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Ten Days of Chocolate

Imagine walking around a city’s downtown and being surrounded by chocolate. For ten days every October such a dream becomes true in Perugia, Italy, thanks to Eurochocolate, a festival that is all about chocolate.

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This year’s edition of Eurochocolate started on Friday, October 16 and will run until Sunday, October 25.

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Eurochocolate 2025 has mustache as theme, so visitors can admire an enormous chocolate mustache sculpture, explore an exhibit dedicated to all things mustache, buy mustache-shaped chocolates or mustache-themed gadgets. Entrance to Eurochocolate and its activities is free.

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The festival takes place in the beautiful downtown of Perugia, including Piazza IV Novembre, dominated by the iconic Fontana Maggiore, Corso Vannucci, the city’s main thoroughfare, and the Rocca Paolina.

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The latter is my favorite part to visit: besides panels describing the phases of chocolate production, from bean to bar, there is a space devoted to showcasing cacao-producing countries, one for the chocolate boutique and, to get some respite from chocolate, one dedicated to Umbrian products, like the famous lenticchia di Castelluccio, various cheeses and cured meats.

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The festival’s program is always packed with activities, from chocolate sculpting to chocolate tasting. To get a good sense of the variety of chocolate and chocolates available takes some stamina, considering the large number of companies offering their products in the many stands.

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Stores in an around downtown go with the flow of chocolate and offer (Euro)chocolate-inspired products.

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Perugia is a beautiful city, worth visiting every time of the year for its rich history, precious art and old-world elegance. Eurochocolate is one more reason—a sweet one— to do so.

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With a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.


The Beginner’s Guide to Montalcino

When it comes to exploring in Italy, Tuscany ranks among the top destination on every traveller’s list.  Florence, for example, is consistently voted as the top city in the world.

As gorgeous as Florence is, the real beauty of Tuscany is in the hilltop villages and rolling vineyards, and olive groves that blanket the famous region.  Seeking out the back roads and undiscovered towns is an Italo-philes dream come true.

One Tuscan destination that cannot be missed is the village of Montalcino in the famed Val d’Orcia.  Home of the Il Poggione Winery where Mazzoni Wines are made, this historic region is well known for making the most highly praised Brunellos in the world. To make the most of any trip, or to imagine one from home, follow our guide to the hilltop town.

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

The Il Poggione Winery in Montalcino

What to see:

Fortress of Montalcino:

Tuscan towns tended to be built on hills for defense, with the height serving to deter invading armies, or at least offer a better vantage point to observe invaders from. The village of Montalcino was also a walled city for further protection and the fortress was built into the city walls in 1361 at the highest point.

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino:

Follow the street extending from the fortress to arrive at the 13th century church of St. Augustine.  A building that formerly served as a convent next to the church is now a museum which houses the most famous artwork of Montalcino- a beautiful sculpture of the Madonna by an anonymous artist.

Historic center:

With small winding alleyways, cobbled streets and stone houses, the historic center of Montalcino requires no itinerary. Explore the different corners, old abbeys and characteristic Tuscan feel.

What to eat:

Montalcino is famous for its red wine, so order a glass and select a meal that naturally goes well with the full bodied wine.  In Montalcino this could be pasta with a ragu made with wild boar (none as cinghiale), roasted pork stuffed with herbs, or ribollita – a hearty soup made with vegetables, beans and bread to thicken.  Finally, in addition to wine, Montalcino is famous around Italy for its honey.

What to pack:

The easiest way to get around Montalcino once you arrive is on foot, so cute but sturdy walking shoes are in order. Spring and Fall call for a light jacket, whereas summer temperatures can reach the high 80s. Winter brings rain and some wind, and while it usually stays well above freezing, a winter coat will keep you warm while exploring town.

How to get there:

Montalcino is located in the province of Siena, but is also close to Florence and Pisa.   The easiest way to arrive is to take the train from any of these three cities, as the regional line runs several times a day. Schedules are available on TrenItalia. Buses from Siena are also an option, and the closest main motorway is the A1 to the SS478 for those arriving by car.

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_nNatalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


Cook Like an Italian: Bucatini Amatriciana

Since I’ve spent most of my life in Rome, I always thought that Amatriciana was a Roman dish. However, it is actually from Abruzzo! The name comes from a mountain city called Amatrice, which is in Lazio.

There are still many disputes over who invented this dish and who added a key ingredient to the sauce : the tomato! It must be San Marzano!

This is a simple dish to make, with just a few ingredients, so make sure you use the best quality, since you can taste every single element of the recipe.

Bucatini pasta is a thick spaghetti with a tiny hole in the center, guanciale is pork cheek, and make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes, imported from Italy, so you can recreate the authentic taste!

Francesco

Bucatini alla Amatriciana

Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay

Serves  4

Total time 35 minutes

Ingredients

1 -28-ounces can San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano plus 1 tablespoon for topping at the end.

6 Oz. guanciale, pancetta or bacon thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Pound bucatini pasta preferably Barilla or De Cecco

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add guanciale, pancetta or bacon and sauté until rendered and crispy. 5 to 6 minutes.

Add pepper flakes, black pepper, the crushed tomatoes and stir.

Taste for salt and add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt only if necessary.

Reduce heat to low.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15 minutes.

When the sauce is cooked turn off the heat and add the Pecorino cheese.

Tip: turn the heat on again 1 minute before you drain the pasta!

For the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. 8 minutes.

Drain and transfer immediately to the skillet with the tomato sauce, toss vigorously with tongs to coat.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the reserved tablespoon of Pecorino.

Serve hot.

Authentic Italian Tip: Never use onions or wine in authentic Amatriciana!

Buon Appetito!

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.


Parmigiana That You Can’t Resist!

I first realized how good Parmigiana was when I was 5 years old, sneaking in the kitchen while my Nonna was frying the eggplant. I would hide under the table and when she was distracted, I would grab one from the plate and run like a rabbit. It tasted like candy to me and I couldn’t resist them…and guess why? Because they were fried. In fact, frying eggplant makes them become sweet and creamy.

Growing up, I was concerned about the calories in this dish, but i would rather have a small amount of delicious freshly prepared food than a huge amount of bland food.

So I created these perfectly sized, round-shaped parmigiana that are the delicious and fulfilling.

Buon Appetito!

Authentic Italian Tip: Serve it with grilled whole wheat crostini to dip in the sauce.

Francesco

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ingredients

1 Large eggplant (sliced 1/2-inch rounds)

1 can San Marzano Tomatoes

4 Slices mozzarella (1/8 of an inch)

1/4 cup basil (finely chopped)

1/4 cup olive oil (for frying)

4 Tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano

2 Teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cans peeled San Marzano Tomatoes crushed by hand.

2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Frying the eggplantSlice the eggplant into 6 pieces about 1/2-inch thick. Lightly season each round with salt and pepper and place aside.

In a skillet, fry the eggplant slices at 325º until the slices turn deep brown on the bottom. Flip them and continue frying until the other side is the same color, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the eggplant slices from the pan and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. Let them cool.

Simple tomato sauceHeat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Do not burn!

Add the tomatoes and salt and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and let it rest.

Assembling and layeringPlace a 6-inch diameter by 2-inch round metal shaping ring into a shallow pan and add a tablespoon of tomato sauce to the bottom.

Layer inside the ring adding a slice of eggplant, 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce, a teaspoon of basil, one slice of mozzarella and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano-Regiano.

Repeat the layering process using 3 slices of eggplant per ring.

Sprinkle some Parmigiano on the top.

Baking:  Heat the oven to 350°. Put the layered eggplant in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully transfer the eggplant to a plate and remove the metal ring.

Add a sprinkle of Parmigiano to the top and serve immediately with the grilled crostini.

FrancescoInfluenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.


One Drink and Four Foods I Look Forward to Consuming in Italy

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Looking up at the Etruscan Arch in Perugia 

What does this Italian expatriate look forward to eating and drinking when she goes back to her country of origin? I grew up in Perugia and that is the city I usually visit first.

As soon as possible after my arrival, I go to a coffee shop and ask for un cappuccino. Two words, and I get what I had been wishing for during the long hours on the plane: an espresso mellowed by milk, topped with a layer of creamy foam, served in its own cup placed on a matching saucer, with a small spoon resting on the saucer.

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In the days that follow, I use my cappuccino break as my daily writing time. One of the places where I like to sit down with my notebook is You Grifo in downtown Perugia, where cappuccino is served with a side of fresh whipped cream (panna montata).

Next stop is the grocery store, il supermercato, where I go to the charcuterie and cheese counter to get prosciutto crudo, mozzarella di bufala and ricotta. Where the various types of prosciutto are displayed, I can usually find prosciutto di San Daniele (PDO), prosciutto di Parma (PDO) and prosciutto di Norcia (PGI), the latter produced in Umbria, the region of which Perugia is the capital.

Besides prosciutto e melone (with cantaloupe), a classic summer dish in Italy, when melons are plentiful and flavorful, the pairing with fresh fichi (figs) is also quite nice. My favorite way of eating prosciutto is with torta al testo, a traditional flatbread from Perugia. My husband prefers to drape slices of prosciutto on crispbread.

A bite of fresh mozzarella is like a dive into a cool pool on a hot day: deeply refreshing. When the mozzarella is made with buffalo milk, the experience is even more pleasant. A plate of sliced milky, fresh mozzarella and salty, aged prosciutto offers a perfect balance of opposites.

The word ricotta comes from the Latin recoctus, meaning cooked again. The name describes the process whereby ricotta has been traditionally made in Italy for centuries, by cooking again the whey (siero di latte) left over from making certain types of cheese.

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Ricotta can be purchased packaged in the refrigerated dairy section, but I prefer to get some of that sold in bulk. I choose ricotta di mucca (cow) or ricotta di pecora (sheep), depending on what I am planning to do with it, for example, dressing pasta. My favorite way of consuming ricotta is slightly sweetened, spoonful by spoonful. I regularly make cheese at home in California, and make ricotta with the resulting whey. It is quite good, yet not as delicious as the one I buy in Italy.

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I then go to the biscotti aisle. Biscotto is a word of Latin origin that means twice-baked: the dough is baked, cut into slices and baked again. From describing a cooking procedure, the word biscotto came to indicate a baked product, crunchy and fairly dry in texture. Nowadays, biscotti are not usually twice-baked (some of them are, like biscotti di Prato). In Italy, biscotti dipped in caffelatte are a breakfast staple (they have their own entry in the Italian food pyramid http://www.piramidealimentare.it/) and in grocery stores you can find a wide array of biscotti: frollini, novellini, petit, oswego (or osvego), etc.

When I moved to California, I did not find in the local stores any of the biscotti I was used to eating. On the other hand, I found plenty of ‘biscotti,’ that is, variations on the theme of a twice-baked product that up until then I had called cantucci. While I am able to find some of my favorite biscotti in the U.S., in particular my childhood favorites made by Gentilini, I like to eat a variety of them when I am in Italy.

But “What about pizza?,” some of you may say, “What about gelato?” Space limitations prevent me from listing all the foods I am looking forward to eating during my visit. Let me know in the comments what your shortlist is. In the meantime, as a preview, I will tell you that I am also planning to taste some chocolate: I will write about this in my next post. Stay tuned!

6a00d835508b1869e201a511871f44970c-150wiWith a specialty in handmade pasta, Simona provides detailed, accessible tutorials teaching readers to cook like an Italian right from home on Live Like an Italian as well as on her own blog, briciole.


How to Make A Perfect Cup of Italian Coffee

There are many rules about living in Italy. For example, it is unlucky to make a toast with water- only wine will do!

Furthermore, you should never trim your toenails or fingernails on a Thursday, do anything associated with the number 17, or go for a swim without waiting 3 hours after eating. 3 hours!

But when it comes to coffee, the only rule is that it should be enjoyed often. (Also, that it should be called simply “caffé” not “espresso”).

Making Italian coffee at home does not require an expensive espresso machine.  You can make fantastic Italian coffee on a stovetop in these easy steps.  All you will need is water, finely ground coffee, and a moka pot- a staple in all Italian kitchens!

  1. Unscrew the top chamber from the bottom, and remove the basket.DSCF0863
  2. Fill the bottom chamber with water up to the faint line, or about 1 inch below the top.DSCF0864
  3. Place the basket back into the bottom chamber and fill with finely ground coffee. Tap lightly to smooth, but do not pack the coffee.DSCF0870
  4. Screw the top chamber on and place over low heat.DSCF0862DSCF0873
  5. The moka pot works via steam, and you can listen for the coffee to begin to brew and spurt lightly into the top chamber. Turn off the heat when the coffee stops, but allow the pot to sit for a moment for the sought after ‘crema.’DSCF0874
  6. Pour and enjoy!DSCF0876

If you have a new moka pot, brew as above but throw away the first batch to break the pot in.

Once you have made Italian coffee at home, you can enjoy a hot caffé, or turn it into any kind of Italian coffee you like, from breakfast to dessert!

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_nNatalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome. She provides accessible Italian lifestyle tidbits each month for the Mazzoni Wines blog, Live Like an Italian.


Have You Tried the Perfect Beach Wine?

wine lakeItalians haven’t been the only ones enjoying a vacation this month. I’ve spent a great deal of time at the beach over the past few weeks, too. Which means I’ve spent plenty of time contemplating and researching what, exactly, makes a great beach wine.

It has been an especially hot August here on the East Coast. So it’s been almost necessary to fill my fridge with crisp, dry, and refreshing white wines to help stay cool. My latest wine infatuation has been with the latest vintage of Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay. Whether my day involved swimming, surfing, or just sitting in the sand, I looked forward to having a glass at home in my family’s beach house.

MazzoniVermentinoChardonnay2014Bottle_4CA blend of 75% vermentino and 25% chardonnay, it’s truly a beautiful wine, offering character and pleasant flavors at a very fair price. The vermentino brings brightness and freshness to the wine. And thanks to a touch of chardonnay, it’s richer and fuller bodied than the typical pinot grigio — the Italian white wine you might be more familiar with. Full of lime zest and green pear aromas, precise minerality and bright acidity on the finish, the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay was always revitalizing after a long day in the hot sun.

I believe that any wine that qualifies as a great beach wine should also be fit for a seafood feast. Several times, the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay passed the test. It’s an approachable wine to drink alone, but really shines alongside steamed clams or a dinner of freshly caught fish. The wine even paired well with an array of grilled vegetables.

It makes sense for the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay to be a pleasant accompaniment to any beach trip. After all, most of the grapes used to make this wine were grown off the western coast of Italy, in the Maremma. Vermentino craves the sea and thrives in these coastal areas of Tuscany. The last time I visited vineyards in the Maremma, I could sometimes see the blue sea in the distance, and on cool, breezy days, would catch a whiff of it in the air. And you can absolutely taste the sea’s influence in the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay — from its obvious saline minerality to its crisp freshness, it clearly offers a taste of the sea.

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If you haven’t been able to enjoy the Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay after a summer beach day, you still have a few weeks left to do so. But don’t worry too much if you can’t — its refreshing qualities will last well into fall, when you just might need this bright reminder of the sea once again.

Shelby VittekShelby Vittek is an award-winning food, wine, and travel writer, and a current contributor at Terroirist.com. She provides accessible, approachable wine reviews for Live Like An Italian.