It’s August, it’s hot and humid and steamy and heavy and smoldering. Much like an Italian summer romance in the hilly landscapes of Southern Italy among the grapevines, olive trees and terracotta brick homes. This is the time of the year romance is at its peak heat. And when we think about the ultimate fantasy of romance, we can’t not think about the richness of red wine, the sultry food, and the smoldering good looks of Raoul Bova. In short, we think Italy, with all its the culture, history, romance and sensory overload of everything combined. Think of the art and history of Florence, the breathtaking balance between the old and new of Milan, the whimsy and fairy tale you can conjure up reclining on a gondola and being serenaded in such a romantic language, the rich food the south of Italy offers that will make your taste buds explode with fireworks and the absolutely breathtaking rugged yet welcoming beaches of Sardinia that will take your summer romance to the stratosphere.
Perhaps this year is not the year you can travel to Italy and experience it first hand…le sigh or rather il sigh-o. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring it to you, right? Right! And we will tell you all you need to bring Italy home.
Get a fine Italian red…wine ahm. Like a Chianti, meaning produced in the Chianti region in beautiful Tuscany. It is a dry red wine with a bit or tart cherry flavor to it. And if you want to have that authentic Italian wine look, stick the bottle in a straw basket or fiasco. Our favorite is the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro. Try it. And when you open the bottle quickly inhale the bottle’s first breath. That’s air from Italy.
Now that you have your wine, plan your meals to complement it. Our suggestion is a four course of the simplest Italian feast you can imagine.
For your Antipasto (appetizer) we recommend Prosciutto e Melone, that’s Italian for Prosciutto (a dry cured Italian ham that is very thinly sliced) and melons (that’s English for a yummy fruit). Just slice the melon in wedges and wrap with prosciutto. The saltines of the prosciutto and the sweet juicyness of the melon will feel like you have a summer party on your taste buds.
For your first course all you need is spaghetti (preferably bucatini) fresh ripe tomatoes (on the vine), a handful of fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic and onions (yellow is best) salt and pepper and Parmigiano reggiano to make a summer favorite Pasta con Pomodoro e Basilico (pasta with tomato and basil, but it sounds sooooo much better in Italian). First, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil in medium heat then throw in chunks of the ripe tomatoes with salt and pepper. Once the juices from the tomatoes start to bubble, throw in the basil. You don’t want the sauce to dry and the basil to wilt completely, you still want it a little watery. While preparing your sauce make sure to start cooking your pasta in hot boiling water and check periodically that you don’t over cook it. You want it al-dente, meaning you want it to stick to your teeth when you chew it. Right before the pasta is at the desired cooking level transfer it into the pan of your sauce and let it cook with it. This will help everyone in the pan to mingle and get to know each other and become friends and the pasta will continue to cook to the right al-dente. When serving add shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
For your second course we recommend Pollo alla Cacciatora (chicken cacciatore or hunter style). Our favorite recipe is the one Mario Batali so deliciously created here <—- seriously, you want to go to there and cook up that deliciousness. We would never steer you wrong.
For dessert, and in all honesty, in the world of romance this is the only meal that matters, we suggest you get your Bialetti percolator (this is the only way god intended for good italian coffee be made) and make yourself a deliciously strong cup of coffee (because you do not want to go into a food induced coma just yet). We like Lavazza Qualita Rossa for espresso. And make sure you stop by , in our opinion the best bakery in the Washington DC metro, Tivoli located in Ballston, and get yourself some of the decadent yumminess that they offer ahead of time and keep refrigerated till it’s time to indulge. Get the Tiramisu. Get it!
Make sure to get some of the most romantic Italian movies to watch with you honey. Yes you can get Under the Tuscan Sun or Roman Holiday. But if you want to venture beyond the obvious try Il Postino, Bread and Tulips, Marriage Italian Style (or anything with Sofia Loren really). And if none of these movies with their music and sing-song italian language, high drama that is so typical of everything Italian don’t make you feel like you are in that exquisite Mediterranean country, then add the important finishing touches.
Call your florist and ask for a wispy, rustic country-style flower arrangement with earthy bold colors with flowers like sunflowers, brassica, protea, bear grass, hanging amaranthus and coral roses all put together in a simple vase or a terracotta pot. Make sure to set that on your table to tie in everything together. Let some of that warm summer air freeze in by opening your window. And compile a fun play list of music with Andrea Bocelli, Ramazzotti, Paula Pausini, Tizziano Ferro and Nek. Learn some romantic italian phrases that you can whisper to your honey. Even if they sound silly say them. Some of our favorites are: “Ti voglio bene amore mia/o” which is I love you, or “senza di te la mia vita no fa senso” which means without you my life has no meaning. And here are a few pet names you can use to summon your babe: “amoruccio” which means love, or “tesoro mio” which mean my jewel or my darling.
There you have it. Romance Italian style at home. Here is all you need to bring that boot shaped romantic country home.