Showing posts with label Italian eats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian eats. Show all posts

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Gasperetti's - A Taste of Home

 My taste of home arrived at our village post office last Friday. 

My taste of home

Exactly one month after it began its journey from my hometown, Yakima, Washington, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, it arrived in our adopted home in the rural Greek Peloponnese. 

Melt-in-your-mouth meatballs

'Gasperetti's, The Story of The Restaurant' was published as a tribute to the long-time Yakima business and the family for whom it is named. The restaurant is a part of Yakima Valley history, having been operated over a span of nearly 70 years, in two locations, by two generations of the Gasperetti family. It closed in 2020.

From the book, a menu, circa 1945

I liken the book to a multi-course meal at 'The Restaurant' (as it was called in its day). Its appetizer course is the opening chapter; a history that takes the reader back to the family's culinary roots in Tuscany, Italy. The main course consists of some 65 mouthwatering recipes for those favorite dishes that were once served at The Restaurant, now adjusted for home-sized cooking.  Sweet memories prompted by its photos was a most fitting dessert. 

Thursday nights Crab Cannelloni Nights

I was surprised by not only the hunger pangs it prompted, but the emotions as well. It was a shot of nostalgia, and memories both for the restaurant and the town.  It had been 'the place to go' when celebrating life's special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, or even the end of an ordinary work week. It was at this restaurant where we gathered with our close friends a few years ago to celebrate our move to Greece.

Gasperetti's Comes to Greece

John Gasperetti and the book

News of the book's publication many months ago had me contacting my now FB friend, John Gasperetti, about ordering a copy. I'd finally decided the logistics of doing it from Greece were too difficult and I'd risk waiting until my next trip to the States to get a copy. I was hoping it wouldn't be sold out.

Postage to Greece is outrageous

Then came a message from my college roommate and forever friend, Mary. She said a parcel was headed my way. She provided a tracking number, but its contents remained a secret.  

She and I both began tracking the parcel two weeks into its journey. By then, it had reached Athens. In fact, it had shipped from Athens five days before the day I checked on it- but to where, I wasn't sure. The travel time between Athens and here is about four hours, certainly not days. . .

Nikos, the unflappable clerk at our small village post office, checked his computer. He told me it had shipped from the Post Office to Customs in Athens. He speculated, that maybe it had, or maybe it hadn't gotten there; maybe it had or maybe hadn't been shipped. . .or maybe it had gotten there, and no one recorded it. Bottom line, it was in a Black Hole somewhere.  Another 10 days and we'd have to start some sort of process to find it, he advised.

But what did it mean?

Its whereabouts got murkier when I checked on it this week and found signs of movement, I just wasn't sure what they meant. So back to Nikos I went. He frowned at the news of 'held in customs' because that could mean a hefty customs fee. 

Then he flashed a big smile and said, "Oh! My computer says it is here. Yes, it came Friday!"  He reached to a shelf a few feet from his chair and there it was - my taste of home!  As I've written before, getting mail in Greece is always an adventure.

Stirring the Italian travel bug

Besides taking me on a trip down Memory Lane, the book stirred our collective travel bug.

Borgo a Buggiano Italy

The family's culinary roots stretched back in time to a small village in Tuscany. 

 '. . .the family culinary skills were first showcased when, in 1800, the first Mario Gasperetti earned the praise of Pope Pius VII for his superior chicken cacciatore'.  

'In 1906,' the book continues, 'Mario's great-great-grandson Angelo Gasperetti arrived at Ellis Island in New York City from the small village of Borgo a Buggiano, northwest of Florence, Italy.'

The Gasperetti 'roots' in Borgo a Buggiano

'Near Florence!' I exclaimed as I was reading the passage to The Scout. 'Let's go visit that village the next time we are in Italy!' The Scout was already looking it up on a map of Italy. The village, it turns out, is between Lucca, where we now have friends living, and Florence, a favorite of ours! (Since we are less than a two-hour flight from Italy these days, a quick trip might just be in the offing!)

The Arno - Florence, Italy

Over the years of dining at the restaurant we came to know John and his sister Jean who operated 'The Restaurant' that opened in 1966 while I was still in elementary school. Their parents, Mario and Minnie, had operated the original Gasperetti's from 1943 until 1960 at another location.

John Gasperetti and his sister Jean Gasperetti Lemki

Let's Eat!

The cookbook is a tribute to an Italian family and the mark they've left on the culinary scene in Washington State. I know people who used to travel across the state from the Seattle area just to dine at this Yakima landmark.  A visit back to Yakima for us certainly wasn't complete without dinner at The Restaurant. 

The recipes, while predominantly Italian, also include those that spotlight Yakima's agricultural base, like the Broiled Yakima Pear Salad. Others carry names of restaurant patrons, friends and family.  Brad's Avocado and Dungeness Crabmeat Salad is named for John's husband, Brad Patterson, the restaurant's long-time creative culinary artist and chef. Brad joined the Gasperetti's team back in 1966 at age 19.

Note: Kalamata olives in this recipe!

As I was reading through the recipes, the one above stopped me in my tracks! Back in our Yakima days, I'd never have any more imagined Gasperetti's closing, than I'd have imagined us living in and growing Kalamata olives in Greece.  Yet, both have happened! I've decided this Chicken Cacciatore will be the first dish I make and will use our Greek home grown and oil-cured olives in in it. 

My homegrown and cured Kalamata olives

Thanks for indulging in my trip down memory lane and joining me for a taste of home. I will resume tales of Southeast Asia in my next post.  How about you? Any similar restaurants located on your Memory Lane?  Any cookbooks that sparked a taste of home?

And for those of you who want a copy of this book, they are available from Gasperetti's Floral Design, 5833 Summitview Ave., Yakima, Washington, 98908. Details and ordering information from: or the FB page, Gasperetti's Floral. 

Until next time. . .

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Italy ~Travel in a QR Code World

Our destination was Italy.  It was a trip to a neighboring country, less than two hours away by plane. Yet, it didn't take long to realize that while we knew where we were going, we were definitely traveling in a whole new world: the world of the QR code.

We'd flown from Athens to Bologna, the start of a 10-day trip, on a brisk November day two weeks ago. After unpacking it was time to get to the business of what we had come here for: eating and drinking Italian food and wine. 

The Scout, the wine and the QR code menu - Bologna

We were seated at a popular bar in Bologna's historic market district, on which two-inch by two-inch laminated cards with a QR codes served as the menu.

Italian wine - Mama Mia!

Now, I can't tell you how much we love Italian wine and how much we dislike QR codes. If you've followed our adventures for very long you know we call ourselves, 'techno dino's' for good reason. We are dinosaurs in a world of technology that long ago moved beyond our skills and understanding.  We are people who - heaven forbid! - often leave their mobile phones at home.

It turns out that  QR codes, short for 'quick response' codes, were invented back in the 1990's by a car manufacturer to track the components in car production. In the last year they have become the access point to menus, shopping, travel and are being used by any number of industries. The little black and white graphic squares hold far more information than the 'old' bar code.

No QR codes here - Yay!

Some retail stores place bar codes in windows so shoppers can make purchases without entering the store. Tickets for public transportation sport the little guys. And since the pandemic turned the world upside down, public health agencies on this side of the pond use them in contact tracing efforts --  notifying travelers of possible Covid exposure.  

We concede that in this Covid-influenced world, we must credit QR codes for providing a 'contactless' means of conducting business. And as a result, we techno-dino's - out of necessity -- have been forced to learn how to point the camera of a mobile device (aka smart phone) at them to access the information we need.  

So many wine bars from which to choose - Bologna

Information like the wines available at this bar we'd chosen in Bologna. So I aimed my Android device's camera at that small Italian square and read: 

'No network connection.' 

"But, of course!! (Fisica!) as we say in Greece. . .our Greek phone network doesn't work outside the country - so we had no way of accessing the mysteries of the menu in Italy. 

Explaining our dilemma to the 30-something waiter, we asked for a menu.  

Problem was, he explained, they didn't have a printed menu. With frustration causing greater thirst, The Scout, sought to solve the problem by saying, 'We will have two glasses of wine.' 

Well, that was far too simple a solution. There were choices to be had. A menu would be found! Within minutes our young waiter  presented us with a phone borrowed from a staff member - and on its screen was the wine menu. 

Yay, for the printed menu!

I am happy to report not all trattorias and bars have moved away from the printed menus and that made the trip a whole lot easier! But our experience at the bar highlighted the impact of  the QR code when traveling these days in Europe.

Don't leave home without it

One of our many QR codes for travel

'Check in now for your flight' came the email notice from Aegean Airlines, the day before our departure. Following instructions we promptly had two emails in return each with a QR code that needed to be shown at the check-in desk. 

Worried that we wouldn't have internet access in the airport (which is a well-reported problem for many travelers, as is the 'dead phone battery') we took both our Greek phones, charged them overnight at the airport hotel and opened each of them before we left the hotel to display a QR ticket code - The Scout on one phone and The Scribe on the other.

As if presenting gifts we placed the two phones showing the QR codes on the check-in counter. (Opening them and having the code displayed really was a gift in our minds.) The ticket agent glanced at them as he asked for our passports and then using the passports typed our names into his computer and said, 'You are going to Bologna?'  

With little attention paid to our QR codes, he printed paper boarding passes for us with the baggage claim tickets stuck on the back, just like in the 'good old days'. 

Off to Italy - PLF QR code in hand

The European Union rules for travel require completed the EU PLF's (that would be, European Union Passenger Locator Forms) for entry into each country. And each country has a slightly different take on them. Italy required one per passenger, Greece requires one per family. Forms are to be completed on-line prior to travel. 

The form is a lengthy document requiring, in some cases, details down to your seat number and the exact hour and minute your flight is scheduled to arrive.  Others aren't as detailed. The purpose of each however is to know how to reach you should it be determined you were exposed to Covid.

Immediately after submitting that form. . . .(you guessed it). . . a QR code is sent via email to your mobile device.  Our QR for Italy provided a link for downloading as a PDF document to our phone, which could be accessed without internet. We tried several times to download but got no further than the message reading, 'We are experiencing difficulties, try again later.'  So, we'd also opened those PLF QR codes before leaving the hotel and left those pages open - as they also had to be shown at check-in..

Rejected for not being 'official' enough. . .

Greece allows travelers to print the PLF but it comes out as only a QR code on the paper with a small letterhead. We had our printed copy rejected by an airline agent who said it didn't have enough proof of being issued by the Greek government.  Thankfully we found the PDF on the phone with printed information and QR code - it was accepted.

I should mention that you don't get beyond the check-in desk at the airport without showing that QR code, so it is a step key to travel. 

Green Pass -- QR code in hand

United States version of the 'green pass'

The European Union 'green pass', as the Covid vaccination record here is called, is another QR code on a mobile app provided by each EU government. You must show it to travel, for access to tourist attractions like museums, restaurants, bars, to shop in retail stores - nearly every public place you want to go these days.  

Those of us vaccinated in the United States, carry a card that has information about our vaccinations on them. While we don't like QR codes it would be so much easier to travel (and to go about daily life for that matter) if we did have them only a phone away.  

On several occasions in the last couple weeks I have found myself holding out the cards to a perplexed gate keeper, pointing to the notations of our three shots and saying, 'American, Pfizer, ena, dio, tria,' in Greek and 'American, Pfizer, un, due, tre' in Italian.

Our CDC cards were checked by the airline, train and three of the four hotels in which we stayed. Museums also scrutinized the cards. The cards were accepted by all who reviewed them. 

But not once in the 10-day trip were we asked by an Italian bar or restaurant to show our cards. Other customers were being asked to show green passes on their phones. We reasoned that either we looked and sounded like tourists, who wouldn't have been allowed in the country without vaccinations or they didn't want to deal with our cards and matching the names and date of births on them to that information in our passports.

Trains, ferries and buses - QR codes 

QR code on train tickets

Train tickets in Italy carry the QR code which is quickly scanned by the conductor as they make their way through the train. We purchased tickets from a ticket counter and received paper tickets, had we done it on line we would have had e-tickets.

The ferries that shuttle people through the canals of Venice also have gone to an optical reading system, no longer time and date stamping the tickets but using electronic coding instead.  

Paper tickets sold at the ticket office

We traveled on the airport shuttle bus between the Bologna airport and train station, where electronic readers have also replaced the time/date stamp of the on board validation machines.

While traveling in the techno-world is still a bit of a challenge for us, we can't tell you how nice it was to travel again.  There were plenty of tourists and folks out and about but none of the crowds of pre-Covid travel. 

We are wondering what your travel experiences in the QR code world have been like?  Have any of you been contacted by an airline or government agency using the PLF information after a trip? Shoot us an email or tell us about them in the comments below.

Hope you'll be back next week when we'll have another serving of Italy for you. Thanks, as always, for the time you've spent with us today!  

Linking soon with:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Found! The best pizza in Napoli. . .

Napoli, (aka Naples on this side of ‘The Pond’) is the birthplace of pizza.

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For that reason, we told ourselves prior to last fall’s cruise, that we would eat pizza there during our few hours in this ‘love-it or hate-it’ Italian town on Italy’s western coast.  (The photo above of Mt. Vesuvius was taken during our Celebrity Silhouette’s early morning approach to the harbor.)

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We’d braved the morning’s rain and set out, umbrellas unfurled, to explore the dizzying, congested streets, and by noon had worked up a pizza-sized appetite. We were far off the main road on one of our direction-less wanders off-the-beaten-tourist-path, when we happened upon this place:

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It was one of a trillion or so similar Pizzaria’s that line the sidewalks of this ages-old city.  What made this place stand out for us, was the crush of customers inside. Tiny tables within elbow’s reach of each other were filled. We were tucked into one of the last remaining in a snug corner of Ristorante e Pizzeria da Attilio* .

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While most dishes were prepared in an industrial looking kitchen in the back, the pizzas were prepared by a culinary artist (as I prefer to think of him) just  inside the front door.

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And since every artist needs an admirer or two, I headed to his gallery to watch him prepare our pizza.

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Dough was stretched, toppings in place and he turned the creation over to his assistant whose job it was to cook our pizza in his incredibly hot oven. And within minutes. . .

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. . . Mama Mia!  Our pizza was served; the best pizza we have ever eaten, perhaps the ‘best in Napoli’! Or was it?

 That afternoon, back at the ship and resting up from that pizza, we headed to the pool and hot tub.

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That’s where we struck up a conversation with a couple who told us they had just eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli’ for lunch and described a place no where near where we had eaten.  They said they knew they had eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli” because that is what travel guru Rick Steves had said of the pizzeria located on one of his guidebook’s ‘on-the-beaten-tourist-path walks’. . .

Hmmm. . .I wonder who did eat 'the best' pizza in Napoli that day?

Are you one who ‘goes by the guidebook’?  If so, what guidebooks do you use? Or do you allow yourself the opportunity to make discoveries on your own?

SilhouettePt12012 039That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday – head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos today and stop by here this weekend when we will have more tales and tips for you.

*If you get to Napoli, try Da Attilio Pizzeria, Via Pignasecca, 17,  - we think you’ll like it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mama Mia! Mealtime Magic with Anna Maria!

It was, by far, the most memorable meal we had in Italy; in fact, the most memorable we’ve had in some time.  And we attribute it to the serendipity of circumstances that can so unexpectedly happen when you travel. . .

It was the night we met Anna Maria Monari; the night we experienced Trattoria Anna Maria.

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The serendipity began weeks before our Italian trip. I’d written, BolognaWelcome, the  city’s tourism site for some information. 

Enter Giorgia Zabbini, (pictured to the left). She works for the Municipality’s tourism office and became our source of information both before and during our visit.

She was guiding us on a winding path through the city’s famous arcades, when several blocks from the tourist-filled 13th Century Piazza Maggiorri, she stopped before an unmarked store front so that we could note the pasta being made inside.

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The ladies were more than gracious in granting my request to photograph them as they kneaded and rolled out pounds of pasta, that we learned would later be served to diners at Trattoria Anna Maria.

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Anna Maria’s is one of those places that all the locals know about – the kind of place that serves ‘real authentic Bolognese food’ Giorgia said, adding that we ‘might want to try it’ while in town.

 Understatement! Within minutes we we at the restaurant securing  reservations for the next night. . .

Mama Mia! That’s when the fun began! 

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We’d hoped to meet Anna Maria  as she made the rounds that evening, chatting with guests, checking on customer satisfaction – as she does each evening.  But what we didn’t expect was a full-blown visit with her.

We’d barely been seated when Laura Bizzari, (on the left in the photo above) introduced herself and said that Anna Maria would join us shortly and Laura would serve as our translator.

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The wine was poured. The antipasti plate with omelet squares, bruschetta and mortadello (the meat for which Bologna is famous) arrived and we met this delightful 72-year-old restaurant owner.

Trattoria Anna Maria began 24 years ago in a smaller location a few blocks from its present site. Back then, Anna Maria was both waitress and chef, serving menu items created from her mother’s recipes.

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The restaurant may have changed locations, but recipes have stayed the same.  Tortelloni en brodo, those wonderful stuffed pasta pockets served in broth was our first, ‘first’ course.  It, like the pasta used in lasagne, tortellini, and the long thin strands of tagliattelli, is hand-made daily by the ladies pictured above. (They had used 136 eggs the day we visited – which should give you an idea of quantities produced each day).

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Our second ‘first course’ was tagliattelli in Bolognese, the famous meat sauce of the area. My mouth waters at the memory of these thin, near-translucent noodles that melted in our mouths.

Anna Maria sources as many of the products as she can from nearby farms and producers. She’s worked with some of them for years and was practicing that culinary ‘farm-to-table’ philosophy long before  it became trendy.

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Yes, this lasagne was the third ‘first course’ and I hate to admit that it was so good that I forgot I was taking photos of each course until half way through it.  We did declare a stop after this and didn’t sample any of the items on the extensive ‘segundi’ or second, main course list. (Okay in full disclosure, we shared a home-made gelato and fruit for dessert.)

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The restaurant was jam-packed by the time we left, several hours after our arrival.  Anna Maria was making her rounds, obviously enjoying her guests. Her earlier comment, when we’d asked about retirement plans, came to mind: 

“I am here every day.  Where else do I have to go? This is the party.  . .Mama Mia!”

If You Go: Trattoria Anna Maria is at Via Belle Arti, 17/A, Bologna. Information at Credit cards accepted and is English spoken.

In full disclosure: We didn’t know until we asked for the bill, that we were Anna Maria’s guests that evening.  That wasn’t our intention in going there.  (I will add that going back to this restaurant is high on our list of reasons to return to Bologna. The pastas were incredible.)

This is our contribution to Travel Photo Thursday.  You’ll find more photos at Budget Travelers Sandbox.


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