William Black; the adventures of a gastronome in Italy

William Black, the adventures of a gastronome in Italy – 2003 It is 1am and Gennaro Contaldo, chef/proprietor of Passione restaurant calls his fellow professional and compatriot Giorgio Locatelli on his mobile. Locatelli is not surprised at the time of the call (this is usually when chefs begin to wind down after a busy service) but upset to hear that Gennaro is crying. These are, however, tears of joy not sadness as Gennaro explains that he has just finished a proof copy of William Black’s al dente and that he…






Through northern Italy with Luca Monica

Through northern Italy with Luca Monica – 2003 Luca Monica eats in more than 200 restaurants and travels over 80,000 kilometres around Italy every year for his food business which he runs on one simple principle. ‘I only buy and sell the best,’ he confessed. In profile, which is how I saw him for most of the 36 hours he drove his Mercedes over 1000 kilometres and through four different Italian regions, Monica resembles Jack Nicholson with thick black sunglasses and his hair swept high over his head. He spends,…






Parma

Parma- 2010 Parmense, those who live in the city and region of Parma in northern Italy, seem to relish contrast in their lives. They are currently celebrating the Verdi festival, which starts this weekend and runs to the end of the month, but are doing so immediately after their annual Parma Ham festival drew to a close. This saw food writers from Japan, Norway, Belgium, Germany and the UK working off their ham tastings by cycling through the city’s cobbled streets. While this delicious ham provides a first course in…






A night in Panzano

A night in Panzano – 2010 The dinner menu at Le Café Anglais on Monday 8 Mar was headed A Night in Panzano. But the more frequently I looked around the packed dining room and took in some of the characters, the more I began to think that I was on the set of the Marx brothers’ film ‘A Night at The Opera.’ There was, of course, the well-dressed straight man, hugely important and barely able to keep a smile off his face. This was Giovanni Manetti from Tuscany, whose…






Verona

Verona – 2009 As I wandered the atmospheric, cobbled streets of Verona in north east Italy I began to realise that this city could please almost everybody. Ancient buildings abound, including the well-preserved arena that doubles as an opera set. Clothes shops are cheek by jowl with those selling the latest spectacles, shoes and jewelry and, as befits a city that takes its food seriously, there are plenty of shops selling wine and kitchen equipment. There is even one bookshop with a wine bar at the rear. But there are…






Eating near Verona

Eatng near Verona – 2009 Alongside the stands representing many of Italy’s 30,000 wine producers at Vinitaly, the annual wine fair held in Verona, are smaller halls filled with food producers and one dedicated to those who produce olive oil. As a result, in early April the narrow streets of this remarkably well-preserved medieval city buzz with the loud chatter of who has eaten or drunk what, where and when. Surprisingly, these topics of conversation even resurfaced in the queue at Passport Control as we left Verona when I bumped…






da Vittorio and Bergamo

da Vittorio and Bergamo – 2007 At 6.00pm the restaurant and the grounds of da Vittorio, the hotel and restaurant outside the small town of Brusaporto, close but not too close to Bergamo airport and 50 kilometres north of Milan, began to come to life. Two managers were checking the layout of the tables while down in the car park several young waiters were parking their cars and then finishing the calls on their mobiles before starting work. From the other side of the hotel a young waitress was approaching…






Feasting in Ferrara, Cremona, Padua and Mantua

Feasting in Ferrara, Cremona, Padua and Mantua – 2006 Three days in four of Italy’s most romantic-sounding cities – Padua, Ferrara, Mantua and Cremona – provided more than enough vivid images to fill the memory card on my camera. And while it is difficult to capture the freshness and simplicity of the food and wine on offer in this stretch of the fecund Po valley quite so easily, two instances during our last morning in Cremona seemed to highlight this region’s unpretentious approach to eating and drinking well. The first…






Eating in Florence

Eating in Florence – 2011 Alessandro Grassi, a proud Florentine, was standing outside Zeb, close to the river Arno, with his hand hovering impatiently on its front door as we arrived. ‘Giuseppina and her son Alberto [pictured] are cooking the best kind of Italian food – fresh, simple and great value’, he explained. ‘In fact, I eat here so often I think she believes I’m her second son.’ These words were music to my ears. I had travelled to Florence despite a slipped disc because it is my favourite city,…






Greek cuisine

Greek cuisine – 2011 The Greek financial crisis has at least reminded me of one of the country’s growing assets: the modern, vibrant, fresh and healthy Greek food I have enjoyed in Athens, on the island of Santorini, and in London between 1999 and 2006 when Theodore Kyriakou was at the helm of The Real Greek restaurant. We set off, in the hope of something equally exciting, to Elysée, the recently refurbished Greek restaurant just off Tottenham Court Road in central London – and our initial reaction was one of…