Day two of my trip to Italy is devoted to old friends who like me, share a passion for food. My dear friend Wendy Holloway runs a bed and breakfast/cooking school called Flavor of Italy. Whenever I’m in town, my friends and I gather in her wonderful kitchen in the countryside of Riano outside Rome for a day of cooking and camaraderie. Holly Magazzino and Thelma Gambino join us for a full day of cooking, laughter, eating, joking, drinking, yakking and more eating and drinking.
But before catching the train to Wendy’s house, I must have the classic Italian breakfast; a cappuccino and a cornetto. When breakfasting at home, most Italians make a stovetop espresso and add hot milk sans foam. But when having breakfast out, a cappuccino is a must. And if one is indulging in a fancy cappuccino, why not include a lovely cornetto? These pastries are usually brushed with a light sugar coating, and good ones are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and served warm and fresh. Sigh.
At Wendy’s, we plan on making three dishes: Ravioli Caprese, Torta Caprese and Cacio è pepe. To start we make the Ravioli Caprese as it is a little time consuming to make the dough and filling. Wendy makes a basic tomato sauce that is so flavorful and simmers atop the stove while we take turns rolling out the dough until it’s so thin we can see the pattern of her marble counters through it. We make a filling of two kinds of cheese combined with lots of fresh marjoram, and make what seems like an overabundance of ravioli (though we manage to consume most of them).
In addition to the ravioli, we also make Cacio è Pepe. This is one of my favorite classic Roman pastas whose preparation has simply eluded me. Wendy shows us how to “toss” the cheese into the pasta rather than stir it in as I have been doing. Last of all, we create a most delicious and decadent Torta Caprese; a cake made with ground almonds rather than traditional flour, and lots of deep, dark chocolate. It has crispy edges and a gooey innards. We all moan as we take our first bite.
Eventually, after much chatting and laughter, we decide we can finally indulge in some dinner. But it is going to have to be a light dinner after such a heavy lunch. We head to a nearby restaurant where we order nothing but vegetables cooked expertly over wood-fired coals. We start with tomato bruschetta. The cook creates wood coals on the right side of his grill and shovels them beneath the cooking grate as the evening wears on. He grills our bread, drizzles it with olive oil, and tops it with nice fresh tomato slices and a sprinkle of salt. So simple. So delicious. We also order grilled radicchio and grilled porcini mushrooms. The in-season vegetables are smoky, tender/crispy and oh-so-delicious. Again….So simple. So delicious.
Day two comes to an end after twelve hours in each other’s company. We are tired and full, but rejuvenated by our time together. The four of us realize for the first time that we span four decades, and yet somehow, we have so much in common and enjoy each other’s company immensely. Another day in Rome; another day well spent.