Love, Italian-Style

So there’s this really cute, young checkout guy at the supermarket; he’s tall with dark hair and amazing green eyes, and we’re always chatty with each other, which gives me false hope that he’s interested. Anyway, he’s always asking me about food and what’s good and what’s not, so it’s a good excuse to make frequent trips to get supplies that I don’t need, and I can get in his line and drool over him!

Well I hadn’t gone in for a long time because the last time I was there, I was feeling particularly delusional, and I slipped him my telephone number… and he never called (which was a big surprise) so to save face, I avoided going altogether. That is, until the other day, when I just had to see him again, and of course I didn’t need anything in particular and I was on my way to a party, so I just quickly grabbed a banana and got in his line without even thinking!

Well let me just tell you this; if you have a crush on the cute checkout guy at the supermarket that you flirt with, who’s much younger than you, you should never, ever get in his line just to buy a banana because it’s totally obvious! Well he stared at the banana for a moment and I looked away pretending that something else caught my eye, and then our eyes met but we didn’t say anything to each other because what the hell can you say about a goddamned banana except the obvious?! So if you’re gonna stalk the young checkout guy at the supermarket, I suggest buying some alcohol because at least you’ll look like you’re there to buy something legitimate and not just getting in line to gawk at something you can never have! Then you can go get drunk and cry over how ridiculous a goddamned banana is!!

ahem.

Way better than a banana!

Way better than a banana!

Okay, strawberries.

I had some the other night in a cocktail and it was one of the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever had! I went to this restaurant in Oxnard and… Jesus Christ, I wish they would change that horrible name… who the hell wants to live and dine in a place with a name that sounds like a set of cow balls? They should call it Oxford, no one uses that name.

Now as you all know, I love Italian food, and this place was just too much to resist. I know, who cares? There are thousands of Italian restaurants in this damn county and we don’t really need anymore, right? Well, we have lots of mediocre (or downright awful) Italian restaurants, but very few great ones. And, we have even fewer great ones that are reasonably priced! In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve ever found one that was reasonably priced and great…

…until now.

Of course, if you open a great Italian restaurant in Oxnard, you’d better be ready to have reasonable prices because who wants to eat at a fabulous Italian restaurant in Oxnard, for crying out loud?!

I’m going to write about one of their cocktails first, and then move on to tell you about the food I ate, which you may have already guessed, was pizza. The place is called Settebello and I’m sure some of you will have difficulty pronouncing it, just like the other Italian words you mispronounce (and like my Russian name) but I’ve learned to live with it. Just don’t refer to mozzarella cheese as moozarella because that’s not how you goddamned say it!!

Anyway they made me this delicious cocktail with strawberries called The Amalfi Coast, and I drank the entire thing, plus my companion’s (she didn’t like it anyway) It’s also got Flor de Caña rum, Campari, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, lime and Demerara sugar, and it was so good, I’d drive all the way back to CowBalls to have another one!

But did I mention that their pizza was amazingly delicious and only ten bucks? They import the flour, olive oil and tomatoes from Italy, so it’s super authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, which means the crust was thin, slightly charred on the outside, with a slight chewy bite, like a good crust is supposed to be. The tomato sauce was made with sweet, fruity San Marzano tomatoes, and it was all topped off with creamy mozzarella bufala and fresh basil. When it came out, it was all melty and bubbly and crusty and chewy from the wood-fired oven and (oh boy, I’m really hungry now) and I stuffed it in my pizzapiehole and it completely, temporarily made me forget all about Mr. Dreamy Supermarket Checkout Guy!

So what’s the moral of this story? Eat pizza, not bananas!

Settebello

The Collection at Riverpark

2760 Seaglass Way

Oxnard, CA

(805) 988-1095

Categories: Alcohol, Food, Humor, Pizza | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Mom’s Cooking

If you didn’t already know, I’m half Italian from my Dad’s side and I’m half British from my Mom’s side. “British, really?” you ask. I know, it’s hard to believe because I don’t resemble an Englishwoman in the least since I have good teeth and nice hair. Plus, I know how to cook, and the British don’t. Well, actually most of them don’t, but my Mom did. Just like my Dad, and myself, and my sister, she was a fantastic cook, and I believe it was because of her passion of food, and her love affair with eating it. If you have a love affair with food, most of the time, you become a fantastic cook, or a fantastic eater. She was both. Because of my Mom’s time spent in Italy with my Dad, she mostly adopted the Italian way of cooking: by using the freshest ingredients, prepared simply, so each ingredient could stand out. Italian cooking is genius in it’s simplicity, but my Mom managed to take it to another level; with her passion and insight of food and subtle flavors, she created a style of cooking all her own.

So we were all fantastic cooks, my family and I, and we all had our love affairs with cooking and eating food. There is no doubt that I often dream of my Dad’s spinach gnocchi or mushroom risotto, or the time in Italy when he made me rabbit for the first time, which he marinated with giant sprigs of rosemary, lemons halves and fragrant garlic cloves to remove some of the gaminess, and when he cooked it, all of those flavors concentrated in the pan with the perfectly browned, sweet rabbit meat. It was definitely a memorable dish. But after my parent’s divorce, I spent most of my time with my Mom, so it is her repertoire of dishes that I go to the most readily. There are countless dishes my Mom made that were memorable and it would take weeks to write about all of them.  But there is one in particular that I’ll always remember, and can boldly say is my favorite; her homemade Swiss Chard Lasagna. It was the best dish I’ve ever had the pleasure of sinking my perfect teeth into, and it is the one to which all others should be compared.

To make it, she used ingredients that she grew from her own garden she so carefully tended to one perfect California summer. She handmade the lasagna noodles, incorporating the swiss chard into the dough and turning out long, bright green sheets of fresh pasta using the hand-crank pasta maker she had. Then she made a spectacular sauce from her best tomatoes, simmering it on the stove until it was a sweet, dense, tomato-ey delight! She layered the bright green lasagna noodles with ladles of sweet, red sauce and creamy white ricotta cheese, sprinkled Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on the top, then carefully put it in the oven to bake. When it came out, we both stared at it with awe for a few moments, watching it bubble in the pan. The vibrant colors of red, green and white were a feast for the eyes! As we cut it with our forks, the ricotta and tomato melted out onto our plates, and as we ate it, the tender pasta melted in our mouths. It was creamy, salty, sweet and tender. So simple, yet so flavorful, so spectacular! I knew she was proud of her accomplishment and she deserved a gold medal for it. We finished the entire dish in one day.

Since she was in her 80s, my Mom was no longer a fantastic cook but she was still a fantastic eater, which was evident when we were all dining together recently: myself, my sister, my Mom and her kind neighbor, and my Mom ate my sister’s Chicken Parmigiano with gusto, finishing the entire plate, and even having dessert! We were all amazed at how much she ate that night and it was good to see her with a healthy appetite because her health had been in decline the past few months. It was a good memory to have of her, all of us dining together at her table, with easy conversation flowing and good food to enjoy. It reminded me of all the times we spent together in her kitchen, cooking and eating.

Now every time I sit down to eat a dish I’ve prepared, I will imagine her sitting across the table from me, and I’ll say to her “You know, my dish is pretty good, but it’s not as good as yours Mom.”

She will be greatly missed.

January 14, 1930 – December 1, 2012

Categories: Food, Love | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: