Sunday, April 18, 2010


Yesterday, I ate raw sausage. Yes, I said RAW! It was the most delicious sausage that I have ever eaten. I was of course skeptical to give it a try, but in the past, I have eaten cured and almost raw sausage, so I decided to give this new option a try.

My friend Alessio purchased the sausage from a guy who he deemed to be knowledgeable on the subject because he was a very large man, who had wrists three times the normal size. He was selling his wares at the same fair where Alessio and I were selling chocolate and sweets. So, what you must understand is that all these products are "artiginale" or homemade, for lack of a better translation. In this case, the sausage would be considered "fresh of the farm."

Another thing you must understand is that in Italy, there are much stricter regulations than in the United States about food products, especially those labeled artiginale. When making sausage, one cannot just stuff anything that wasn't used for meat processing into the casing. Here, everything is regulated and that's a good thing. Food here is infinitely more healthy, hygenic, as well as unfiltered and fresh. Most foods in Italy can be eaten raw, including all sorts of meat.

I am now inclined to believe that in some cases, such as the raw sausage from yesterday that cooking may actually ruin the flavor of food. The sausage was flavored with just the basics: salt, pepper, and I think some garlic. It was fantastic.

Today, sadly, I am sick with a cold, otherwise I would go back to the fair and buy some sausage for tomorrow! In any case...I think I need to take another look at uncooked food, at least in Italy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why I love Trattoria Anita so much!

It is not surprising that I love food. I always have. Much of my love for food comes from being raised in a family where my Sicilian-American grandmother specialized in typical old-country dishes. My non-Italian side of the family was also known for making good old-fashioned comfort food. And of course, my mom makes some dishes that I cannot live without: cheesecake and chicken croquettes being two of my favorites.
However, it was always my Grandma Melita's Italian food that brought with it a strong emotional attachment and has left me with memories that I am sure will stay with me forever.

So, what does this have to do with Trattoria Anita? Everything. Here in Florence I have found a place that feels like home. In this restaurant the food is cooked and served with love, much in the same way that my grandmother prepared her own food. The highest compliment that I can give Trattoria Anita is this: the food there reminds me of my grandmother's.

When I eat there, I am transported back to a time in my life when everything was easy and my biggest dilemma in a day was usually trying to avoid the Super-Soaker that one or the other of my cousins had brought with them to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Yes, the food at Trattoria Anita is so close to what I ate as a child that I am eternally grateful for this place!

My grandmother has been gone now for 5 years. I think of her often, but I might think of her food even more, especially now while living in Italy. Every so often, a smell will waft down the street or I will taste something that just brings those memories flooding back and I have to take a moment and think of her. She was always so concerned that we all ate well. She would actually count the number of meatballs that we ate, to make sure we had eaten enough, according to her standards!

Growing up, Sundays were always so boring. This I remember distinctly. First, we had to go to church and second we had to do homework. The only thing that ever made a Sunday afternoon bearable were those special ones when we went to my Italian grandparents' house to eat ziti with Grandma's sauce and meatballs. On occasion we might even have been lucky enough to have bracciole.

Today, at Trattoria Anita, it was the meatballs that sent me into sensory overload. They were so close to my grandmother's that I wanted to run into the kitchen and see if by some miracle, she was in there making them. What makes Trattoria Anita doubly-special for me is not just the quality of the food, but the quality and the personalities of the people that work there.

Nicola, Gianni, and Maurizio truly embody the spirit of Italy and Italian tradition that was so much of my own grandmother's personality and cooking! They always tell me that the trattoria is "casa mia" (my house). Honestly, they don't know how true that statement is for me, because when I'm there, I feel surrounded by the same love that I felt from my grandmother growing up!

RIP: Annie Melita - April 2, 2005