… the saga continues …

When we left our heroes on their weekend in Milan, they were staying at a lovely AirBnB apartment with a decorative, but non-functioning cooktop.

Pasta was not an option. The dinner I made was oven-roasted chicken with vegetables from David’s garden. Rich and Leslie were thrilled with our offerings from home … the Sportoletti Grechetto and an assortment of my homemade cookies. Rich still says he misses my biscotti on the golf course.

The following evening, we set out for MARCELLINO PANE E VINO, where David and I had such a good birthday dinner several months before. The weather was questionable and we were weighing our transportation options … but Uber made the decision for us. Apparently it’s not cheaper than a taxi in this city, so we jumped on a tram that runs through Milan north to south.

We got off at our stop, and knew we needed to walk that way … but that way was less clear when you start at a rotondo with multiple streets, and when none of the multiple street names on the signs match the multiple street names on your smartphone’s map. Or Leslie’s smartphone. After a mistaken turn, we found the correct road and a few blocks later, the restaurant.

We were greeted by a surly waiter … who only got more surly after we sat down. We did not see the manager who had been so nice on our first visit, but we did see the waitress … whose name we were to learn is Anna … as she tended to other guests.

We studied the menu, much the same as it was on our other visit. David ordered a bottle of white wine. White, which Leslie prefers.

Surly brought the bottle, and opened it before presenting it. And when he poured it, there was a piece of cork floating in the glass. When David pointed it out, Surly grabbed the glass, and put it on another table. He poured a second glass … more cork. He showed us the end of the cork … you could see where it was breaking off … and he shrugged that it wasn’t his fault, there was nothing he could do, deal with it. David stared at the glass in front of him. Surly put the bottle on a nearby credenza. Ummmmm …

We ordered our food. Again couples decided to share. Leslie and Rich also ordered a salad … and by the time David decided to order one, too, Surly had walked away. David got up, went over to him, and said he wanted a salad, too … suggesting it could be one big salad rather than two smaller ones. I thought that telling a waiter who clearly didn’t like us to change the order might make his head explode … or provoke him to spit in our food.

The first thing to appear at the table was a salatona, a big, meal-type salad filled with tuna and olives, tomatoes and lettuce. We objected as it landed on the table … we ordered mixed green salads, not this. Surly made the mistake of saying that this was the large salad we had ordered, we kept saying No. He took the bowl away in disgust, and put in on the credenza next to our bottle of wine.

David got up to look for Anna. She followed him back to the table, and we explained what had happened, pointing to the cork in the second glass, the first glass, the bottle, the salatona. Then she bitch slapped Surly. He never came back to our part of the restaurant.

Let me offer you this wine, she said, presenting a bottle of 2015 I Ronati Sauvignon. This bottle is from me. I think it’s a better selection than the corky bottle, and its flavor and minerality will be big enough to be enjoyed with the steak you ordered.

Our primi arrived. I ordered Paccheri with local pecorino (I apologize for my distraction, but I don’t remember its name … it starts with a G) and amaretti. I love the tubes of pasta, now flattened and toothsome, and these were caressed with a soft, young, delicate pecorino and sprinkled with the sweet almondiness of amaretti.

Leslie and Rich ordered Spaghetti Nerano … the Neapolitan dish with rings of fried zucchini and a thick blanket of melting parmigiano. They loved it, and weren’t surprised when I said I had made it with our zucchini.

Both couples ordered bistecca coi funghi e crema di tartufo. Who wouldn’t? The steak was grilled very rare, covered with sauteed mushrooms that were blended with truffle cream. The aroma as you took a bite was so flavorful and fabulous, the steak rare and tender.

We then ate our dinner salads.

For dessert, Rich and Leslie couldn’t resist tiramisu. The lady fingers infused their intense espresso goodness into the mascarpone-whipped cream filling, and the cocoa on top provided the perfect bitter compliment to the sweetness.

David and I ordered the hot lava cake … the same that David had here for his birthday. Happily, this portion was even better. The small, round cake was still warm, and once the fork broke the crust, the fudgy “pahoehoe” lava oozed warm and delicious into the cool vanilla custard. We all said, “Aa aa” as we enjoyed each bite. (Sorry, I couldn’t reside the Hawaiian lava humor.)

David also saw cannoli on the menu, so ordered one. Who wouldn’t? It was served with fork and knife … to awkwardly cut it into four pieces, but not necessary to eat the crisp shell and its sweet, orangey ricotta cream filling, with chocolate chips and minced pistachios covering the ends.

A meal that started as a fiasco ended deliciously. It wasn’t even raining when we headed back to our apartment.

Back at AirBNB Headquarters … for all our aggravation, they discounted the price of the rental and gave each of us a $50 credit. And I like to think that AirBNB read the riot act to Dick, the recalcitrant owner, and made him update his description or forever be banished from their site.

Before Leslie and Rich continued on their European tour, I told them about a little known Italy law which requires that visitors eat pizza at least once during their visit (like the Swiss law my father explained to me … that one must buy chocolate before leaving Switzerland) … and the pizzeria we enjoyed a few months ago was on the way to the airport. GALLETTO D’ORO. I, of course, had checked that the pizzeria was open Monday for lunch … and [smiley face] it worked into our timeline to get to the airport.

We walked in, and the owner recognized us. Nice. We got a nice table with a view … of the busy rotonda and the new construction across the street in the space that, two months before, was the parking lot for the pizzeria.

We decided on three pizzas … and if we were still hungry, we’d get another.

Something old, something new. We picked one that we had enjoyed previously … octopus and potato, with mozzarella holding it all in place on the crust. Still very good with chewy slices of octopus and tender chunks of potato, still a pizza to order on our next visit. Another choice was new … peas (yes, really), smoked bacon, bits of tomato, mozzarella, grana (which is parmigiano made from cows who live outside The Zone) and an egg. A raw egg is broken into the center of the pizza, and it cooks in the oven. Yes, really … we’ve had it before and it’s very good. This combination was terrific … the peas were sweet, the bacon savory … and it was very tasty indeed. We only have peas in our garden for a short time in the spring, but this pizza would be a reason to buy frozen peas. The third was another new one … big chunks of sausage and circles of melting scamorza (that wonderful soft, seductive cheese) and pools of truffle cream. It was great, full of rich, bold flavors. And one of the reasons we came back … the crusts were perfect. A little thicker around the rim to hold in the toppings, thinner within, slightly chewy and nicely yeasty, browned and bubbly.

Instead of another pizza, we opted for desserts. Two … four forks.

The Gelato Vaniglia was topped with chocolate decorations and had a branch of loganberries on the plate. We usually opt for fior di latte rather than vanilla … this was a delicious, old-fashioned change of pace. The Torta della Nonna arrived with another scoop of gelato and a bit of chocolate … it was room temperature in a warm room, the crust, more like a cake than pie, was buttery and tender, and the ricotta filling, touched with candied orange peel, was sweet and smooth, it dissolved in your mouth..

David and I were happy that we found an easy meal on our visit to Milan. Ironic that it was wasn’t even in Milan. Lots of downs and delays, pizza came to our rescue. I reminded Leslie and Rich of my life-in-Italy adage … the more aggravating the experience, the funnier in the re-telling. And when you’re with friends, good friends, great friends, it’s all part of memories.

But it was time to get to the airport. If not for the tickets and reservations to points beyond, Rich and Leslie would have been happy to stay for another few days … and we would have been happy to stay with them.

I’m hoping we can talk Rich and Leslie into a visit to Sardegna.


These are the Christmas cookies I made as a little girl. The decorations were always assorted sprinkles … and I continue that simple tradition (rather than using fancier frostings). I’m happy I still have the cookie cutters and spatula!

8 oz. butter, soft
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
3 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
Sprinkles and/or frosting for decorating

- Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with silpats.
- In large bowl, cream butter, sugar. Then mix in egg and vanilla.
- Stir in flour and baking powder to make a dough.
- Chill for an hour or so.
- Using about ⅓ of the dough at a time, roll on a lightly floured surface (or between two silpats). I like them about ¼ inch thick, but you can make them as thin as ⅛ inches or thick as ½ inch.
- Cut into desired shapes, and place on cookie sheets.
- Decorate with sprinkles (or egg wash for shiny cookies).
- Bake for about 10 minutes … depending on thickness … until just lightly golden.
- Makes 30 to 45 cookies, depending on thickness and size of the cookies.
- When cool, frost/decorate any undecorated cookies.



Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.

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