Sunday, May 8, 2022

Karen, Come Va la Dieta???

It started off as a comment- a hashtag, if you will. 'Karen, come va la dieta? translated as 'Karen, how is the diet going?'
I was kidding, making jokes about myself on various social networks.  Then, after a couple of posts, I examined that hashtag and realized it was my mantra for this last period of my life...
Karen, how is the diet going?  First of all, let's be clear.  Since I've lived in Italy (next month makes 29 years-yikes!!!) , the word diet for me has meant more of how how I live my life- not trying to lose weight.  
So how have I been living my life since my last blog post last November?  Focusing on my new mantra- which may mean going out...staying in...ordering take myself.  Ans maybe this new ride has taken time away from the blog- but if you check out my social media pages such as Instagram  and Facebook, you will see what I mean.
In the meantime - stay tuned, because...well...just stay tuned!

Monday, November 15, 2021

A Monday 'Made in Cloister', Naples (Na)

I've spent time in many kitchens over the past 12 years or so, but this one,  well this one was special. I spent several hours  deep in the heart of Naples housed in a courtyard… I spent a cool rainy afternoon at Made in Cloister. 

So what made this particular kitchen visit special?   Does a kitchen need to have a Michelin star to be special?  Does an experience need to include a sit down meal with an appetizer, first course second course dessert choice of wines from an extensive wine menu.   I do not believe so.  I  spent time in the kitchen in the company of Chef Sabrina Russo the executive chef of Made in Cloister.   Russo, the  mind and hands behind the project Food for Soul which is a project headed by 3 Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura whose goal is to cut down on food waste and turn unused/unwanted produce, meats, and breads into meals that can be cooked and given to the needy.  Chef Russo has been responsible for the Naples’s chapter of this amazing project ( in conjunction with Dedalus)  which every Monday provides 60 to 70 meals for those in need.  Before the pandemic Chef Russo, along with volunteers composed of chefs from local restaurants alongside wineries and sommeliers provided a sit dinner.  When COVID hit changes were necessary.  What did not change was the need for people to have a hot meal.   What did and what had to change was how Chef Russo could provide the service that is highly needed.  So instead of a sit-down meal, Russo and her team which, by the way, changes on a weekly basis, provides takeaway service.  

During the heat of the pandemic the weekly service turned in to a daily service with Chef Russo calling on assistance from friends to put together family packages of dry pasta, tomato sauce other items that families could use since many people had more difficulty providing for their families during the red zone/orange zone period.
Chef Sabrina Russo (photo from September 2021)

But let me get back to my visit at the beginning of the month. Each week a chef and a part of his brigade helps Russo out. They help out by providing food, if possible, labor, and of course menu preparation. The week that I visited the guest was Luigi Di Notolo of Classico Ristorante Italiano in Naples. The chef and his team arrived a little after 2 pm, and after a look at what goods were available and a quick briefing with Russo a menu was put together. Every week the idea is to have a first course second course side dish fruit or salad.   water and bread.  It seems like an easy task but actually the team does not know until they show up what is available and so it is basically an ‘invention test.’

Chef Luigi Notolo

Here is a 'taste' of what went down...

The meal for that particular day first course was a pasta dish with creamy pumpkin eggplant and bell pepper sauce, second course was a vegetarian meatball with torzella greens and eggplant.  The side dish was also eggplant because as I mentioned before the idea is to cut down on food waste. As luck would have it,  there was leftover eggplant parmigiana  in the Made in Cloister refrigerator ..perfect.  Dessert a fruit salad with pomegranate, banana, cooked apples with cinnamon, and grapes.  There is not a lot of time - the meals must be ready by 5:30. And by ready, I  mean everything cooked, put in the aluminium containers, put in the bags,  and available at the door of Made In  Cloister.  It was quite exciting to watch and yes admit I admit I even participated in some of the preparation. It was probably one of the best experiences I've had in a while and definitely one of the most satisfying.   Why? -obviously for an opportunity to help those in need.  Also a chance to really see how a ‘chef’ is also a ‘cook’.   It may sound weird,  but to see in first person how an experienced chef clicks into  ‘cook mode’ by   looking at what products are available  and then thinking how those can be used to make a full meal.  Then - boom - preparing them in a timely manner so that can be served to those in need. 

Thanks Chef Russo for the opportunity to witness (and particpate) what you do.  Thanks to you, Made in Cloister, Food for Soul, and Dedalus.



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Hot in the City - Bothanica, Fuorigrotta (Na)


Karen, have you spoken to Giuseppe lately?  Do you know he opened up a restaurant? 

Really?  I asked my friend Luca.  Where?

In the city...

It has been a couple of years since I had seen Giuseppe.  A couple of crazy years, so, no- I was unaware that after last summer in Ischia, my friend, maître sommelier Giuseppe Di Ruocco had recently opened up a restaurant in Fuorigrotta in Naples. 


Bothanica is a green oasis in the heart of the city, not far from downtown Naples.  Not far from the soccer stadium, right next to a very busy hospital.  But you soon forget all that as you turn down the dirt road that takes you into a place world’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Naples is like that.  It has hidden pockets of peace that let you take a little break form the city without leaving the city.

It is in this little pocket where Di Ruocco and Mario Maselli opened up Bothanica e few months ago.  Bothanica – a concept where Di Ruocco could express his passion for nature, good food and great wine all in one area verde.  A garden party to be shared with enthusiasts who have the same appetite as he does.

I arrived at 730 pm, in time to have an aperitif and a chat with Di Ruocco as he served me their farm drink – Bothanica di Terra; gin with infusion of Mediterranean herbs, and tonic water. 


It was time to held over to the table, mine was next to a swing tied to one of the many trees which circled Bothanica’s outside dining room.  Soft music in the background, a cool breeze, a glance at the menu.

A menu which gives you a choice of a la carte or 3 tasting menus.  Bothanica Antica, Bothanica Terra, Bothanica Mare.  I chose Terra.

Here’s a look.

Clockwise from the top left corner-zucchini 'ex apicio', pelatello salami and sheep cacciota cheese, 
eggplant parmigiana, Tropea onion omelette and wild pucchiacchela, grilled ricotta in walnut leaves.

When it came to decide on the wine, I took a look at the list and found these words-

Giuseppe Di Ruocco

it is not a wine list

it’s fermentation,



vineyard wines,

stories of winemakers,

tales of bold people,

back to nature,

a hymn, a toast ...

I decided to let Di Ruocco choose the wines and he introduced me to two wines, two wineries.

For my appetizer- La Terapia, Casavecchia from Il Vino del Professore – a small winery located in the small town of Castel di Sasso, in the province of Caserta.

Instead, for the rest of the meal, we travelled to Montemarano in the heart of Irpinia wine country.  Volpe Rossa from La Cantina di Enza.  One of the few wineries that produces wines with the basically unknown red grape- Coda di Volpe.  Di Ruocco opened up a young 2015, seasoned my glass before pouring for me.

This glass accompanied me with a fantastic first of candele pasta alla Genovese.  A dish which I associate with cooler months.  Instead, I know realize that one of my favorite pasta dishes, when prepared right, can be served all year long. Compliments to Chef Napoleone Caffarelli.

 For my second course – we hopped into the Bothanica Antica menu.  For a bite or two of muzzariello (a spicy sausage often used in minestra maritata) with potatoes cooked under ashes and fried green peppers.

Dessert – a chocolatey off the menu choco power.

I didn’t just have my nose in the glass and fork in my mouth.  I chose to spend my first evening at Bothanica taking a look around, taking a walk around.  Soft music from the deejay.  Children of all ages enjoying the swings, the company, the fresh air.  Enjoying that pocket of peace in the city without leaving the city…


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Courage to Dream, Bugiarda Style- Hosteria Bugiarda, Bacoli (Na)


Chef Luigi Costigliola and Restaurant Manager Luca Costagliola

Ok, but why is the restaurant named Bugiarda?
I asked with a smile and giggle.    That was one of my questions during my pre pre-dessert chit chat with Chef Luigi Costigliola and  Restaurant Manager Luca Costagliola in Hostaria Bugiarda’s cool cozy dining room last Sunday afternoon.  You see, bugiarda in Italian means liar – and I had just spent the last couple of hours with these two cousins who  took me on an enogastronomical journey full of flavors, creativity, some surprises-but no lies.

A journey which began soon after Luca showed me to my comfy corner booth and asked me what I’d like to drink.  You decide, please, was my response, but let’s try to keep it in Campania. 

Montenuovo Rosé Campi Flegrei  Piedirosso, Cantine Babbo 


Luca poured a glass, I sipped as Luigi sent out his welcome- pane e panelle – a fried chickpea sandwich on a homemade bun.


Off to a good start.  Let’s take a look at how the rest of the trip went. I put myself in their capable hands. 

Appetizers- I tried 3.  

Beef tartar, quail and a fried parmigiana ball. 

For this part of the trip, Costagliola opened up a bottle of Coda Di Volpe, Vadiaperte.

Pasta and potatoes.  

But don’t let your eyes fool you.  This is not a plate of pasta, but Costigliola’s twist on the popular pasta dish.  This appetizer, though, is made entirely with potatoes – from the spaghetti shaped curls to the purple potato cubes representing pancetta cubes. 

Squid with a creamy cicerchie sauce on top of a panzanella salad.

First course – I tried 2.

Fettucine with red shrimp, basil, and roasted eggplant colatura sauce.

Fiano di Avellino DOCG Fiano di Avellino,  Colli di Lapio

Tortello alla nerano with mussels from Miseno.


Second course – I tried their catch of the day.

Purple potato crusted sea bass with leek cooked at low temperature and wrapped in kataifi dough.

Now it was time for the pre- dessert, you know, at the point where this blog post began.  Where Chef Costigliolo stepped out of the kitchen for a chiacchierata.  It was during this part of the trip where I learned quite a bit about the two cousins.  Costigliola (33 years old), son of a chef, at the tender age of 13 decided that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.   The chef has worked in Hamburg, London, as well as Rome, Milan, and his home Campi Flegrei. Luca Costagliola (30 years old) went down a different path- the dining room, working at home in various locations around Bacoli as well as Rome.  In June of 2019 they decided to open up Hosteria Bugiarda. 

Ok, chef,  but why is the restaurant named Bugiarda? I asked with a smile and giggle.    

Luca and I are liars from birth- he answered, this time it was his turn to laugh. 

Then I learned the truth.  Back in the day, in the area,  many families had the same or similar last names.  To avoid confusion, people were given nicknames, like bugiarda.  Liar.

So…that out of the way, it was time to get back to our journey.  The sweet stops – bugiarda style.

Pre- dessert- Panna cotta with cardamom, citrus crumble and apricot jam.

Dark raspberry.

Amaro Formidabile by Armando Bomba. We left Campania and went to Rome for this one.

 Petit four

Shortcrust pastry tart, yellow cream and apricot

Savarin coconut and white chocolate

Chocolate truffle

So, the end of my lunch, the end of my journey.  On my way out the door, I couldn't help but notice these words on the wall...words that I think fit perfectly.

The world lies in the hands of those that have the courage to dream and who take the risk of living out their dreams - Paolo Coelho.

Buon lavoro, ragazzi!