Saturday, November 7, 2009

SoSushi - why sushi in Palermo is so good...

Angela and I have been in Sicily for well over a year now and as you all know, we've been eating pretty well. While Balestrate is pretty quiet in the winter, we're not that far from Palermo, so most weekends we hop on the train and go to the city - we love to go to the market (usually Ballarò, our favorite), or just grab a snack and walk around. The street food in Palermo is famous for good reason - you can easily eat awesome stuff like panelle, pane ca' meusa, boiled octopus, and sfincione on the cheap. Palermo is a town for eaters, and so far, we've never left the city hungry.

Amidst all of this great food the one thing we've been missing is sushi. We were serious sushi hounds back in Philly, making frequent trips to our favorite restaurant in New Jersey, Mikado (good and cheap), or occasionally splurging at some of the nicer spots closer to home. Actually, the best sushi I've ever had came from our friend Han - when I was working at Di Bruno Bros., my desk was in the basement, far away from the rest of the offices (it's not as bad as it sounds, I enjoyed the peace and quiet). My work area was right next to the prep room where all of the sushi for the store was prepared by Han, who had come to work for Di Bruno's from Genji. Han was a little crazy, with a thick Indonesian accent that made him hard to understand half of the time, but he was pretty skilled when it came to making awesome sushi. I would take a couple of minutes to sit down at my desk and Han would come out of the prep room, ask me if I wanted anything and then come back with a plate of sushi, regardless of my answer, the rice still warm, everything really fresh and clean. I'd wolf everything down and go back out on the floor happy and full.

Anyway, I miss those days and I know Ang misses getting her sushi fix as well. You can imagine how excited we were when I found out about a new sushi restaurant that just opened in Palermo a couple of months ago called SoSushi. SoSushi is a fast growing chain of Italian sushi restaurants, mostly focusing on take-away and delivery service. We hopped on a train yesterday and headed to the city, with the sole intent of trying this new place out.

Without going into every little detail about our lunch, I have to say that SoSushi was very good. The owner, Andrea, and the head chef, Shien (not sure on the spelling, but I'm pretty sure he's not related to Martin or Charlie) were very welcoming - our excitement was pretty obvious and it was rewarded with a couple of extra items that we didn't order. Shien talked about how they have to keep everything pretty standard for now, as people in Palermo warm up to the concept of sushi (for a population with such access to exceptionally fresh fish, you'd think they'd be lining up for this stuff), but the fatty tuna sashimi and the additional plates that we tasted gave us a pretty outstanding example of how good sushi could be in Palermo.

The key to all of this is the fact that the local fish merchants don't normally have much of a market for some of the key cuts used to make the finest sushi and sashimi. For example, I was surprised to see tuna belly as part of the standard lunch combo. Shien explained, with a devilish smile, that most restaurants in Palermo don't use the belly, so he can buy it for much less than you would expect. I haven't had a lot of experience with tuna belly, but this was a real "wow" moment for me - it was so buttery and silky, I felt like all of my senses were switched on to appreciate this moment of pure enjoyment.

This was also true for tuna cheek, which we watched Shien prepare with a pocket blowtorch, lightly cooking the outside for a warm exterior and a cool interior. Tuna cheek is another rarity - normally a costly ingredient that merchants reserve for their best customers. Here in Palermo, Shien knows what to ask for and the merchants are generally happy to sell a part of the fish that otherwise might go to waste.

The other standout was the sardine - a more widely utilized ingredient in la cucina povere - served sashimi style with a tiny dollop of minced pickled ginger and chive. Pretty, delicate and delicious - Ang and I turned to each other, smiling, our mouths full, our stomachs happy. When we left, we walked on to our next destination, going over each dish, feeling like we had discovered something new and exciting about Palermo - we want to spread the word, but don't tell the guys selling the fish!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

So, we haven't written an entry in a few months. We've been a little busy sucking up the Sicilian sun, drinking lots of garage wine and eating plenty of tomatoes. Scott's been busy with work and I've been busy with my casalinga duties, you wouldn't believe how much dirt accumulates on the kitchen floor everyday.

September is here. Most of the tourists have left town, there is no longer live entertainment every night in the piazza and no more late night parties on the beach. The fall is officially upon us. Usually the end of summer and beginning of autumn is my favorite time of year. Probably because I'm usually in Philly and I'm just not a huge fan of summer at home. I hate being stuck in the city and having to endure sweltering heat and no beach in sight. Ugh. Being in Sicily during this change of the seasons has had the opposite effect on me - there's not as much to do in town, no more summer visitors staying at our place and the sneaking reminder that I won't be home for Halloween or Thanksgiving, my 2 favorite holidays.

So, to cheer myself up right now I'm going to do a short recap of the summer fun-ness that we had but didn't blog about. Here are the highlights:

-Hiking up Mount Etna with Reen and Mike. Dressed very inappropriately, we all decided to drive as far as we could up the volcano and then start walking. Reen and I were wearing ballet flats, big sunglasses and scarves, the boys were wearing equally silly footwear, but we did it anyway. I should also mention that we were surrounded by goats for the entirety. It was surreal. During our 2 day road trip we also managed to fit in Céfalu, Ortigia, Siracusa, Alcantara and dinner at a crazy pizza place in Acireale. Not bad, eh? Thanks for driving like a total lunatic, Mike! We never could've done it without you. Look at the picture closely, we are dressed like idiots AND we're standing on a volcano AND there's a bunch of animals behind us.
-Riding bikes at Favignana. We took a hydroil to an island just off the tip of Trapani and rented bikes. It was absolutely gorgeous.
-Alex Case. He decided he wanted to come for a visit and booked the flight a mere week before. He came in like a tornado, turned this town upside down and had us out nearly every night until 5am for 10 days. Can you believe that there is a bar in town that serves pasta and sandwiches at 5am? Well, Alex found the place and I think we drank them out of Birra Morretti, too.
-La France. I hit up Paris and Chartres with my Mom and sister and we had a blast. We walked, talked and ate for 3 days straight. I couldn't have asked for anything better!

One good thing about the fall here in Sicily? The olive harvest is coming soon. Yum.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mi manca la mia mamma e papà

Patty and Tommy hit Sicily on Thursday, May 21. We had a hell of a time with a few minor setbacks due to the awful train system in Sicily. We tried to go to Trapani on Friday, but after the train was 50 minutes late we decided to blow it off. Instead we went home and had a fabulous lunch, drank some cheap wine and waited for the arrival of Uncle Nick and Barb. We drank more wine, ate again and slept a little. On Saturday we all tried to get the early train into Palermo - also with a minor transportation glitch. The train broke down in Partinico so we had to wait about an hour for a bus. The bus took us to another train station - where we had to board another train to Palermo. The funny thing is that if we had a car we would've been there in 40 minutes, but since we have to rely on really old trains to get around it took us nearly 3 hours to get there. Thank God we weren't trying to catch a flight! Actually, I guess that wouldn't have mattered because the flights are always late here too. Whatever!

We visited the temple at Segesta on Sunday and took it easy on Monday. A great few days, but I wish it could have lasted longer. My Mom can party, she had me up until 3:30 am and we were just chit chatting away the whole time.

Mom, please come back and help me with my casalinga duties! Dad, please come back so that the vino lady's sales can skyrocket again! Between my parents' visit and Terry and Jamie's visit we've ensured a bright future for the wine lady's children. Salute!

Ti amo mama e papà. Molti abbracci e baci. Ci vediamo presto!

Why did you leave?

We miss you and the terrazza is calling your names. Please come back!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"The Pioneering Parent" - or "My Mom Comes to Italy"

It's been an interesting 8 months. We've moved 3 times. We've been through, according to my friend Erik, the rainiest winter in Sicily in 100 years. We've learned some Italian (still working on the Sicilian!) and eaten a lot of gelati (and in Ang's case, more spleen sandwiches than are probably recommended by the Surgeon General*). But last week was the probably the most special - my mom came to visit us here in Italy!

It was a great trip - we still can't believe how much we did in a short week. First, Ang and I flew to Rome to meet my mother. We stayed at a nice little hotel (thanks to Katie Parla's recommendation) called Hotel Grifo. It was located on a quiet little street called Via Boschetto, just around the corner from a metro stop and a short walk from the Colosseum, the Forum and Piazza Venezia.

We were really happy to be able to show my mom around Rome. Sometimes I forget that the best travel experiences are those that are unplanned/unexpected - I think I wanted to show my mom as much of the city as we could in the short time that we had, but in reality, the most memorable part of the trip was walking up the hill next to the Arch of Constantine. We weren't really sure where we were going, but something propelled us up that hill, until we reached a church at the top, with its doors wide open to the street. There was a wedding going on inside - the bride and groom were standing at the altar and there was the most sweet sounding, hypnotic music coming from the inside. There was a live band playing (including someone on the bongos!) and the audience, including the groom, started singing. The music sounded like it was african or caribbean inspired - definitely not something you'd expect to find coming from a church in the middle of the Forum. Anyway, we all agreed, this was the most memorable moment of the trip. Really, really beautiful.

Anyway, the rest of Rome was great and a lot of fun. It was definitely a lot more crowded over a holiday weekend in May than it was our first time through over Christmas. We discovered one nice thing, however, and it seems that tourists en masse haven't found it yet - the new glass elevator that takes you up to the top of the monument to Vittorio Emanuele - a.k.a. the Wedding Cake. It offers incredible views of the city and a bird's-eye view of the Forum - I would say it was worth it for 7 euro. Of course, we did some of the touristy things as well. Ang and I downloaded a couple of Rick Steves podcasts that actually ended up being really helpful at St. Peter's, the Pantheon and the Colosseum (the forum was a little confusing, especially since Ang had the IPod and my mom and me opted for the audio guide at the main gate - which I thought was pretty terrible). Ang lead us on a great walking tour of the Jewish Ghetto, where we ate lunch and got screwed by our own people - we were rushed making a decision for lunch (we waited too long to decide on a place to eat and then they were all closing) so we ended up getting a little bit of food and wine and paying 8o euros for it. Thank you, fellow members of the tribe!

Of course, we more than made up for that the next day by finding a cool little place called Lo Zozzone near Piazza Navona that served pannini made out of pizza bianca, sliced in half then stuffed with the fillings of your choice. Excellent with a beer and also really cheap!

Anyway, the rest of the trip was a bunch of meandering and hilarity, but I won't bore you with all of the details - there are some fun pictures up at

I will write more about the Sicily leg of the trip later on. Ang told me that its time to give the blog a rest - its 11pm here on a Saturday. What can I say, we are nerds.


* I'm not sure the Surgeon General ever said anything about eating spleen sandwiches. If you are the Surgeon General, or have ever been the Surgeon General, please don't sue me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Old Friends, Ancient Traditions

On Good Friday a very, very old friend came to visit. After some catching up over lunch we jumped on the train to see La Processione dei Misteri in Trapani. The famous Easter procession begins on this day every year and it is the longest in Italy - 24 hours. Huge wooden sculptures representing different moments in the Passion of Christ are slowly walked throughout the town by groups of men called "i portari". The men huddle together and hold each other and their statue up while walking slowly and swaying side to side. Each statue is accompanied by a group of local musicians. One statue was being followed by a group of singing children. I think Cathy and Scott would agree with me when I say that it was say the least. It's pretty difficult to describe, so click on the above link to watch a video of it.

On Saturday we visited Palermo, the craziness of the markets, the cheap street food, the grafitti and trash... it never gets old and I love it even more every time I go back. Dinner that night was at the new Venezuelan/Sicilian restaurant in town. Yes, you read that correctly. Arepas, 2 pizzas, salad and a liter of wine - not bad for €10 each. After dinner Cathy and I ducked into midnight mass to check it out - a huge turnout and the whole town really seemed alive that night. A raucous night of drinking more wine and discussing deep subjects such as circumnavigation, honey and faith followed. Don't ask.

On Easter Sunday we took a nice long walk on the beach, caught up on the newest episode of Lost and made a fantastic dinner: risotto and steamed artichokes. It was a great weekend and it seemed only fitting that I spent it with a friend I've had for nearly 20 years. It felt as close to home as we could get.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ang teaches me a valuable lesson...

Angela brought up a good point during our most recent trip to Palermo. If you ever hear a group of kids yelling "Che schifo!" ("How gross!") behind you, DO NOT turn around.

I made the mistake this past Saturday, as we were sitting down to enjoy our gelato al gelsomino con brioche (jasmine gelato on a brioche, or as we like to say, a gelato burger or "frozen doughnut", 'cuz that's what it sorta tastes like...). A gaggle of kids - an appropriate word, given our semi-understanding of the language, when we hear a group of kids talking it sort of sounds like a bunch of "gaggling" - sat down at the table behind us. I would guess they were all around 12-14 years old. Ang and I have different feelings about groups of kids - I think I usually find their childish antics somewhat amusing, at least until they throw fireworks at my feet, while Ang would probably opt for grabbing each of them by the ear and giving them 1) a lesson on behaving themselves in public and 2) a haircut. Since neither of those things are within our range of abilities language-wise, Ang usually chooses to try to ignore it.

So the kids sitting down behind us are starting to get crazy. Out of the commotion, one of them starts yelling "Che schifo!!!" repeatedly. Of course, I turn around and Ang ignores them. The kids, one by one, are sticking their fingers into a heaping cup of gelato, much to the disgust of the owner. Plunging their fingers, filled with gelato and cream, into their mouths, they start circling the owner for another swipe. The poor little boy started to shriek, outnumbered by his friends and unable to protect his dessert.

Ang and I didn't stick around much longer - the kids were pazzi per lo zucchero. We decided to take a walk along Palermo's waterfront promenade and Ang pointed out that I had made a poor decision in looking back to see what the kids were doing. She had a point, "che schifo" could have been anything - I got lucky. The kids were being pretty annoying, and I hope that the owner of the plundered ice cream didn't eat the remainders (although something tells me that he did; this is, after all, the town where men used to rent candy suckers. Yup, kids would line up to pay to suck on a piece of candy for a few minutes before it was yanked out of their mouth - it was tethered to a string - and given to the next kid in line!). Given the propensity for bizarre sights in Palermo, things definitely could have been a lot worse!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We're movin' on up!

We have a sweet new apartment that is ready for visitors, so book your tickets now while the airlines are having ridiculous fare sales! Well, I should say that it is sort of ready for visitors...

Electrical problems (ahem, serious electrical problems, like the ones that could cause fires) prompted us to move out of our apartment on Via Marconi. We were innocently sitting in the kitchen one night eating dinner and watching Affari Tuoi when a spark (read: tiny fire) lit up the wall above the tv and then everything went black. It was fixed the next day, and by fixed I mean a new wire was attached and everything was wrapped in black electrical tape. I'm not an electrician, but exposed wires all over the place, most of which are jumbled up and taped together, seems like a catastrophe waiting to happen.

After this, our 3rd blackout, we were told that the apartment had to be completely re-wired and some other renovations had to be done also. We could leave the place and go back in a month when everything was done, or we could just leave. The choice was obvious.

The week before we moved into the new place was one fun filled day after the other. Our landlord began doing work on the facade of our house, waking us up at 7am everyday with incessant banging. We didn't have water for a day, which meant I couldn't do wash, and even after that when the water was back on I couldn't hang any clothes outside because of the mess. Our landlord and his workers were in and out of our apartment everyday, tracking dirt everywhere. One morning I stepped out of the shower and saw a shadow of a person walking by the bathroom, I was not pleased. And Scott was even less-pleased than me.

So, we welcomed our new apartment with open arms. I was so happy when we moved everything in, so happy to use the new kitchen, so happy to turn on the exhaust fan above the range, so happy to take a shower and have it be big enough that I could actually turn around. Life was sweet. At least until 5 days after we moved in....

I went home one night and was walking up the stairs and noticed some pieces of plaster on the step. I was puzzled by this, as I sweep the floor everyday (like a good casalinga). I quickly turned the corner and saw that the floor in the spare bedroom next to the kitchen was completely covered with plaster and glass. And, this is the best part, the ceiling was gone. The light fixture must have been too heavy and not anchored correctly, so it fell down, shattered and brought most of the ceiling with it. So much for a new house with no problems! What were we thinking? This is Sicily after all!

I ran to the office, told Scott and Fabrizio, and after a quick glimpse at the mess we jumped in Fabrizio's car and drove to our landlord's house. We explained the problem and drove back to the apartment to show him. He came back the next morning to fix it (which was Friday March 6) and said he would come back 3 days later to paint. It's still not painted.

Don't you think it's a little strange that this occurred in the ONLY room that we didn't have any stuff in? It was going to be a guest room so it only had a bed and a chair in it...neither of which were damaged. We got lucky, I suppose!

This is a picture from the terrazza.
And the visibility wasn't even that great,
so imagine what it looks like on a clear day.
This is why we fell in love with this place!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day and a trip to Palermo

Here's a link to our most recent round of pictures.

Ang made a couple of amazing pizzas on Friday, along with a delicious dessert. So awesome, words don't do them justice, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

We had a really nice visit with our friend Manfredi Barbera, his wife Paola and their son Lorenzo in Palermo on Saturday. Manfredi produces the most famous olive oil from Sicily (you may have seen this bottle in specialty food stores in the States), and he lives, with three cousins (in separate apartments) in his families' beautiful villa smack in the heart of the city. We thought we were meeting him to go out for lunch, but he prepared a feast for us and his in-laws, who came over to visit - neonata (which are tiny baby fish, served raw with lemon juice and olive oil), calamari (a recipe so perfect that Manfredi's friend Lidia Bastianich included it in her book Lidia's Italy (Manfredi's Steamed Calamari, although Manfredi pointed out that he uses balsamic vinegar and omits the peperoncino, but Lidia didn't think she should include Balsamico, from Reggio-Emilia, in a Sicilian recipe!), two pasta dishes (one I couldn't eat because it had shrimp, but Ang assured me it was delicious) and fantastic dolci for dessert. Manfredi is an inspiring guy, after lunch, we talked for a few hours about Sicily and its hidden attractions, the olive oil business and food in general. Afterwards, he had to go out on business, so he took us to Villa Niscemi, a beautiful home preserved for the last couple hundred years and now home to the Palermo county seat. It was closed, but Manfredi was able to convince the guards to let us in to take a look around.

We were so happy after lunch - Manfredi and Paola were so warm, their house was so amazing and the food was awesome! He's a busy guy, and Paola has another son on the way, but we're hopeful that we can get together again soon. Altogether, it was a pretty awesome day!

(Oh, and when we got back to Balestrate, our electricity blew out in the kitchen and bedroom. Our landlord fixed the problem this morning, and luckily the stove still worked - for cooking dinner, for heating up our precious hot water bottles - but still, it was kind of a bummer after spending the day in Palermo!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The tuna that didn't get away

Last week, word spread quickly around town that a few tuna had escaped a farm in the middle of the Golfo di Castellamare. One of the locals, a man I would refer to as "Grizz", spent three nights on the beach stalking the tuna. He eventually speared (yes, speared) three and brought them to the fishmarket. This was big news - tuna don't usually appear at the markets until the summer.

Gioacchino and I went to see Tot
o, the owner of the pescheria. Sure enough, hanging in front of his shop was a beautiful tuna. Next to the fish was a wooden table, where Toto sliced tuna steaks to order, under the watchful eye of his appreciative customers.

Gioacchino and I got to talking about how he wo
uld prepare his tuna. "Tartare, baby." (Gio likes to add "baby" to anything that gets him really excited. When the exchange rate goes down: "1.26, baby." When you ask him what he would like to drink: "Negroni, baby.") His technique is simple - marinate the tuna in olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and chives, all of which he grows on his property. Add a little salt and pepper and your done. He goes off on a tangent about how good fresh tuna is with just a little soy sauce and suddenly the crowd turns on him. The little that I understand goes something like this: "In Sicily we eat like Sicilians. Screw your soy sauce!" I think I heard a "minchia" in there for good measure.

Gioacchino corrected himself and offered to bring over some lemons and chives for our marinade. This is our sack of goodies on the right. Ang diced up the tuna and started on the marinade. In addition to the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, chives and parsley, she added minced garlic (what can I say, the girl loves garlic!).

I haven't eaten a lot of tuna tartare in my life, but I think I can say that it will be tough to beat what we had last week. The tuna was incredibly delicate. When Ang took the bowl out of the fridge, she took the plastic wrap off and immediately grabbed my arm. "You have to smell this!" The lemon, tuna, chives, garlic and oil together was so remarkable - it instantly got stored in the memory banks, along with the smell of freshly pressed olive oil and walking by a merchant selling Sicilian oranges.

Anyway, here are a few more images from the meal. Ang toasted up some croutons which added a nice contrasting crunch to the silky tuna. Throw in some hard boiled eggs and a dressed salad and this dinner left us pretty excited for the start of the summer and tuna season!

Giving in to pressure from abroad. Our website's title is now in English!

Welcome to our new home - Make sure you bookmark that. Tell your friends. Take out an add in your local paper. Spread the word.

Seriously, we gotta start making some money off this sucker...

Thanks for reading!

The Getting Lost in Sicily Team
a.k.a. Ang & Scott

Monday, January 5, 2009

The worst...

This quality of life poll ranks the 20 regions of Italy, with Valle d'Aosta coming in 1st (apparently the pigs must climb onto the table and salt-cure themselves up there). Our beloved homeland, Sicily? Dead last in 20th place.

That's ok - we never thought to consult one of these so-called "reports" or "fact-based studies" before we decided to leave the States. Sicily continues to be a mystifying place - everyday we find ourselves bouncing from bewilderment to laughter, from frustration (with learning a new language, with the maniac drivers, with the constestants on Affari Tuoi who keep pressing their luck despite the generosity of the dottore) to enchantment (catching a glimpse of an elegant past or discovering a new favorite "gelato burger" place.

We are starting to understand more and more how difficult the life is here for a lot of people - we haven't even traveled into the interior yet. A new friend, Luigi, who we met at a party on New Years Eve, suddenly broke from the evening's theme of levity when we asked him about getting to know the real Sicily. Luigi had a sweet, calm way about him, but he dropped his smile and politely told us that we could never understand what Sicily is truly like. (We'd had some wine at this point, so I am paraphrasing) "Life here is hard. Everyone will be nice to you, because this is our way. But there isn't always work and the people struggle." The conversation lightened almost immediately when Giuseppe, our neighbor in town, asked us how we (Americans, because now we represent the nation) could possibly stomach coffee and bacon in the morning (breakfast here is coffee and maybe a pastry). But we got the point from Luigi - enjoy our time here in Sicily. Enjoy discovering this beautiful and beguiling part of Italy. There is much to see here, the history, the food, the people. We're not quite tourists and we're not quite Sicilian. We're safe enough to enjoy the wonders of Sicily, but close enough to feel some of the sadness creeping in...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Years in Balestrate

We spent New Years Eve at our friend Gioacchino's house, taking in a ridiculous meal that consisted of an absurd amount of food. Here's what happened:

negroni with snacks: chips, cherry peppers stuffed with anchovies, olives stuffed with goat cheese, smoked salmon spread with toast
antipasti: a cheese tart with gorgonzola, a cheese tart with parmiggiano, roasted peppers stuffed with sausage, roasted oyster mushrooms and eggplant with primo sale and lemon vinaigrette, zucchini and ricotta tarts
pasta 1: vegetarian lasagna
pasta 2: fettucine with meat sauce
meat: veal roulade with peas, egg and prosciutto cotto
fish: swordfish steaks lightly breaded and fried
vegetable: peas, carrots and potatoes
dessert: an assortment of cannoli, cream puffs, and other little sweets. oh and i musn't forget the ever-present pannetone.

As if all of this wasn't enough, we were pretty much forced to eat lentils to usher in the new year. It's a tradition that eating lentils brings good luck and money in the coming year. I definitely reached maximum capacity and needed a bed as soon as possible.

I'll leave you with my recipe for the stuffed peppers:
6 bell peppers
1 1/2 lbs. sausage, casing removed
1/2 onion, small dice
1/4 Cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp cocoa, unsweetened
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
3 Cups tomato puree

Roast the peppers until soft, peel off skin, and remove seeds. I had really big peppers so I was able to cut each one into 3 to get 18 servings. Brown sausage in saucepan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Saute onion and pine nuts in some olive oil until nuts are browned and onion is translucent. Add garlic, cocoa, cinnamon, red pepper and tomato puree (and salt to your liking). Let simmer on low heat for at least 15 minutes...adding more tomato puree (or stock or water) if it gets to thick for your taste. Add sausage back to pan and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add some parsley leaves at end for color. Place this mixture inside of flattened pepper and roll. We ate them at room temp...but hot would also be really good. Enjoy!

Christmas in Rome

Don't get me wrong, spending Christmas in Rome was fantastic, but since I've never been away from home on a holiday before it was very, very strange. Even with all of the streets decorated, nativity scenes everywhere (and I truly mean everywhere) and countless sightings of Babbo just didn't feel like Christmas. There was no Christmas Eve dinner with the family, no exchange of gifts, no pollyanna with the cousins (or the girlfriends, or the grade school friends), no Christmas morning breakfast at Mom and Dad's. It was surreal to say the least.

The Rome trip started out with a bang...our flight from Palermo was delayed 2 1/2 hours. Instead of arriving at our hotel at 7:30pm like we planned, we got there at 10pm. For future reference: if you are going to Rome on Christmas Eve there is no subway service after 9pm. We didn't know this, even though we did exhausting amounts of research for this trip, including going to the Rome metro website, where nothing was listed about a 9pm closing time. Why am I continually shocked by things like this happening in Italy? At any rate, we walked from the train station to the hotel, threw our bags down and went out to explore. A night time walk past the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza della Rotunda and onto Piazza Navona for a delicious pork sandwich for dinner. Not exactly my usual Christmas Eve dinner of fish...but it was late, restaurants were no longer seating for dinner, and there was a stand with a huge roasted porchetta calling our names.

After the pork sandwich we got pizza. Overkill? Yes, but we don't care...that's how we do.

The next few days were basically filled with eating and sightseeing. We went to the Basilica, toured the Vatican Museum, saw a display of 106 nativity scenes in Piazza del Popolo, went to an art gallery to see the works of Giovanni Bellini (where we also saw Sam Waterston of my beloved Law and Order...I'm not joking, he was really there, Scott can attest), and visited the Pantheon.

The culinary highlight of the trip was a great place called Cul de Sac. Teresa and I have eaten there before and I knew Scott would love it. We got wild boar pate, crottin cheese with truffles and head cheese salame. Soooo good and the place has a great atmosphere. The pate had chocolate in the middle, which we didn't expect because it wasn't written on the menu. It might sound strange, but it was absolutely delicious.

We did a lot of walking, drinking, eating and touring. It was great fun, but not better than being with family and friends. No more holidays away from home for us.