This week's tablehopper: from Calabria to Chianti.


Cosenza Vecchia at dusk (and the Crati river). Photo: ©

Buon giorno! Yes, I am finally back from my two-week trip to Italia with my father, jet-lagged, a bit fatter (Italy tends to do that to you), and really, really glad my suitcase didn’t have any run-ins with that dang beagle after my flight home (wink wink). It was a 26-hour journey door-to-door (oof), so I am still a bit whupped. This pile of email isn’t helping matters either—you know who you are.

After 24 hours in Rome (bucatini all’amatriciana, check; gelato, check; pizza romana, check; Colosseum, check), it was incredible to return to Calabria after 12 years—so good to see and hang out with all the relatives, even if it’s a bit bittersweet to see how we’re all getting older. The highlight was of course visiting the farm where my father was born, such a pristine and beautiful place (near Lago in Calabria). I was also thrilled to spend an afternoon at Librandi cantina in Cirò Marina (sparkling gaglioppo, who knew?), dine on freshly foraged mushrooms in the mountains at La Tavernetta in Camigliatello Silano, take a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea one warm afternoon at Fuscaldo, and have an espresso where my grandfather used to grab his every day in Cosenza. Staying at my dad’s cousin Anna’s place meant we were fed like pigs getting prepped for the winter slaughter—that woman can cook. I was calling Anna “the beast” and joked about creating a new TV show for her called “Casalinga (‘housewife’) Smackdown.” Yeah, she would dominate.

After a week, we hopped in our faithful Meriva diesel, and I drove us nine hours north to Tuscany, specifically Chianti Colli Fiorentini. (Pro tip: Stopping at an autogrill in Campania is a good call—I had one of the best panini of my life, on a freshly baked rosetta roll, with the creamiest mozzarella di bufala and spicy soppressata. The espresso that followed was also stellar. Go Autogrill Agip!)

I had never visited the Tuscan wine country before, and my outpost for the next few days at Il Paluffo was the stuff dreams are made of. Yeah, staying in a restored 15th-century building is pretty special (ditto their fantastic olive oil and honey from their property). My food-savvy hosts at Paluffo toured me around to visit local artisan cheesemakers, an incredible meat market and salumaio (Macelleria Parti), some stellar local restaurants, two wineries (Castello di Monsanto and Castello della Paneretta), and we strolled through the too beautiful San Gimignano and Certaldo Vecchio. Early fall in Italy is a magical time—harvest was just wrapping up, the mushrooms were coming out in full force, and lightning was illuminating the night skies. I can’t wait to tell you more in a detailed post soon.

Now that I’m home for a bit (yeah, right), I sure have a lot of travel pieces to catch up on. Stand by. In the meantime, the pasta class I took at Il Paluffo inspired this week’s post I wrote on on where you can learn to make pasta locally (and where to buy the fresh stuff).

While I was gone, I also had a piece run on about seven special burgers you can only find on certain days in SF! And over at the Bay Guardian, you’ll find my piece about where I ate in Seattle on my recent trip, plus some tips from my hosts, Pioneer Square Pantry!

There’s a lot going on this weekend: tomorrow afternoon is FallFest (tickets are still available), Sunday is the second Batch Made Market, Tosca Cafe has reopened (more on this Tuesday), and Hemingway fans, I want to point you to this cool event on Monday, To Have and To Have Another (heh). Enjoy the fall weather this weekend.

See you Tuesday, a presto!
Marcia Gagliardi

View tablehopper Newsletter from Friday, Oct 11 2013