Category Archives: Italian food

Macelleria Falorni: A Long-Standing Tradition in Greve del Chianti

above: prosciutto and salumi, Macelleria Falorni, Greve del Chianti, Tuscany

In late July, we took a brief trip through the Chianti area, visiting our friends Rita and Lino. They live near Greve, so we visited that charming town (touristy, but tastefully so) and the famous Macelleria (butcher)Falorni.

Falorni make their own insaccati (preserved meats), such as the prosciutto (ham) and Il Ghianda (something I’d never heard of – must be native to Tuscany) that you can see here. Some of the pork products are made from the cinghiale (wild boar), others from Cinta Senese, a breed of pigs native to Tuscany.

salame and canned goods,  Macelleria Falorni, Greve del Chianti, Tuscany

They also sell cheeses and yummy stuff in jars, and the shop is liberally adorned with farm implements, old photographs, signs, etc.

cheeses and salami,  Macelleria Falorni, Greve del Chianti, Tuscany

What photographs cannot capture, alas, is the smell! The scent of spicy, salty preserved pork is wonderful and overwhelming – vegetarians are advised to stay well clear.

Birthday Lunch at Lanterna Verde

Last Saturday we went to La Lanterna Verde, one of our favorite restaurants in the world, for the now-traditional celebration of Ross’ and Alice’s birthdays. Last year there were 11 of us, this year 10. The owners have become fond of us, though they’d like to see us more often!

Most of us had set menus, there were six or so to choose from. Graziella had the trout meal, so her antipasto was a salmon trout mousse, ricotta (I think) wrapped in salmon trout carpaccio, and smoked trout.

I ordered a la’ carte, and for antipasto had paté, which had figs inside and came with a sweet red pepper coulis. I actually preferred the red onion coulis they used to make – I think it’s a better complement to the paté.


Here are a couple of primi (first course dishes): in the foreground, mushroom-filled ravioli with a chanterelle sauce and, behind, trout-stuffed ravioli with tomato and basil. This was part of the summer menu, spaghetti with a sauce of raw tomatoes, black olives, and very good olive oil.

mushroom ravioli at Lanterna Verde

Ross and Alice in awe of Ross’ main course, I think it was lamb ribs crusted in pepper. I got distracted with eating and forgot to photograph the other main courses (we had had quite a bit of wine by then, too!).


For dessert, the chef decorated the plates of our three birthday people (David and Ross share a birthday) with “Buon Compleanno” or “Auguri” in chocolate sauce.

birthday dessert

Julian had the palette of sherbets, here it doesn’t look quite as elegant as when they brought it to the table, as he had already started on it before I got this photo.

sorbet trio

With coffee, they served these little trays of nibbles. The candy-coated cherries were amazing – a light, smooth coating of caramel on the outside, perfect sweet dark cherries on the inside.
cherries and nibbles

We like to go to Lanterna Verde during the day, because the drive up there is so pretty (it’s on the road from Chiavenna to St. Moritz, high in the Alps), and in good weather you can sit out under the pergola and enjoy a view of waterfalls on the other side of the valley.

Italian Recipes: Pasta with Red Bell Peppers

I love to cook, but I hate having to decide what to cook, so I usually make meals based on whatever I happen to have around that needs to be used, or whatever looks good at the fruttivendolo (greengrocer), butcher, supermarket, etc. that day.

Last night I hadn’t done much shopping, but had on hand:

  • one sweet red bell pepper, getting a little wrinkly
  • some vine-ripened plum tomatoes, a gift from my mother-in-law’s neighbor in Abruzzo, brought up when she came to visit last week
  • lots of red onions (almost always to be found in my fridge – I rarely use any other kind, except green ones in Asian cooking and salads)

So… let’s make a meal.

I diced up the pepper and some onion and garlic, put all that to sauté in some peppered olive oil (home-made – just add red pepper flakes and/or whole red hot peppers to a jar of good oil). I scalded the tomatoes, cooled them, slipped off the skins, diced them (removing some of the seeds, though there aren’t many in this type), and added those to the pot. A few grinds of mixed peppercorns, half a teaspoon of vegetable broth granules, and a cup or so of red wine (what was left in one of the open bottles).

I let this cook over a low flame for half an hour or so, going in to stir occasionally while I was doing other things at the computer. On impulse, I added a handful of raisins to the sauce, and later about two tablespoons of butter, to reduce the acidity and give the sauce more body.

When Ross got back from riding, I put on the water for pasta. Since this was a fairly wet sauce, I used spaghetti alla chitarra all’uovo from deCecco – egg pasta soaks up a lot of juice.

Cook, drain, and shake out the pasta, throw it it in a bowl and mix it with the sauce. I grated some aged ricotta into my dish (Ross doesn’t like most cheese, and was happy without it), which went well and added protein to the meal. Ross had the remains of a small salame. We mopped our plates with bread.

Today I bought eggplant and green beans. Hmm. What shall I do with those?

The Family That Eats Together

The other night I attended a party of Americans, with their Italian significant others and families. One American remarked that the kids present were amazingly polite, well-spoken, and self-possessed, compared with American kids of the same ages. He was right, but I hadn’t particularly noticed, because it’s what I’ve grown to expect.

I have written before about the brattiness of many young Italian kids, but I have also long observed that, by the time they reach puberty, most Italian kids are very civilized in adult company and can hold their own in adult conversations. This seems to be achieved without much discipline when the kids are younger, a noticeable difference from the US, where I have seen parents literally beating young kids into submission, and yet those same kids are not much fun to have dinner with when they’re teenagers.

It seems that Italian families work more by example than overt discipline. Most families have at least one meal together a day, usually a leisurely one. With so much exposure to adult company, the kids naturally absorb good table manners, conversation skills, and healthy eating habits (assuming that those things are present in the family, as they usually are).

Kids also learn at home to drink like responsible adults. It’s very normal to begin sampling wine with meals from an early age, and even to be offered it in restaurants (if the parents are drinking any) from age 13 or so. By law, kids can drink in bars or buy alcohol from age 16; it’s not unusual for high school kids to spend a Saturday evening hanging out in a bar drinking beer, just like college kids do in the States.

In spite of the easy availability, most Italian young people don’t binge drink the way Americans do – partly, I suspect, because it doesn’t carry the thrill of illicit behavior. So you rarely see anyone, young or old, drunk in public – that’s not considered cool in Italy, even among teenagers.

related article: The Family That Eats (and Drinks, and Talks) Together

Eating Cheaply in Italy

Someone asked in one of the travel forums about how to eat cheaply in Italy, and whether it’s possible to take a "doggie bag" from a restaurant.

To answer the second question first: I’ve only once taken away the remains of a meal from a restaurant in Italy (a steak that was larger than anticipated). Italian restaurant servings are of a reasonable size, so usually if you clean the plates on a first course (carbos: pasta or rice) and second course (protein + veg), you will be comfortably full, but not bursting. But if you did have anything leftover, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind wrapping it for you.

The restaurants that also (or exclusively) do takeawaylook for the sign "asporto" – often serve Chinese food, kebab, or pizza. Best of all, however, are rosticcerie, which make rotisserie-grilled chicken (which you can buy whole or in parts), roasted potatoes, and a large or small variety of other dishes. They are better equipped with take-away containers, and will give you napkins and plasticware as well.

There are other ways to eat cheaply. Most supermarkets and some smaller stores have a prepared-foods counter with both hot and cold food ready to go. You could also buy fresh bread, cheese, prosciutto, salame, etc. and make your own sandwiches. Buy some olives, pickled onions, and other goodies to round out your meal. You can buy fresh focaccia and pizza at bread bakeries (panetterie); most will heat it up for you (in a real oven, not a microwave, so be prepared to wait). If you buy rolls for sandwiches, you can ask the baker to slice them open for you, ready to receive the sliced meats from the butcher next door.

what are your tips for eating cheaply in Italy?