Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chiuso Per Ferie

Oh that infamous sign that I see everywhere in the month of August for Ferragosto - "Chiuso per ferie". Don't get me wrong, everyone deserves a vacation once in a while and now it is my turn! My beloved and much appreciated blog followers, I will be on vacay officially starting today! Woooohooooo! My husband is off work, my friends are coming on the weekend and I will be jetsetting back to L.A. next week... it is a fabulous September.

Things I will miss about Italy... the food, the simple life, the luxuries of my home. Things I am looking forward to in L.A.... my family and friends, shopping, my car, the food, the countless events to attend, not having to be overly self conscience about what to wear and to fit it, being able to wear flip flops if I like... home sweet home. =) My trips to L.A. are always bittersweet as I know there is an end and I have to bid farewell to my loved ones eventually but I always come back more humble, appreciative and grateful of my life.

Till we chat again in November, this Piccolo Grande Amore couple is off to America!

Baci e abbracci!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini

One of my favorite pasta dishes here in Italy is their Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini. It's the flat, fat pasta - like fettucini but wider, with porcini mushrooms. I actually haven't found a decent dish in L.A. but it is actually quite simple to make and delicious! In my picture above, I have it with wheat spaghetti for those who are on a diet. However, you can go with the traditional tagliatelle which is made with egg and a little on the heavy side. You can also find tagliatelle that is made of just flour as well to try to avoid egg. Personally, the Barilla wheat spaghetti is quite yummy and one of the few wheat pastas that I actually like. Here we go:

Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini

Servings: 2

100 grams of Porcini Mushrooms (hopefully you will find this in the stores... I have seen it at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in the dry packs but try looking for the frozen ones as well.)
200 grams of Tagliatelle (these come in the little nests... an average serving per person is three nests)
Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Vegetable broth
Minced garlic
Chopped Parsley

Okay, first thing is bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. While you are waiting on that, in a pan, add olive oil and the minced garlic. Once the flavors infuse, add the porcini mushrooms. If you get the dry pack, soak these in water for about 20 minutes before adding to pan. Cook through until sizzling but not too much that they get dried out. Add half a cup of heated vegetable broth to the pan. Normally, vegetable broth is not added to the traditional dish. This is actually something I improvised on to avoid putting too much oil. If you go to a restaurant, the dish is pretty much soaked with olive oil and although it is delicious, not so great on the waistline. This will be up to you to see if you want to add more oil or a little broth to give the plate more wetness. If you add the vegetable broth, let the pan simmer until the broth is reduced by half. Then add the chopped parsley. Turn the heat off.

Once the water is boiling, add a little salt and then the pasta for the amount of time indicated on the box. Then, drain the pasta from the water and place back in the pot. Add all the ingredients in the pan to the pot and mix well. If you see that it is drier than you prefer, add a little more olive oil. Then transfer to your plates and top it off with some more fresh parsley for taste and show. =)

Grab your fork and spoon and dig in! =)

Another great dish with the porcini mushrooms is Risotto ai Funghi Porcini. Mmmm. I can write the recipe to that one as well if you are interested but pretty much same ingredients just different carbs and procedures. =)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

"The Italian Government System" aka "Mission Impossible"

So I am pretty much close to pulling all of my hair out. You know, I thought dealing with any government office in the U.S. was painful enough but here in Italy, it is almost impossible. With the U.S., at least you get in contact and are able to talk to someone even though they always seem to give attitude.

So from the time I got married, I could apply for Italian citizenship after 6 months of marriage and residence here in Italy. If I was living abroad then it would be 2 years after marriage. So, after we got married and I got my Permesso di Soggiorno (permit to stay) and all, we went to the Prefettura di Siena, to get the application and just to see what paperwork I needed to get prepped. Then, 5 months later, we decided to go to the Prefettura di Caserta (where we now live) and just double check that the paperwork I gathered was correct.

We go there and noone is in the office. Office hours state Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am-12pm. The hours of operation are already limited and now they aren't even there at their given times? Apparently, there is only ONE person that deals with citizenship and she is on vacation. Oh how nice... no big deal for who knows how many people coming in.

Then my husband manages to find someone who has the heart to try to help us and he tells us that the law just changed and I have to wait 2 years after marriage and residency OR 3 years if I am living abroad. This law changed two weeks ago and of course they haven't changed it on the website. Just my luck!

Okay, so fast forwarding to date, it's almost two years and I am going back to LA so I need to make sure I get all the paperwork done now since a couple of them are time-sensitive. So, we go back to the Prefettura to cross-check everything and get an updated application. We go on a Friday and as soon as we walk in the door there is this blond lady and she snaps, "What do you want?" I tell you, she was no peach. We explain and she says, "No, no you aren't suppose to be here. Hours are Mondays and Wednesdays only from 9am-12pm." Oh that's great, care to change that on your website? And then she adds, and besides, the lady isn't in today. What is it with this citizenship lady???

We try to talk to a couple other people who were of no help at all because they say she is the one that deals with citizenship. Fine... Mission aborted once again. So we decide to come the following Friday. I was hopeless, my husband was ready to start a war if we didn't get answers. We get there, and she is there!!!!!!!!!!!! Hallelujah! Granted, after giving us attitude for being there on a Friday and not Monday or Wednesday, after my husband cleverly explained his way into the office and she saw that he was Italian and I was American, she welcomed us in and was able to help us with our questions.

First of all, I just have to say, good luck if you are doing any paperwork here like me or possibly anywhere abroad. However, I don't imagine immigration or citizenship in the States being a bowl of sunshine either. Secondly, if you are an American, you have a huge advantage over other nations. I remember when I was doing my Permesso di Soggiorno, the guy was totally drooling over my new passport with the electronic chip and new colorful pages and started talking to me and asking if I voted and if I voted for Obama. He personally escorted us to the office we had to go to while I saw others being treated very rudely. This time, the lady was admiring my birth certificate and reading every English word out loud. Whatever makes her happy and gets the job done!

My personal advice is that you can't back down. I've learned that Italians are very clever and passionate, but part of that reason is because you can't get anything you want or anything done if you aren't. It is truly the matter of "eat or be eaten" here. Stand your ground, be forceful, and be confident or you will definitely be pushed to the back of the line and I mean that literally as well.

Sigh, and I thought the actual paperwork part was going to be the hard part. Good luck to my fellow expats who have to go through as much paperwork as I do! I think I am seriously a pro at it now. Hey, maybe I can fill in for her for the 364 days she isn't in the office.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When in Rome... Do as the Americans Would Do?

I was in Rome this past weekend and was excited to get some shopping done. Little did I know, it was the perfect medicine I needed for my homesickness. Where I live, there are no tourists let alone anyone I can converse with in English. I don't enjoy being in cities flooded with tourists but I also found comfort in Rome in blending in with the crowds rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Rome gave me the perfect mix. I was still in beautiful Italy but amongst Americans and Italians. I would have preferred a little less of the tour groups taking over the streets but it felt nice to be lost in the crowd and doing my own thing without anyone staring or pondering in curiosity. I was able to converse with the people in the stores, bars and restaurants in Italian but I was also able to help any tourists who were lost in English. I finally felt like I was back in my comfort zone.

I believe that I am truly settling into my new hometown and do feel more comfortable and know more people and are a little more confident with speaking Italian, but Rome was such a different dynamic. A dynamic that I was more use to and it meshed with my life in L.A. We even went to Hard Rock Cafe to eat and that made me feel even more at home. It was filled with practically all American tourists, menus in English with descriptions in Italian, waiters speaking both languages, and All-American food. It made me realize how much I have settled in Italy and that I have truly made it my home and also the things that I miss back in the States. I felt like I got the best of both worlds.

I am happy to say that I am grateful for my life. That I adore both places and have come to realize what is most important to me and what I need to truly appreciate in life. I have realized that it isn't wrong for me to not want to fully blend in with the Italians because I should be proud that I have come from a different background. I value the fact that I have three different cultures that I can pass down to my kids. So, I'm sure a lot of you are thinking why would I be eating at Hard Rock Cafe when I am in Rome when I can be eating yummy, delicious Italian food, but I have the fortune of getting it everyday and was missing some good all-American food. =) So I did as the Americans would do, not the Romans...

How ironic, many go to Rome to see the monuments and museums, I went there and found my piece of America I needed.... =)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guns N Roses - Rome Palalottomatico 2010

So I got to go to see Guns n Roses in concert Saturday night at the Rome Palalottomatico after waiting months in excitement. Not only are they one of my husband's favorite bands, but it was our first paid concert in Italy (a lot of them are in an open area and free), and plus, I was itching to get back to Rome. =)

First of all, my excitement these past few months turned into anxiety when I started reading about GnR's concerts in England and Dublin the last couple of days. Them being late, event coordinators cutting their show short, bottles thrown, them walking off the stage....drama... We got there around 7:00pm when the doors are suppose to open at 6:00pm only to see everyone in line all around the stadium at different entrances and crowds everywhere. First thing that came to my mind was that they wanted to make sure GnR was going to show up before letting everyone into the stadium.

Fortunately, at 7:30pm, they finally opened the doors. Phew! One breath I can finally take. We took our seats and took the scene in with a nice cold beer in our hands. Best part about this was that they had someone walking around that you can buy beer from rather than going outside. =) Anyways, after another hour of filling up the stadium, the opening band came out at 8:30pm. Murderdolls... Don't know if you have heard of them, but I was not loving them, at all.... To name a couple of their songs - a version of "Old McDonald", another called "Sex, Drugs, Rock n' Roll", and another one called "I love to say F*ck" and the lead singer walking around with an umbrella with the word written on top... it was not my cup of tea. Made me realize how much I don't appreciate Rock or Heavy Metal or constant head banging and there are no other bands like Guns n Roses out there. So after one loooong hour of playing, and GnR fans starting to booo them, they finally finished their act.

Then, something I have never seen, the stage crew comes out to change up the stage to get ready for GnR. Normally curtains are pulled or something but we got to see them do every bit of their stage assembly. This took about 20 minutes and it was now about 9:50pm. Waiting... waiting... Fans start to chant "Guns - n - Roses" and "Axl"... waiting waiting ... fans start booing ... waiting waiting ... fans chant "Guns - n - Roses" again ... waiting... then some more booing and couple cups and bottles thrown in the air and stage... Crap... please don't repeat the last couple of nights. Then, finally, at 10:30pm, lights go out and GnR comes out! Woooohoooo! Houston we have lift off.... Welcome to the Jungle! =)

The show was great. Axl was his usual self with his couple signature moves and sways and throwing of the mic stand. Happily accepted all the thongs and bras thrown at him. And even grabbed a couple of the banners and flags that fans had made. One said "Axl is God", but my personal favorite was a flag of Italy with "I wanna feel your serpentine" written on it. There are four guitar players in the band, plus drums, plus two on keyboards. The guitarists were absolutely amazing. Freaking beyond talented. They all got their solos and absolutely rocked it. There was fire and fireworks.

Highlight of the night for me was when Axl performed "November Rain" on the piano. Other song favorites were "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and the closing encore song "Paradise City".

It was a great night! It still blows my mind how they have so many fans all over the world as do a lot of singers and bands. But to be in a different city and continent watching them was priceless.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Eataly - A True Taste of Italy

Okay, so my blog has been about my Italian experiences in Italy, but here's a little change-up... Let's talk about Italian experiences in the States! I just read about Eataly opening in New York and think it was a long time coming and will be an absolute success. In one word, GENIUS! This multi-million dollar project that includes one of my favorite cooks, Mario Batali, sounds like something I have always wanted in Los Angeles. However, only makes sense that it has opened in Italy with the large Italian population. For anyone who lives there, please check it out and let me know how it is! I can't wait to get back there and this gives me more of a reason to and to show my husband that he can have a little of Italy in the States as well. =)

This building is truly a taste of Italy in one-stop. There's Italian restaurants, beer garden, cafe, pastry, vegetables, salumi and cheese, fish, travel agency, culinary school, pasta, pizza, bread, bookstore, houseware, wine store..... Basically, Italian heaven! Mamma mia! What I loved most is when Mario said, "Italian cooking is less elaborate in Italy (than in the US) and that's one of the greatnesses." It is so true! We Americans believe the more the better, the bigger the better... but the simplicity of authentic Italian dishes allow you to appreciate every fresh ingredient infused in the meal. True appreciation. The restaurants sound truly divine.

Let's be honest... Italian cuisine is one of the best out there. No bias... Pizza and pasta? Does it get any better than that? Those are nearly staples in any culture. I think Italian-Americans will find comfort in having this one-stop shop, tourists will feel like they got a taste of Italy in their trip as well, and everyone else can bask in this new experience and have a must-see.

Grazie mille Mario! I can't wait and neither can my stomach! Mmm Mmm goodness.