Warning, images in this post will make you hungry!
It happened on a Sunday during the month of August. I am uncertain of the year but it was some time ago, perhaps 10 years ago now? We’re in Italy, as we generally are in August, and I find myself in a bit of a predicament. I’m almost down to zero in the gas tank on the rental. It’s not a big deal, one might
think. I am at home and not stuck on the side of the road somewhere, but I have afternoon plans and I am certain what’s in the tank isn’t going to get me there. “You always do this, always. Why? Why do you always do THIS skifo?” Asks my sister in a tone I have heard before. This is coming from someone who generally has ¾ of a tank and thinks she needs to refill. She’s right, this time is different. I am not in Boston, my AAA card isn’t going to help here, and there isn’t a gas station close enough to our
home. And it’s Sunday. Why is that so bad, you ask? Because many, perhaps most, gas stations are
closed on Sundays in Southern Italy!
I ask the locals in my town and they tell me that, yes, most gas stations within 5-10 miles are closed. And there goes the afternoon plans, I think. Not that I even have 5 miles worth of gas. “But” says the local, “But there is an self-service station in Gasperina, you can try there, but there’s no guarantee
that the pump is working, it usually isn’t.” Gasperina is about 3 - 4 miles from our home. Now I must
decide, do I drive to Gasperina and risk getting stuck there or just stay home for the day, cancel afternoon plans, and hope that tomorrow I can drive myself to the nearest gas station and actually have enough gas to get there. “O la va o la spacca” I tell my sister. Basically meaning it will either work out or it won’t, but I am going to try and get gas. “I’m coming with you,” she says, “at least you will have company when we have to hitch hike back.”
And off we go, headed towards Gasperina. Small hill towns in Southern Italy can make for a tricky
drive. You’re going up a hill, down a hill; you run into people, you drive several miles without signs of
life. I wonder when the car is going to start stalling. As we drive, we come across a cute fountain,
“Oh can we stop and fill our water bottles?” I ask my sister. She gives me a look that says, “You got to be kidding me.” “No?” I ask. “DRIVE!” she screams. This sums our relationship pretty well. She, the
responsible one, I, the somewhat reckless one. I, the one who drives with the gaslight on but assume I will always get there. For the record, I have never had to call AAA for gas yet!
By miracle of miracles, we get to the gas station. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Does the pump work? Will we be spending the day by the side of the road? Under the August sun in Southern Italy’s heat? After several attempts to slide cash, credit card, coins, what ever the machine will take, I hear
the click. It works! And we both lay out a sigh of relief so loud, I am sure we’re heard from miles.
I need to make a U-turn to head back, so I go up the street a few hundred feet. “I smell something.” I
tell my sister. “Yeah, you reek of gas.” But that’s not it. I can smell deliciousness a mile away and what I smell is heaven. And then I see the sign. “Pasticceria Papucci” – of course! I am smelling a
pasticceria, or pastry shop, and my life is never going to be the same from that day on! And when we walk in, the smell is intensified that much more, that I think I am going to faint. This smell should
come in a perfume bottle.
Pasticceria Papucci may be small in size, but the selection and quality of the pastry is second to
none, and I have tried many, but always return to Papucci. The pastecceria is now owned by Nicola
Papucci, a 40 year old American-born, (Philadelphia) who grew up in southern Italy pretty much his
entire life. He moved back to Italy when he was two years old but occasionally returns to the States.
His uncle initially started the bakery in 1962, then his dad took over. He has been baking up a storm for over 23 years now. When I asked him where he went to school, he laughs! “School, I went to the best school and learned from the best, my father.” This reinforces my personal theory that one does
not need professional culinary school to be able to prepare delicious food. “I went to school to study accounting” – or “raggioniere” in Italian, but clearly, his talent is better served in the kitchen.
What’s your favorite thing to work with, I ask. Judging by how out-of-this world his pastry cream is, I expect he will say making creams. “Lavorare con pasta di mandorla” he says. Pasta di mandorla is
almond paste, with this he can make delicious cookies, especially the amaretti. Amaretti are made
with almond paste, flour, egg whites and sugar. And once again, the ones he makes are the best I have ever had. Some of my other favorites include the “maddalene” which are cylinder-shaped cookies, the cream filled lobster tails, the fruit tarts, cannolis, hazelnut-cream-filled bignes, tiramisu,
ricotta cannoli, you get the picture, they are all my favorite!
I’ve been gifting Nicola’s pastries to friends and family for years now. It’s custom when visiting friends or loved ones in Italy to bring the hosts a gift and I have been happily gifting these since the first day I had them. And every host tells me the same thing, “these are the best I have ever had, where is this shop?” My cousins live in a nearby city called Soverato. Soverato, unlike my own town, or Gasperina, is a larger city and it is filled with pastry shops and gelaterie. Yet, I always go out of my
way to head to Gasperina to buy pastries when visiting them. It’s worth the drive over and by now,
it’s what my family expects. I don’t dare bring pastry from a different shop.
Nicola’s cakes are Instagram worthy to say the least. My mother, who gets to celebrate her birthday
in Italy pretty often, always requests a cake from Pasticceria Papucci. “You ordered it, right?” She
asks in anticipation. And of course I did. “But did you make it a big one?” “We’re not that many.” I
remind her. That’s not the point, that’s never the point. If it’s a small gathering of 10, we order a
cake for 24; amazingly, it tastes better the next day. She doesn’t want gifts, doesn’t want a
celebration, but a giant cake from Pasticceria Papucci? It better be there or we will never hear the
end of it!
If you are headed anywhere in Calabria, I want you to know that no matter where you are, this is
worth the drive! I guarantee it will be the highlight of your trip. Shamefully, it always is for me, even more so than seeing some family members! It’s my first stop upon arriving, and the last stop before
leaving. With many more visits in between. When I am back in the States, I miss the pastries of
Pasticceria Papucci probably more than anything else I miss about Italy! I cannot recommend this
place enough! Start by joining their Facebook group for inspiration, until you make it there for
Find it here: Via Gramsci, 7, Gasperina.
If you have read my previous post, follow me on social media or have just been snooping around my site, you know I have just returned from a glorious 5-week sojourn to Italy, with much of my time spent in my native region of Calabria, in Southern Italy. Perhaps the biggest perk to traveling back home for me is the cuisine. No doubt we have wonderful USA-made products readily available to us in the States, and by no means am I going hungry when back in Boston, but there’s something so spectacular to food in Italy that words just can’t do it justice, it must be experienced. This is the main reason why I run culinary tours to Italy. While I could have focused on many aspects of Italian travel: art, culture, architecture, food is really the only common denominator we all have in common, I mean, we all have to eat, right?? Why not do so in Italy!
I make no apologies for frequently posting recipes I call “lazy,” hence the name of my business and blog. In the U.S, we live a fast-paced experience. Work, commuting, gym, kids, kids’ homework, housework, errands! Even this native doesn’t have the time to simmer any sauce for hours! And if we’re going to be efficient in the kitchen and save time and energy, we’re going to need top-notch ingredients. After all, a final dish is only as good as what goes into it! That’s why I don’t use “cooking wine,” – what is that anyway? If it’s not good enough to drink, it certainly isn’t going into my dish! And that’s also why earlier this year I was super excited to be introduced to Migliarese products. Produced in Calabria, (I know, what are the chances!), Migliarese offers incredible products, many organic, that make the cooking experience that much tastier, and more efficient.
Some of my go-to products include their extra virgin olive oil (oil from my native region? That’s a no-brainer!), pitted olives (for my chicken and rabbit recipes as well as pizza topping), their savory jams – such as red onion and pepperoncino and their tomato puree. The tomato puree alone is a lifesaver. There isn’t a time where there isn’t tomato sauce either simmering on my stove or already prepared in the fridge.
Imagine my excitement when I was asked if I wanted to tour their facilities this summer! Their factory is only about 30 minutes from my home in Italy, so you bet I jumped at the opportunity! As an avid user of their products in the U.S., products I also promote to my students in my cooking classes, I had high expectations and was hoping they didn’t disappoint. And you bet they didn’t!
After meeting with the owner and learning more about their company, I was taken “behind the scenes” to where the products are made and packaged. I was immediately highly impressed with their standards of production and obvious cleanliness. As someone with self-diagnosed OCD, I was worried I would be disappointed and see conditions that weren’t up to my standards. Thankfully, that didn’t happen at all.
This first place I am shown is one of their storage rooms! For this foodie, it was like seeing gold! I couldn’t yet tell what they were but I knew I wanted one of everything! There they were, all wrapped up and ready for my kitchen, I mean, someone’s kitchen…The jars are all lined up perfectly, protected and sealed. They would be making someone’s cooking experience that much more delicious. When I use their products at home, I wash out the glass jars and reuse them for leftovers. They are just the right size for when I have a bit of leftover sauce.
Next, we move to their herb garden greenhouse. It was here that I learned that they grow all of their own produce. All of it. So every tomato that goes in their sauce, every peach that goes in their jam, olives for their oil and everything else gets grown on premises or nearby premises that they own. In the herb garden, I see seedlings sprouting. The Italian classics like parsley and basil and everywhere, as are the rosemary and other typically used herbs. To top it off, I see a staff member planting herb seedling by hand. Let me repeat, by hand! Would it not be easier, faster, and more efficient if you are using a machine, I ask. I realize that to the owner, doing so probably hasn’t even occurred to him. This gives staff members jobs, and likely a gentler process for the herbs. Forget I even asked!
Next we move to the tomato line. As an avid user of their tomato sauce, I was curious as to see how it’s made. Here again I see staff members preforming lots of tasks by (gloved) hands. Tasks such as peeling the tomatoes and hand-packing them in their glass jars. The staff is laughing and joking around and they look genuinely content for being there. I immediately think of how much time their work has saved me with their products, particularly the tomatoes they’re holding! I touch a jar of the “passata” or tomato sauce. It’s still unlabeled but I recognize it well. The jar is still warm to the touch! “Take one,” says the owner. And like a kid in a candy store, I happily oblige. I know it’s going to be used for dinner that night. I am introduced to the ladies working the line as “an American” but I remind them that I was born just 30 minutes from where we are standing. “Allora sei una di noi!” they say, “So, you’re one of us!”
After another walk in the facility, my tour is coming to an end. I’ve enjoyed this experience very much and it makes me want to use their products even more. Not only because of their quality but I can really tell that the staff enjoys being there, which is really nice to see. They are a family company, started by the grandparents of the current owners and I love supporting businesses such as these. They make the life of a home cook that much easier by providing high-end products that are also affordable for the everyday cook.
I am given a goodie bag of products to take home. Some products I have used in the past, others are new to me. I’m thankful my vacation is just starting out so I will have time to use the products while in Italy. And you bet what wasn’t used made it in my suitcase. I’m thankful for their generosity and hospitality during this tour. It’s not often we get to see how the products we use get made. This “behind-the-scenes” look opened up my eyes and made me thankful that I have products like these to run to in order to make my own cooking experience easier.
Interested in learning a few new recipes using these delectable products? Click here for our Three Cheese Baked Farfalle, here for our Strozzapreti with Artichokes and Tomatoes, or here for everyone’s favorite: Salted Cod & Potatoes. Most importantly, be sure to check out Pasta & Vino’s website, which is where I get my Migliaresi products. I admit buying them here and having them delivered to my door is far easier and cheaper than adding them to my suitcase. Alitalia didn’t take to the weight of my suitcases too kindly, neither did my credit card! Next time, I’m just going to visit Pasta & Vino’s online shop!
Ready to make your 2018 Italian Travel Dreams come true? Consider joining us in one of our Culinary Adventures! We have three planned!
CALABRIA: August 31 - September 7, 2018 Click here for more info!
PUGLIA: September 9 - 16, 2018 Click her for more info!
BOLOGNA: October 1 - 8, 2018 Click here for info!
Oh Fall! Call it and it's practically here, right? I for one, am really welcoming fall this year. After spending the summer in Italy, with an unrelenting heatwave called "Lucifer," (I'm can't make this stuff up!), I am really eager for some fall weather. How hot was it? Oh, random fires in the middle of the road hot! See image below. Ironically, the one year I am craving an early fall, it feels like mid-summer in Boston today!
There's something so bittersweet about September for me and perhaps you can relate. It feels like New Years in a sense. The chance to start anew, if you will, and make new goals, new plans and take new steps in the direction of your dreams. I think it's the school year schedule that makes it feel so fresh. That's the sweetness part. The "bitter" comes in the realization that Boston winters are brutal, and they're practically around the corner and that my Calabrian vacation is over, so of course, that's sadness in itself. And to add to that, our 2018 Culinary Adventures feel so far away! Alas, yes, fall can be bittersweet to say the least!
That said, I wouldn't change my summers in Calabria for anything. I have been going back (almost) yearly since our move here some 30 years ago and it's as much home as Boston is. So despite the heat, it's a place I will always return to with fondness and eagerness.
The above view is of the sunrise from our home in Italy. I woke up early just about every morning to see it. I'm not sure why, it didn't change from day to day, but every morning it brought me much comfort. It also brought with it triple digit temperatures, so I'm not sure why I was so sentimental in seeing it! One of the things one might look forward to during vacation is the opportunity to sleep in, and I thought I was looking forward to that as well. And while I love sleeping in as much as anyone, like clockwork, (no pun intended), I would wake up in the morning and be greeted by this giant orange ball. A sign that it would be a great beach day indeed!
Keep scrolling below to see a few images of my Calabria 2017 trip.
So besides Calabria, what else have I been up to this summer?? And what does this magazine cover have to do with it??
I've been reading Success Magazine since the 90s now. It's one of the few magazines I actually subscribe to and actually read! Unlike the many others, that end up in my recycling bin barely opened, but I'm too lazy to cancel, Success gets read cover to cover, and each issue is saved for future reading. It's my go-to source for inspiration, business motivation, self-improvement articles and overall guide for great living. It's multi-purpose to say the least. A great resource not just for entrepreneurs such as myself but also ideal for just about anyone who is into self-improvement and betterment, and who shouldn't be?
Imagine my downright shock, amazement, out-of-this-world moment I had when my phone rang and have the other person on the line say they were calling from Success Magazine. "Succ... what?" was my reply! But it's no joke! If you picked up the August 2017 issue, there you see my image!
It's not a huge article, by any stretch of the imagination, just a simple quote on business matters. But what an honor it was for me to flip open my absolute favorite magazine and see my own image! Just one more validation that I am on the right path! And what am I holding? Some anise pizzelle, of course! Get your recipe here!
As exciting as being featured in Success Magazine was, would you believe it wasn't the only place where I saw my name in print this summer? Say what? Last year I submitted an article for publication to another great magazine, Tastes of Italia. It was December 2016, the publisher didn't seem overly interested, said they would keep it on file but that I was free to submit it elsewhere. Time passed, as it always does, and it just sat in my virtual folder on my desktop. I did not submit it elsewhere and figured some day, I would post it here on the blog. It was on Calabria, so a pleasure to write it, but I honestly forgot all about it.
Then while I am in Italy, I get an email: "I'm writing to let you know how much I enjoyed your article on Tastes on Italia, it's made me want to visit this region!" At this point, I'm in Italy. My magazines are stacking up at the post office, my internet connection is spotty and think he must be referring to a blog post or something. I respond with a short but polite email. "Thanks so much, glad you read it!"
Then the second email: "After reading your article on Tastes of Italia, I am considering renting a beach house for next summer in Calabria, can you help me?" What is going on here? (And yes, I can help him and you find a suitable place to vacation in Calabria! Contact me if interested.)
On August 30th, I leave Italy to return to Boston and I get a third email. "I just tried your swordfish recipe from Tastes of Italia, so easy, I love it, thanks for sharing!"
I rush to the post office the next day. I landed at 8pm or would have gone the same day. And there you have it:
On the cover is a story entitled "Craving the flavors of Calabria." Humm, my article was entitled: "Craving Calabria" - can it be?
And sure enough, there it is! Not only it's my article, it's a beautiful 6 page spread, with a mention on the cover and the highlighted story from the editor on the first few pages! I can hardly believe it! It's been beautifully laid out, barely edited and with my email address at the bottom, hence the emails. Having a story in national publication is a proud moment, but having a story on Calabria, a frequently overlooked region in food & travel magazines, makes it that much more special. Be sure to pick up a copy ASAP!
I got an email a few days later from the publisher letting me know that they had published the article and that they did not email me before as things change at the last minute in publishing and they did not want to disappoint me. No disappointment at all on my end! And it really was a nice surprise! How did all this press make me feel? See below! ;)
Success Magazine, Tastes of Italia, I was on a roll! They say good things come threes, right? What was around the corner?
I didn't have to wait long to find out! Here's a hint:
Chicken Soup? Not any chicken soup, Chicken Soup for the Soul, that is!
I remember many years ago, I bought my mom her first Chicken Soup for the Soul. As a fan of Jack Canfield (seriously, pick up his books now!), I knew my mom would enjoy the short, inspirational stories found in these books. And I often read them myself, especially during travel, at the airport or on a flight. They make good travel books, for some reason. The stories are "bite size" and as someone who must finish a chapter when I start it, sometimes I just need a quick pick-me-up of the inspirational kind.
A few months back, I went to their website and saw a call for stories on stepping out of your comfort zone. My first thought was, "When have I stepped out of my comfort zone?" I mean, the type of books I read say that growth happens outside the comfort zone and I realized that this business, my culinary tours, this blog, my cooking classes, all I have been doing this past year was way past my comfort zone! So I submitted a short story on starting Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. This was March 2017. I didn't hear anything either way and much like the story at Tastes of Italia, I moved on. I find that you have to "move on" a lot and fast when starting a business. You can't focus too long on the Nos, you can't sit back and wait, you can't be lazy, despite my business name, and wait for things to come to you. You propose, you submit, you knock on enough doors that if the answer is no, or you don't get any answer, you just move on.
And then I get the phone call. "I've been trying to reach you for weeks, we want to publish your story but don't have your signed permission, did you get our disclosure form, our messages?" Ha? Who are you and where are you calling from?? Clearly, I had received no such calls or emails.
Long story short, signed permission and all, my little nugget of inspiration will be published in an upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone. To be published October 31, 2017. And once again, a publication I look up to, read and enjoy, will now feature yours truly. Oh the things that do happen precisely when you step outside your comfort zone!
So since summer is ending on such a high note, what's next?
I see the above as signs that I am on the right track and I have come back from Italy full-speed ahead!
I am excited for 2018 and where it will take me, most of all, to Italy! There are several private group trips in the works, our Puglia trip for September 2018 is scheduled, and there's one more group trip in the works, more info to come on that. I've received numerous referrals for private trip consultations, have more professional writing up my sleeve and have received inquires about appearing on a number of Podcasts. Not to mention endless cooking classes, both public and private ones!
Lots to do, see, plan and work towards, that's for sure! Turns out, there's nothing lazy about us after all!
Interested in joining us on our adventure, click the contact us button to reach us. I respond to all inquires!
Hi there, thanks for visiting my blog! Here you will find recipes, short stories, tales, rants and whatever else is on my mind with regards to food, Italy, travel and along those lines. Drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you!