aged pecorino shaved

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

⅓ cup white wine vinegar

1 T dijon mustard

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Steam fava beans for 1-2 minutes (should still be bright green) remove from heat and put on ice to quick chill.  Slice portobellos. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss together mushrooms and cooled favas.  Top with pecorino and serve.

ASPARAGUS AND RHUBARB SALAD INGREDIENTS 10 stalks asparagus - ends broken off 3 stalks rhubarb - slightly shaved 2 cups pea shoots ¼ cup lemon juice ¼  cup ...

House Spice Rub Recipe

Umbria is famous for its Norcinos – butchers – creating cuts to be grilled, roasted and cured. This Father’s Day our Norcino shares his in-house seasoning blend inspired by the flavors of Norcia. The fragrant and summery flavors of wild fennel and citrus provide a piquant and unexpected twist to a classic summer BBQ. Fennel pollen can be purchased in-store—just ask at the butcher counter.

HOUSE SPICE RUB
INGREDIENTS

1 lb Sicilian fleur de sel

1 oz fennel pollen

2 oz coarse black pepper

2 oz muscovado sugar

2 oz dried orange zest

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

-Mix together blend ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Makes 1 1/2 lbs.

To use: rub steak, chicken, etc. with extra-virgin olive oil. Rub 1 oz. of seasoning per every 1 lb of meat and allow to marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Grill, roast, smoke, sous vide or cook however you like.

Note: this blend is also great on roasted olives tossed in good olive oil.

 

Umbria is famous for its Norcinos - butchers - creating cuts to be grilled, roasted and cured. This Father’s Day our Norcino ...

Whole-Baked Fish with Olives Recipe

This recipe for whole-baked fish with olives comes to us from Elizabeth Minchilli, who enlisted a team of Italian mammas and nonnas to perfect it. After tinkering with her method and recipe for 25 years, she says she’s finally nailed it. The result is a tender roasted fish, flavored with briny green olives and bright, bursting cherry tomatoes. Spoiler alert: this  might be our favorite recipe from her new book.

WHOLE-BAKED FISH WITH OLIVES
INGREDIENTS

2 whole fish with the head on, cleaned and scaled (you can ask the fishmonger to do this for you)

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 cup briny green olives, unpitted

Olive oil (about ¼ cup)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Oil one fish generously, seasoning the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff parsley and a few olives into the cavity and scatter half of the olives and tomatoes around the fish. Place fish on parchment or aluminum foil and repeat with the other fish.

Wrap each fish, creating a seal so steam won’t escape. Bake for about 25 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes

To serve, place on platter, open the packet, and debone the fish. Pour the juices from the parchment paper along with the olives and tomatoes on top of the fish.

 

This recipe for whole-baked fish with olives comes to us from Elizabeth Minchilli, who enlisted a team of Italian mammas and nonnas to perfect it. ...

Burrata with Peperoncino Crema

Guests from our most recent Chef’s Dinner (“Spring in Puglia”) will recognize this creamy-cool burrata with fiery peperoncino from the menu. As striking as it is, it’s remarkably simple to pull off and is a great way to end the day during those hot summer months. 

BURRATA WITH PEPERONCINO CREMA
INGREDIENTS

1 pc Fresh Burrata

2 t of Calabrian Hot pepper paste

1 t fennel pollen

1 t smoked sea salt

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Cut burrata in half, remove the stracciatella and place in a separate bowl. Add hot pepper paste to your liking and the fennel pollen. Once combined, use a spoon to put it back into the cavity of the burrata and set aside. 

-To plate: Put about 2 tablespoons of the cold fava bean puree (recipe follows) down on the plate and place 1 burrata half alongside it. Add a small garnish of baby greens tossed with lemon and olive oil. Season the burrata with a pinch of smoked sea salt and finish with EVOO. Garnish with Taralli.

FAVA BEAN PUREE
INGREDIENTS

2 cups fava beans, blanched, shells removed

1 small onion, small dice

1ea garlic clove, sliced

2 T mint leaves

EVOO

Water

Salt

 

     DIRECTIONS

-Sauté the onion in olive oil until  translucent. Add garlic and fava beans;  sauté for 2 minutes on medium-high heat.

-Add about 1.5 cups water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off heat and transfer to a blender.  

-Add the mint, and about ½ cup EVOO and puree on high speed till smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt. Reserve and cool.

 

Guests from our most recent Chef's Dinner ("Spring in Puglia") will recognize this creamy-cool burrata with fiery peperoncino from the menu. As ...

Pretty Pretty Peas

There are few greater joys in life than digging into an exceptional plate of pasta. The combination of perfectly hand rolled noodles and a rich, textured sauce is honestly what most of my dreams are made of. But no matter how many plates of pasta I delve into, no matter how many restaurants I visit, there is simply nothing that compares to the steaming bowl of chitarra with fresh spring peas we enjoyed on our most recent trip to Florence. It may not sound like much, but that combination of handmade chitarra with spring peas epitomizes the best of Italian cooking: simple ingredients and enormous flavor.

While nothing will truly match the experience of climbing down a tiny, steep stairway tucked away by the Ponte Vecchio and then descending into an impossibly small dining room bursting with mouthwatering scents and at least two too many tables, the magic of simple springtime pasta can be reproduced anywhere. This past Wednesday I was fortunate enough to witness this as Via Umbria’s Chef Liam LaCivita put his own twist on my personal favorite dish: his stringozzi with guanciale and fava bean puree was an exceptionally light yet toothsome pasta with the bright, fresh and almost nutty flavor of fava beans. Rounded out with the richness of guanciale, it was a rare, transportive moment.

prettyPrettyPeas-2

For those of you who missed out, don’t fret. There are plenty of beautiful vegetables coming in season and I have no doubt that Chef Liam will be putting them to good use. Join us for one of our Sunday Pastapaloozas and enjoy Rigatoni Carbonara with English Peas, or for a Couples Cooking Class and learn how to make Roasted Eggplant with Fresh Ricotta and Mint, or grab a seat in our Cafe and enjoy one of the new springtime updates to our new lunch menu. Whatever way you choose to indulge, don’t miss out on the perfection that is springtime produce.

—Lindsey


Italian food runs on simplicity, both in its ingredients and its technique. It’s how our kitchen operates, and it’s how the best Italian cooking is born. Please note that there are a few stipulations, however: 1.) Your ingredients must have integrity, 2.) your technique must be thoughtful and 3.) you shouldn’t ever skimp on parmesan.

This recipe for a simple, 10-minute pasta encompasses these three pillars of Italian cuisine. It’s the dish Lindsey describes as “a little sweet and a little salty, simultaneously fluffy and velvety,” and one you’ll surely return to again and again.

PASTA WITH SPRING PEAS
INGREDIENTS

Fresh chitarra for four (bought or homemade)

2 cups fresh peas, shelled

1/2 stick butter

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Freshly grated parmesan

     DIRECTIONS

Bring salted water to a boil.  Add peas and cook for 2-3 minutes until just tender and bright green.  Remove from pot and add pasta.  Cook 2-3 minutes until al dente.

Divide the peas into two containers.  Add butter and a drizzle of olive oil to one and puree using an immersion blender.

-When pasta is cooked add to pea puree, stir together until generously coated.  Add pasta water and a drizzle of olive oil as needed.

-Put in serving bowl. Top with remaining peas and grated parmesan and serve.

There are few greater joys in life than digging into an exceptional plate of pasta. The combination of perfectly hand rolled noodles ...

Better Bubbles

It’s franciacorta.
It’s not champagne. It’s franciacorta.

And it’s definitely not prosecco.

Franciacorta 19

If we learned one thing during our visit last month to Franciacorta, the sparkling wine producing district in Lombardia, about an hour east of Milan it is that franciacorta is not Italian champagne. It is tasty, elegant and refined. It’s a sparkling wine that deserves its own name, free from the shadow of champagne

What is franciacorta? In a word, franciacorta is delicious.

Franciacorta 22Following four memorable days in Verona last month, we spent four glorious days in Franciacorta, unpacking our bags at the lovely Hotel Rivalago located, as the name suggests, on the shores of Lake Iseo. One of the lesser known lakes in this, Italy’s lake district, Iseo is a stunning backdrop that forms the northern boundary of Franciacorta. The mountains that surround the lake create a unique microclimate that, paired with the area’s poor rocky soil render the area unfit for growing much of anything. Execpt, to our good fortune, grapes and olives.

Franciacorta 15Until 1961 Franciacorta labored under relative obscurity, known mostly as a lovely weekend escape for wealthy Milanese and an area of good but unremarkable white wines. But in 1961 one of those wealthy residents, Guido Berlucchi, seeking a way to improve upon his modest local white wines decided to reach out to winemaker Franco Ziliani who posed a fateful question to his new partner. “What if we were to make a sparkling wine as the French do?” What was born from that question was franciacorta, and today nearly 200 producers annually riddle by hand and machine 17 million bottles of Italy’s best sparkling wine.

Franciacorta 6

Franciacorta 9Compared with the over 300 million bottles of champagne produced in the eponymous region in France, the growth of franciacorta (the name has nothing to do with France but instead was the name given to this middle ages tax free trading zone) has been remarkable, establishing itself as one of the world’s premiere sparking wines in just fifty years. Much of that no doubt has to do with the fact that it was championed and promoted from its beginnings by some of Italy’s most influential, fashionable and cosmopolitan families. Today people love drinking franciacorta as much for its silky, seductive taste as for its elegant packaging and branding.

Franciacorta 11Franciacorta 3Franciacorta 20On our visit to the region we got to experience first hand just how elegant and personal the winemakers’ hospitality can be. We were treated to a tour of the Berlucchi winery, where franciacorta was invented, by none other than Cristina Ziliani, daughter of the original winemaker, enjoying Berluchi’s 61 franciacorta brut and saten in the ancestral home of Guido Berlucchi.  Ca’ del Bosco, one of the most recognized names in Franciacorta introduced us to the area with a tour of their winery and treated us to a memorable lunch at the spectacular il Priore restaurant overlooking the vast and stunning Franciacorta landscape. At Bellavista we were not only treated to a visit to a winery that could just as easily double as an art museum and a private tasting that was among the most elegant we’ve ever enjoyed, we experienced a homecoming of sorts for our lunch at l’Albereta, a relais et chateaux property one of the finest Italian resorts we’ve ever stayed at. If you haven’t read of our memorable visits there, check out our blog post.

Franciacorta 16

By now you should be getting the picture. Franciacorta is a region and a type of wine. But no matter what you mean when you utter this magical word, it is elegance and beauty personified, offering a sense of wellbeing that we find so often when we travel to Italy, but which comes so easily and automatically in this unmatched corner of our favorite country. We look forward to experiencing it over and over on future visits to Franciacorta and to sharing it with our customers through special dinners and wine tastings. Come join us and enjoy franciacorta with us. Just be sure to not call it champagne.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

It’s franciacorta. It’s not champagne. It’s franciacorta. And it’s definitely not prosecco. If we learned one thing during our visit last month to Franciacorta, the ...

Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables and Fava Bean Puree Recipe

Come spring, our kitchen is bursting with fava beans. Their fresh, slightly grassy flavor is a wonderful accompaniment to almost any homemade pasta dish, but this might be our favorite iteration. Tossed both with a spring medley of local produce and petite, velvety bites of gnocchi, it’s a vibrant dish you can easily pull off at home.

GNOCCHI WITH SPRING VEGETABLES AND FAVA BEAN PUREE
INGREDIENTS

8 oz Via Umbria’s homemade gnocchi, or store-bought

1 cup blanched English peas

1 cup small diced tri-color carrots (blanched in boiling water half-way)

4 oz spinach or swiss chard

2 oz butter

1 cup ground parmesan

2 oz EVOO

1 sprig rosemary

1 batch fava bean puree recipe (below)

     DIRECTIONS

In a large saucepan, add EVOO and butter, heat pan, add carrots and saute.  Add spinach, 4 oz of pasta water, butter and cheese. 

Meanwhile cook gnocchi. When they float, add to veg mixture. Add rosemary, salt and pepper.

When plating, spoon a 2 T of puree on base of plate and spread around.  In the center of the bowl add your gnocchi mixture and if desired more cheese.

FAVA BEAN PUREE
INGREDIENTS

2 cups of fava beans, blanched and shelled

1 small onion

1 t crushed pepper

1 t sliced garlic

2 oz spinach

EVOO

Salt

1 bunch mint

     DIRECTIONS

Saute onions with garlic and crushed red pepper. Add spinach and favas. Saute for 2 minutes.

-Put in blender and process with EVOO and water alternately. Season to taste. 

Come spring, our kitchen is bursting with fava beans. Their fresh, slightly grassy flavor is a wonderful accompaniment to almost any homemade ...

Wine-Wine Situation

How’s this for a win-win (or wine-wine) situation:  join us at one of our upcoming winemaker dinners—we’ve got three scheduled over the next month and a half—and in addition to a delicious four-course dinner paired with incredible wines hand-selected by the winemaker him/herself, you might just end up the lucky winner who joins Bill and Suzy on their Spring 2019 Food and Wine Tour!

Here’s how it works: (1) Join us for one of our three Winemaker’s Dinners featuring the wines from Umbria, Veneto and Friuli, (2) enjoy an evening of fine food and curated wines, all inspired by our favorite wineries in each region and (3) take home a case of that evening’s featured wine. That’s it!

With each case purchased, you’ll be entered to  win a space on our 2019 Spring Food and Wine Tour. The hardest part will be deciding which of our three fantastic Winemaker’s Dinners to join:

1. June 7: Wines of Friuli featuring Giorgio Colutta
If you haven’t heard of or tried the wines of Friuli, you haven’t drunk wine.  Revered throughout Italy, particularly for their white wines, this evening with Giorgio is not to be missed. LEARN MORE

2. June 15: Wines of Puglia featuring Conti Zecca
Back by popular demand. As interest in Puglia increases, its culinary legacy (and spectacular wines!) are getting more attention in international circles. If you can’t make it to Italy’s gorgeous coastal region for a quick visit, at least you can wine and dine in the Pugliese fashion. LEARN MORE

3. June 19: Wines of Piemonte featuring Coppo Winery
Both a celebration of Piemonte and the Barbera grape, this dinner focuses on the wines of Coppo Winery and the delicate flavors of the region. LEARN MORE

Talk about a no-brainer.  Join us for an evening of great food and wine and a chance to spend time with the winemaker and you might end up joining us in Italy next spring.  And just to whet your appetite, check out the highlights of our recently completed food and wine tour.

See you around our chef’s table.  And see you in Umbria!

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

How's this for a win-win (or wine-wine) situation:  join us at one of our upcoming winemaker dinners—we've got three scheduled over the next ...

Asparagus Spears with Guanciale Recipe

In this deceptively simple side, tender asparagus stalks are wrapped in thin, crispy slices of guanciale, a bacon-like cut of cured pork cheek. The clean flavor of roasted young asparagus contrasts beautifully with the salty-savory flavor of our traditional Umbrian guanciale. A note on the ingredients: it can be tricky to find guanciale here in the states, but many specialty grocery stores offer it in their butchery sections—stop by Via Umbria and we’ll be glad to get you squared away.

Asparagus Spears with Guanciale
INGREDIENTS

Asparagus

Guanciale, thinly sliced

     DIRECTIONS

-Clean and peel asparagus

-Parboil for 2-4 minutes until just softened

-Wrap spears with a thin slice of guanciale

-Roast a 425 degrees for 10 minutes, until pork is slightly crisp

In this deceptively simple side, tender asparagus stalks are wrapped in thin, crispy slices of guanciale, a bacon-like cut of cured pork ...