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What's "the Italian way"? 1

I've been in the US for a couple of weeks now mostly launching the book I wrote with Oretta Zanini De Vita, Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way, published last month by W. W. Norton.

So what do we mean by the Italian way? Here are a few of its elements. More to come in future posts.

- Don't overdo it on the sauce. The pasta is the main attraction. The sauce is the condimento. The pasta is not an excuse to eat sauce. Just get a spoon.

- Don't get into a substitution mentality. To lower the cholesterol of recipes you deem unhealthy, simply look up broccoli or beans in the index, don't mess with the carbonara formula. When we call for pork fat, it's usually necessary. If you can't get salt-packed capers locally, order them on the Internet.

- On the other hand, you can almost always substitute tomato puree for pelati or vice versa, for example, or eliminate the garlic if you don't like it. You can substitute a yellow onion for a white or vegetable broth for meat broth. But don't imagine you can substitute water-packed supermarket tunafish for good Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil. Clear? The key to the apparent paradox can be found in the Italian word "snaturare" -- to radically change the nature of something. You don't want to snaturare the sauce recipe.

- Use enough salt in the pasta water. The metric formula is 1 liter of water to 10 grams of coarse salt to 100 grams of pasta. Add the salt before adding the pasta to the boiling water. You cannot "always add it later" -- it won't taste right. Read More 
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Love Chowder

Maine poet Duff Plunkett has kindly let me reproduce some of his work. Please don't reproduce without permission.


Let us praise one fine chowder
Thick with fish in the drink of a broad bowl
We couldn't think praise any louder
Big spoons clink bottom catching it all

Thick with praise sung by  Read More 
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Rome on Sunday Evening

REVISED. It's getting harder and harder to eat anything but pizza on a Sunday evening. Here are a few ideas from the Gambero Rosso guide. The ones I've tried and liked have an asterisk. In addition, there are a number of hotel restaurants and pizzerias as well as a few wine bars and ethnics.

*Dal Bolognese (classic, upmarket, haven't been in years)
Al Bric (Campo de' Fiori) (never been)
*La Campana (I find it tired but often irreplaceable)
*Cavour 313
*Al Ceppo (upmarket, in Parioli, great food)
*Checco er Carettiere (Trastevere, stick-to-your-ribs Roman)
*Cul de Sac (wine bar, much love, much uncomfortable)
Il Focolare (Monteverde Vecchio; it's fine, just not fantastic)
Giggetto al Portico (the Ghetto classic)
*Giuda Ballerino! (Tuscolo; very good creative restaurant)
*Grano (upscale trattoria near the Pantheon)
'Gusto (hate it, but it's the 800-pound gorilla of off-hours eating)
Le Jardin du Russie (never been)
Mamma Angelina (Quartiere Africano) (never been)
*Montevecchio (adorable, near via dei Coronari)
*Il Sanlorenzo (stylish seafood place in via dei Chiavari)
*Tram Tram (San Lorenzo, chaotic but yummy)
*Vecchia Roma (P. Campitelli, beautiful, food is uneven) Read More 
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