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The Legacy and Cultural Significance of Italian Grocers

The Legacy and Cultural Significance of Italian Grocers

Although it was a long time ago, the memories I have are still vivid – walking as a boy at my father's side on cool summer mornings, before the sun was up, at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto, visiting the farmers' stalls one after another, looking for the most succulent black cherries, the juiciest red haven peaches from the…

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Gingerbread: A Sicilian-Canadian Tradition

Gingerbread: A Sicilian-Canadian Tradition

In December 2015 I sent out a celebratory email about the gingerbread houses I’d made with my nieces and cousins: Subject: Gingerbread House-a-Palooza! Message: What does it take to make three gingerbread houses? 21 cups flour 2 1/4 cups butter 7 eggs + 16 egg whites 5 1/4 cups brown sugar 16 cups icing sugar 3 1/2 cups molasses 20…

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Holiday Memories

Holiday Memories

Our holiday celebrations always began with Italian Christmas Eve fare: fish and seafood, and our regional specialty of polenta e baccalà. Around nine o’clock, the children clamoured for their gifts, while the adults sipped a grappino. Christmas Day was for opening the special gifts under the tree at home, going to church, and then visiting my mother-in-law’s sister for lunch. The specialty at…

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Mushrooms Like Paper-Thin Memories

Mushrooms Like Paper-Thin Memories

Evenings on Prince Edward Island already smell like autumn. On the boardwalk at the end of each day the air is crisp, and the wind caresses your face in anticipation of long sleeves and steaming mugs of chamomile tea and honey. During those walks, my mind flies to Italy, to my parents’ home, to a time that is another life,…

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Preserving Summer’s Latecomers

Preserving Summer’s Latecomers

Forlorn, hopelessly hanging on, budding too late to reach their full glory, tarty green tomatoes are the latecomers of summer. Packed with promise, they usually wind up on the compost heap of autumn. This year our rainy Ontario summer will produce a bountiful harvest of firm, green, blemished tomatoes. All is not lost. You can preserve their potential in glistening olive…

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The Grape Harvest

Strolling on a lazy afternoon I passed the local grape-crushing site My senses felt the smell as an invite I couldn’t resist the call and went inside To pass the time with old familiar sights, But I saw none; The vats, the press, grape skins littering the paths, Bare-footed boys and shirtless men, They were all gone. Their shapes soon…

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The Florentine Steak

The Maitre D appeared seconds later carrying a huge white China platter. I almost expected to see the severed head of John the Baptist on it. The well-done steak that he deposited in front of me took up most of the dish. Some time ago, my wife, daughter, and I spent two delightful weeks in Rome, the eternal city, where…

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Pass the Jug

Pass the Jug

“That’ll be €1.50 a litre”. We weren’t talking about the latest hike in gas prices but the cost of the wine sold direct from the cantina. Last year’s Barbera, 13 percent by volume and perfect for the dinner table, was the subject of discussion and with no little enthusiasm. Here the inhabitants of Novi Ligure, the “Novesi”, bring their bottles,…

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Oregano & Origins: In the Shadow of the Italian Kitchen

Oregano & Origins: In the Shadow of the Italian Kitchen

I learnt to cook so well in Sicily that I will cause the banqueters to bite the dishes and the plates for joy.” – attributed to Alexis of Tarentum, 4th century BC, in Mary Taylor Simeti, Pomp and Sustenance: Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food (1989). “Simplicity…is one of the most fundamental and at the same time most elusive keys to preparing food well……

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Food tv fantasia

Each morning espresso or cappuccino at historic chic cafe’s in rome, milan, venice and florence Under a rising Mediterranean sun At noon Ligurian olives, kissed with extra virgin oil Prosciutto di parma Pasta made by milanese hands Tuscan wine in murano goblets Bocconcini di bufala and basilico Al fresco beneath a Mediterranean mezzogiorno Vistas of dream cities in background Evenings…

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It’s Pomodoro Time

It’s Pomodoro Time

Every year for the past 32 years of marital bliss (I had to say that for the obvious reasons) on Labour Day weekend, my in-laws have made the succo di pomodoro. We can call it a number of things: “succo, salsa, conserva,” or sauce in English. But never, and I mean never, call it “GRAVY!” With all due respect to…

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Rome, Eataly Fresh Pasta and Concupiscent Curds

Rome, Eataly Fresh Pasta and Concupiscent Curds

In his recent effort to return to power, former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi said that there is no recession in Italy because all the restaurants are full. In a land that puts so much emphasis on its cuisine, are restaurants really the best measure of the country’s economic health? Food is everywhere and always will be. I can’t imagine that…

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Chewing Over Eataly

Chewing Over Eataly

Last June at the opening of Eataly’s newest store, Eataly Rome, CEO and owner Oscar Farinetti proclaimed, “Welcome to the biggest place in the world dedicated to Italian food. Our aim is to make it the third most-visited place after the Coliseum and the Vatican Museums.” He dubbed it Eatiland. Farinetti’s contagious energy and unwavering optimism permeates throughout the concept store.…

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Cicoria Roadside Stories

Cicoria Roadside Stories

Many Italian immigrants who came to America in the last century were certainly disappointed when they did not find the fabled streets paved in gold. But others were surely heartened when they discovered that the endless fields of green, which both surrounded and dotted their urban habitat, contained another kind of gold – cicoria! These hopeful immigrants, who were accustomed to…

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Celebrating Italian Food

Celebrating Italian Food

I have decided that I do not want an engagement ring. What I want instead is an engagement kitchen. I have never been much of a jewellery lover anyway. I thought I was not a cooking lover either, but I have discovered that I am! For those of you who have read the Summer 2012 issue (Accenti 26), you won’t be surprised by…

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Castagne to Go: Chronicles of a Chestnut Lover

Castagne to Go: Chronicles of a Chestnut Lover

In February 2008, I attended the BIT (Biennale Italiana del Turismo) in Milan, where I met Ernesto Milani, tourism blogger par excellence. We visited the fair grounds, touring its many stands and having a very nice time. Just outside the building, we came upon a street vendor who offered up some very fine roasted chestnuts. I enjoyed the experience very much and casually took some photos.…

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Pressing Wine and Dancing the Tarantella

Pressing Wine and Dancing the Tarantella

Wine always reminds me of my grandfather. I can’t remember the first time I tasted wine, but fuzzy memories aside, I can say for certain that it was probably at my grandparents’ house. The red wine was heavily diluted with ginger ale, and the wine itself was homemade by nonno. Wine has always been at the centre of our family cosmology, whether sneaking…

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Ribbons and Bows for the Holidays!

Ribbons and Bows for the Holidays!

The festive season brings on the urge to create beauty and transform our surroundings into something magical and mysterious – an urge which seems to be at the heart of the fanciful figures, wreaths, illuminations and other embellishments we stage on and in our homes. The same desire is also at the heart of the opulent ribbons and bows with…

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Bloody Caesar! Only in Canada, eh?

Bloody Caesar! Only in Canada, eh?

We Canadians are responsible for many discoveries and inventions advancing modern life such as the electron microscope, alkaline batteries, insulin, and more importantly, basketball, game shows, frozen fish, instant potato flakes, electric stoves and the Bloody Caesar. All of these, except the Bloody Caesar, have been eagerly embraced by our American cousins. I wonder why, especially since its base, Clamato…

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The End of Italian Food, or a New Beginning?

The End of Italian Food, or a New Beginning?

Thin-crusted, chewy pizza is one of New York’s signature foods, just as deep-dish pizzas define Chicago, and eclectic, gourmet pizza toppings are emblematic of Californian cuisine. In Buenos Aires, ñoquis (gnocchi) and milanesas (breaded veal cutlets) are considered comfort foods, while deep-fried polenta is a fast-food favourite in Sao Paolo. And everyone knows how seriously Seattle takes its lattes. The question is, do any…

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Where “Real” Italian Food Really Comes From

Where “Real” Italian Food Really Comes From

Pasta: Popular mythology has Marco Polo bringing back egg noodles from his trip to China and calling them macaroni. Actually, a fresh pasta dish called lagana, an oven-baked precursor to lasagne, existed in ancient Roman times. But it wasn’t until the Arabs introduced durum wheat and semolina to medieval Sicily that dry pasta entered the Italian diet, making couscous, not chow…

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Sagra dello Stocco

Sagra dello Stocco

Sagra dello Stocco Every August 9 on the eve of ferragosto, the Italian summer holidays, fish aficionados from around the world travel to Mammola, Reggio Calabria, for the Sagra dello Stocco or stockfish festival. Like many Mediterranean food festivals, this sagra includes traditional dancing, music and the perennial balli dei giganti – a parade through town with larger-than life figures in medieval costume carried aloft by…

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Underground Delight: Trifles about Marche Truffles

Underground Delight: Trifles about Marche Truffles

Tartufo. To the connoisseur the word evokes images of a luscious and delectable, even sensual, food. "Truffle" in English sounds just as evocative. I’m not alluding to the chocolate imitation, much less to the ice cream variety but, rather, to the not so common and therefore highly-prized edible tuber – a type of fungus remotely akin to mushrooms that grows…

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Pizza Passione

Pizza Passione

Napoli, bella Napoli, is a quixotic mixture of humanity with a captivating and seductive character that is unlike any other city in Italy. In Napoli, passion pervades daily life, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than where food is concerned. If food is what keeps that passion burning, then arguably pizza is the favorite fuel of Neapolitans. After only…

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Pub Italia, Preston Street

Pub Italia, Preston Street

A tall moustachioed figure slides into the bench before me. Setting down a tall pint of Guinness and a flagon of Belgian ale, he says, “Ciao,” and extends his hand. “I’m Joe.” Belgian Ale? Guinness? A pub? In the heart of Ottawa’s Little Italy? Welcome to Pub Italia, an icon on the Preston Street strip. Resembling more a medieval abbey than a local drinking…

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The Folklore of Making Tomato Sauce

The Folklore of Making Tomato Sauce

Newfoundland’s Memorial University is famous for its Folklore department and may boast the only such program in Canada – at least in the English language. (The Université Laval in Quebec has a French Ethnology program). But it still takes quite a stretch of the imagination to connect that and the making of tomato sauce by third generation Italians in Montreal…

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Vinitaly – Experiencing the Fine Wines of Italy

Vinitaly – Experiencing the Fine Wines of Italy

I am excited and delighted to be in Verona once again – the romantic medieval city of Romeo and Juliet – in the heart of the Veneto region, where the Adige River flows smoothly under centuries-old bridges. Time seems to be trapped in its waters, and the reflection of the colourful medieval houses is astonishing. I have come to Verona…

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Amare l’Amaro Amarone: A Journey into Valpolicella 

Amare l’Amaro Amarone: A Journey into Valpolicella 

Valpolicella is definitely one of the most complicated wine-producing areas, and can only be fully understood if explored in person. To love the bitter Amarone – a title such as this, and a tongue twister to boot, could be misleading for one of the best Italian wines: the opulent Amarone. It would have been better to say “amare il dolce…

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Slow Makes All the Difference

Amid the background clatter of clanking plates, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation at a baretto near the Trevi Fountain. "How much for a slice of pizza?" the shorts-clad tourist asked the woman behind the counter. "Depends if you're sitting or standing," replied the woman. "What difference does it make?" asked the tourist. After a solemn pause, the woman…

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Home Winemaking: Reviving an Italian Tradition

Ask anyone for his or her impression of homemade wines and the answer most often includes some polite body language followed by one or two descriptives such as "too strong" or "harsh." Such wines are the result of outdated winemaking methods and poor grape selection. The younger generation of Italian Canadians sees little reason to keep the home winemaking tradition…

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What Italians Really Eat

What Italians Really Eat

When Italians arrived on the shores of North America, they brought with them knowledge of a great many things. But despite their reputations as scholars and artisans, builders and craftsmen, they - and consequently we as their children and grandchildren - became most admired for what they accomplished not in the workplace, but in the family kitchen. In fact, an…

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