Tag Archives: Italy

Shot of the Week

Capri Coast, Italy

Late last June I had graduated college and was preparing for a summer trip to Italy. This time around, I’m posting from Buenos Aires on the first day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. This shot brings back warm memories of cruising around the Italian island of Capri during that trip.

Karina

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Shot of the Week

Sorrento, Italy by TKGO

The city of Sorrento is situated along the Mediterranean, except the majority of the buildings and activity in town are located quite a bit up from the water. Sure, you can walk down no problem; it is the walk back up that isn’t so fun. Of course, it is all worth it for the views. And pizzerias. (Such as Pizzeria Aurora, which I wrote about in a TKGO post back in August.)

Karina for TKGO

Dining in Italy

Italian fare is one of the most influential and beloved cuisines worldwide, including — and especially — the place I call home. New Jersey is a haven for Italian-Americans (insert “Jersey Shore” cracks here), and I grew up dining at sublime local Italian restaurants. My trip to Italy was a chance to taste dishes I’ve enjoyed for years in family-run restaurants and my friends’ homes, back where they all originated.

Between bites of our first meal in Italy, my family and I recognized the genius of the country’s homeland cooking. It’s all about simple, focused dishes comprised of quality of ingredients, and that makes a world (or country?) of difference. The tomatoes were impossibly sweet, the olive oil pungent in the best way possible and the pasta always cooked to al dente perfection.

Since a trip through Italy is as much a culinary experience as a sightseeing tour, I compiled a photo log of bites I just could not get over, spanning every course of a meal. I must admit one of my favorites is not included below, and it was the classic Roman carbonara dish at a place in Trastevere. I somehow failed to photograph the plate and get the name of the restaurant, (Double failure! There’s no excuse, really, but we had been walking forever and the Spain-Portugal World Cup game was on….) but here is an image from the restaurant’s packed outdoor seating area. If by chance you recognize it, please let me know!

 

Mystery restaurant in Trastevere, Rome, by Karina for TKGO

 

Bruschetta (and penne with marinara sauce) at La Pallotta in Assisi

There’s really nothing more to this dish than what you can discern in the picture, but it was delicious. It tasted as though it had been thoughtfully and carefully prepared, from when the ingredients were selected to the moment it was plated.

 

Bruschetta (olive tapenade, tomato and olive oil) at La Pallotta, by Karina for TKGO

 

Similarly, the penne with marinara sauce my sister ordered didn’t look like much, but we all spent the meal grabbing bites. If this dish tasted everywhere else like it did at La Pallotta, the world would be a more delectable place.

 

Penne with marinara sauce at La Pallotta, by Karina for TKGO. (My sister had already started eating before I snapped the photo, hence why the place is a little messy.)

 

Greek Salad at Cul de Sac in Rome

I know I went for a Greek salad in Italy, but I needed something other than pasta for lunch on a hot day in Rome, and I am still glad I didn’t guilt myself out of this decision. (Also, I was sure to order an Italian white wine to accompany it.) The feta cheese was unparalleled, and it combined with sweet and crisp tomatoes, red onions, kalmata olives and cucumbers and drizzled with olive oil was exactly what I was craving.

 

Greek salad at Cul de Sac, by Karina for TKGO. Also pictured: my father's baked pasta dish

 

Prosciutto and Melon at Osteria de’Benci in Florence

Peanut butter and jelly might be the most celebrated of unlikely food combinations, but it really should be prosciutto and melon. The juicy sweetness of the melon and drier, more savory taste of prosciutto strike an ideal, mouthwatering balance. We took to ordering this classic and unfailingly divine Italian appetizer at least once a day, but at Osteria de’Benci it was best. Both the melon and prosciutto melted in our mouths.

 

Prosciutto and melon at Osteria de'Benci, by Karina for TKGO

 

Also of note: Osteria de’Benci’s “drunken spaghetti,” is a dish you won’t see everywhere and will want to try, even if it looks like brains in this photo. It’s al dente spaghetti soaked in red wine.

 

Drunken spaghetti at Osteria de'Benci, by Karina for TKGO

 

Pizza at Pizzeria Aurora in Sorrento

My dad described the slivers of parmesan cheese on top as “cheese from the gods.” The thinly sliced prosciutto also was a godsend, and the hearty crusty was cooked crisp in a brick oven. If you find yourself in Sorrento and wanting to try it (do it!), it’s the only pizza on the menu that says it’s folded over.

 

Pizza at Pizzeria Aurora, by Karina for TKGO

 

Truffle Pasta (Trofie Tartufo) at Maccheroni in Rome

Trofie is small pasta twists, and its folds scooped up perfect amounts of the creamy and slightly earthy tartufo — black truffle — sauce. It is rich, so you probably won’t finish your plate. I say, use it to barter for bites of other people’s dishes, because everything we tried here was ambrosial.

 

Truffle pasta, by Karina for TKGO

 

Also of note: We ordered a plate of ravioli with pumpkin flowers at the suggestion of our waiter (who, as we learned, carried a photo of the captain of his favorite Italian soccer team in his wallet, but not his girlfriend) to share at the start of our meal and it was gone in record time. I highly recommend it, as well as the meatballs, which were succulent and far from any of the bready concoctions par for the course over here in the States.

 

Meatballs at Maccheroni, by Karina for TKGO

 

Gelato at Il Gelato di San Crispino in Rome

This place is super close to the Trevi Fountain, so you really have no excuse not to go — and trust me, you want to. The superb gelato served here is devoid of anything artificial, and the fresh taste of every flavor proves it. My surprise favorite was chocolate meringue, but the family’s unanimous winner was strawberry. We were so crazy about that one flavor we returned two days in a row to have it.

 

Rum/chocolate and strawberry at Il Gelato di San Crispino, by Karina for TKGO. Sadly, my camera was unable to capture the delicious beauty of the gelato.

 

Karina for TKGO

Venetian Masks

What lured me into Venice was the masks. I expected the ornate gondolas and charming bridges, but not the scores of masks hanging in shops and dangling from peddlers’ carts. I was unaware of their significance at first, but it was clear from viewing a couple of store windows they were important to Venice’s identity.

I glanced at as many of the masks as possible, taking in their colors, eyeless expressions and designs. Just past Venice’s famous (and packed) Rialto bridge, the masks in one window display stopped me. This was the work of artists, work on a different plane than the glitter-smeared, mass produced guises targeting tourists. The colors were deeper and more macabre than any I had seen. The expressions were understated yet beautifully haunting, and they articulated more than any of the histrionic tchotchke masks.

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The shop was La Bottega dei Mascareri, owned by brothers Sergio and Massimo Boldrin, who also happen to be the craftsmen behind a fair number of the masks appearing at the wanton ball Tom Cruise attends in Eyes Wide Shut.

While the Boldrin brothers’ shop has been open since 1984, the Venetian mask tradition dates back centuries. The baroque masks are associated with Venice’s Carnevale, but wearers also have appropriated the anonymity masks allow to let loose on other occasions (Eyes Wide Shut is a prime example).

The masks in La Bottega dei Mascareri range in size, style and price, including full face — the bauta — to the Colombina eye masks. Some are intended for decoration, while others come complete with ribbons to tie on the disguise. I couldn’t resist the intrigue and beauty of the masks, which are made in a small workshop right in the back of the store, so I picked up a Colombina for 13 Euros.

Most mask stores, including La Bottega dei Mascareri, prohibit photos, but I was lucky to get special permission to snap some from the one employee in the store at the time (who doubles as a mask maker and salesperson). Also, I highly encourage you to visit La Bottega dei Mascareri’s website, which is stocked with photo galleries and videos.

Karina for TKGO

Italian Style Tips

When I wasn’t marveling at a picturesque piazza or impressive remnants of the Roman Empire while in Italy, I spent much of my time ogling and analyzing what Italians were wearing. Everywhere I visited, Italians had it: that fashion-forward yet seemingly effortless personal style.

I know I am one of many wannabe emulators of European — especially Italian — style, so I jotted down some observations while traveling and have attempted to pare them down into doable tips for all of us back home. I include myself in the “us,” seeing as I’m still working to incorporate much of the below into my closet. And I did leave out one wistfully obvious Italian style pointer: A Vespa is the ultimate accessory.

Colors

Much of the Italian wardrobe color palette is relatively subdued, but one of my favorite trends (which I saw mostly men working)  was a strong color pop, especially below. Red jeans, sapphire pants and the green trousers in the following photo made stylishly impressive statements. All the men rocking bold pants had it totally figured out, too, and kept the outfit’s other colors low-key.

 

I spotted this guy in Rome and loved his pants so much I stealthily shot a photo from across the street

 

Sunglasses

You don’t need to spend a ton of money — I doubt the majority of Italians do — but a stylish pair of sunglasses that fits your face and personal style goes a long way, especially for guys. In fact, being in Italy made me realize I see so few guys in the U.S. wearing non-sporty (aka Oakley-like) sunglasses. It’s a shame, because I largely credit fashionable shades for how put-together many Italian guys looked.

Sneakers

My non-workout sneaker collection is limited to a couple of predictable pairs, such as Converse. In Italy, however, people took sneakers to a new level. Stylish pairs were everywhere, especially on women. I loved the looks women were pulling off, like a pair of dark Pumas with a nice pair of jeans and a top they’d wear out at night. I’ve never seen sneakers look so dressy!

Tailoring

After my trip through Italy I’m convinced I’ll never wear pants right off the rack again. I saw too many people wearing pairs that fit them perfectly — pairs that must have been tailored — and it changed their look entirely. The truth is, clothes are made for a prototype size, and most people don’t fit that exact shape. I plan to start shopping for pant almost exclusively at stores with complimentary tailoring, such as Nordstrom and my personal favorite store, Uniqlo.

Investment Piece

Italians know their luxury style, from homegrown brands like Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo to Prada and Furla. Even if your budget prevents you from outfitting fully in any of the aforementioned labels (I’m with you there), it pays to shell out for an investment piece. Perhaps it’s a well-crafted messenger bag or a sleek leather jacket you choose. As long as it’s versatile and classic, you’ll use it forever.

I’m still searching for my one investment piece, and I’m starting to think I might have to return to the markets of Florence for it. I’m OK with that!

Karina for TKGO

La Grotta Azzurra

I am back from a 12-day, post-graduation vacation to Italy with my family! While I could entertain you with missives about how delectable the food was or how stylish Italian men were — that will come — I have instead decided to start with a video from one of my favorite outings during our self guided tour through the boot-shaped peninsula.

While staying in Sorrento, we took a day trip to the enchanting island of Capri (pronounced CAH-pree). We spent the morning on a boat excursion that circled the island and eventually brought us to Capri’s crown jewel: La Grotta Azzurra. La Grotta Azzurra is about 60 meters long and 25 wide, and sunlight caught in the grotto interacts with the white sand to produce a deep, incandescent and otherworldly blue.  In other words, it’s breathtaking.

This is one of those times where my written description will do no justice, so I have made a video of our Grotta Azzurra experience, from waiting to enter to exiting. Tide was high that day, so you’ll see the narrow opening rowboats had to enter (by rowboat is the only way to enter the cave), as well hear a brief explanation from our guide. I tried to keep my camera steady, but we were on the ocean in a tiny boat, so it was sometimes difficult. If only we were living in the heyday of the Roman Empire! We maybe could have gone for a dip.

For more information on La Grotta Azzurra, visit the official site.

Karina for TKGO

2010 FIFA World Cup

Countdown to the World Cup

In less than three weeks, the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off. I’ve been looking forward to this event pretty much since the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup when I realized the end was in sight. (I also remember thinking, “I’ll be graduated from college for the next World Cup!” It was the summer before I was to start college. Crazy.)

While the World Cup is undoubtedly the most anticipated sporting event in the world, it doesn’t quite have the same hold over Americans as it does in other more soccer-crazed countries (read: pretty much every other country) where everything and everyone pauses for the competition. I grew up loving the Beautiful Game; my dad was born and raised in Mexico, one of the aforementioned countries where soccer is life. We upgraded our basic cable to Dish just to access extra soccer channels, my younger sister and I played soccer competitively for years, and the only sporting events my family has attended together are soccer games.

This year, though, is the year. Judging from everything I’ve been reading, hearing and seeing about the World Cup — from American sources — I’m convinced this World Cup will be the pivotal one where Americans join the furor and totally lose it for (the real) football. This is the year more Americans than ever before will tune in to be a part of the estimated one billion World Cup viewers. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I think it’s realistic to hope this time around more Americans than ever will be aware of how entertaining and exciting the combination of the world’s most popular sport and patriot pride that is the World Cup can be.

 

Why you should buy the June issue of Vanity Fair, courtesy of Vanity Fair

 

I’ve included videos and links to some of my favorite pre-coverage of the Cup below. Also, I highly recommend picking up issues of the June GQ, which includes a special section with just about everything you’d ever need and want to know whether you’re a super fan or novice, as well as Vanity Fair. (The latter, especially, if you’re all about the World Cup eye candy. I’m still disappointed the issue doesn’t come with a pullout poster…)

I’ll be in Italy traveling during the majority of the World Cup, and I am excited to experience the event in a soccer-obsessed country. Even if you’re staying stateside, start to get excited. The first match goes down on June 11 between host nation South Africa and Mexico.

  • 2010 FIFA World Cup official site
  • Vanity Fair online coverage of the June issue’s article, plus video from the photo shoot (!)
  • Powerade’s “The Never-Ending Game” video
  • World Cup-inspired artwork
  • Nike’s “Write the Future” video (“Nike Footballads,” love it.)

Karina for TKGO