Neapolitan Ragù or Ragù Napolitano

Published by Wednesday, September 4, 2019 Permalink 0

Ragù (or Sugo) di Carne

by Marlena Spieler

Whether it’s Ragù Napolitano “Classico” or “Leggere,”  this richly flavored sauce is a perfect example of traditional, long, slow-cooked (slow, very slow) food, the sort of memory-filled dish that makes all Neapolitans, rich or poor, remember their childhood and nonnas or grandmothers with even just one bite; or even with just one sniff of the bubbling sauce.

Because it needs to be looked after, slowly cooked and attention paid that it doesn’t burn or scorch, it was given the name sugo della guardaporta, the doorkeeper’s sauce, as it needed someone to watch over it as it slowly, slowly, slowly bubbled its way to perfection.

Though now it has come to symbolize family food, it was no doubt created in the 19th-century kitchens by the chefs of aristocratic Naples — its abundance of meat and attention-demanding cooking method would have been beyond the means of the city’s poorer inhabitants, which meant most of the population. Its name came from the French ragout, or saucey stew. The Neapolitan ragù is exactly that: a large piece of meat simmered in either tomatoey or oniony (La Genovese) sauce unlike the ragù of other regions, which include small pieces of chopped meats and vegetables.

San Marzano tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes.

After unification and the lessening of nobility, food traditions such as gathering for Sunday lunch began to reach everyone’s table, with Nonna cooking for her family, taking over from the chefs who once fed their aristocratic employers.

The ragù takes a long slow simmer — 5-6 hours is optimal; mothers and grannies used to awaken at the crack of dawn to put on the ragù. If you don’t have time to cook it uninterrupted for such a long stretch of time, that is fine too: it is accepted that you can simmer it the first day, simmer it the second day, take the meat off the bones and serve it all on the third day.

Main ingredients for Ragù Napolitano.

Main ingredients for Ragù Napolitano.

Or, you can cook it a few hours, let it rest in the refrigerator overnight, and the next day simmer it again (though it might need a little water to loosen it up for further cooking). It just gets better as it sits, and as it cooks (add a little extra water, broth, or wine, to keep it from sticking or burning on the bottom).

Traditional Ragù Napoletano is served in two courses: the meat is removed from the sauce and saved for the main course, to eat with salad, or potatoes or vegetables; the sauce, well, the sauce is to go on the pasta! Bellissima!

Il Ragù Napolitano

Unlike many of the other ragùs — especially in the north — where meat is finely chopped or even ground together cooking with wine and stock to become the sauce itself, in Campania, il ragù is quite different.

Here, it is a tomato sauce, full of meaty essence (because a large chunk of meat, such as brisket, or eye of round, or pork roast, is cooked in the sauce for hours and hours and hours) but not chunky like a northern ragù (or sugo as it is sometimes called). The meat gives a huge umami layering to the sauce, then is taken out and eaten as a second course or saved for the next day’s dinner; the sauce is tossed with pasta, and eaten for Sunday lunch!  Sometimes small slices of the meat are served on top.

Pacchieri with Ragù Napolitano and Meat Slices.

Pacchieri with Ragù Napolitano and Meat Slices.

 

The ragù itself remains a tomato and wine sauce made super savory with the juices of whichever meats have simmered in it. Its frugality: two courses for effort and cost of one.

At a seminar-gathering of chefs, this is the dish that had all of our fancy chefs in their tall white toques scurrying about with their forks, while gloriously fashionable Neapolitans had their forks out too; everyone was excited.

The sauce was pre-cooked — one of the chefs pointed out that “one would need three days plus a ‘nonna’ to cook a proper ragù,” so we didn’t get a recipe. The nonna part is because ragù is a dish made every week, and nonna learns from her mother, and each week she makes it and it becomes better each time she does, until it is so traditional and perfect; oh and also: she is making that sauce with a heart full of love for those she feeds.

Basically a rich red-brown tomato-meat sauce that has simmered a big chunk or roast of beef or pork, and a few other small meaty enrichments: a whole fresh sausage or two (especially with fennel), the heel end of a salami, a hunk of pancetta or guanciale, as well as braciola di cotica (cutica, or codica). The last item, pork skin (pork skin braciole, see il secondo chapter) rolled around aromatics is something that I had noted wasn’t included in modern cookbooks or food magazines, specifically American (or U.K.) ones. So, when I saw the rolls of by now-translucent, simmering pork skin, bobbing up and down in the sauce, I asked the chefs what it was and why: “Braciola di cotica“, they answered: “pork skin wrapped around aromatics.” Then they all smiled: “It’s what our nonnas did.”

Paccheri pasta with Neapolitan ragù / ragù napolitano and meat slices.

Paccheri pasta with Neapolitan ragù and meat slices.

The long-simmered sauce has an audio component as well: the sound of the “pippiare,” or the bubbles bursting when they gently reach the top of the sauce; the sauce should be very thick, so the pippiare is a sign that it is getting ready, and also gives you the warning to watch the temperature, monitor the sauce, and be careful the bottom doesn’t burn. A burnt bottom will ruin the entire sauce.

The ragù may take 3 days; Nonna didn’t mind — she was (is) looking forward to feeding her family: The first day to cook and simmer, the second to simmer low, perhaps in the oven, and the third, to sit and relax. Only then, when the meats slip from the bone, the chunk of roast or other meat is butter-tender, and a bit of the pork skin roll melts in your mouth at first bite, only then is the ragù ready.

Bronze-cut Candele pasta. Photo courtesy of Tesoritalia.

Bronze-cut Candele pasta can be broken to the size and shape you require.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As to the pasta: big thick long tubes, Candele, broken into pieces, Giuseppe di Martino of Pastaficio di Martino and president of Consorzio di Gragnano, explained this local tradition:  “Long ago, purchased dry pasta was made in long big pieces to be broken up as needed: that way you could break it at any size you wished — rigatoni, penne, ziti or other fat shortish tubes — and the broken pieces with their irregular edges gave a variety of textures to the dish as well as helped thicken the sauce.

If Candele are not available, use any pasta shape you like: ragù Napoletano is good with them all; my personal favorite is Paccheri (shown above).

Recipe: Il Ragu “Leggero”

It is called a “light ragu,” because it doesn’t have the array of sausages, smoked meats, and pancetta, that the classico version does, but in reality: it’s still thick and intense, made with a chunk or two of meat, and some rolls of garlic-parsley stuffed pork skin.

How many does it serve? What kind of nonna asks such a question: it makes a nice big potful.

Ingredients

2 onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup or more, olive oil

2 1/2 lbs meat: beef, or pork, or both: brisket, eye of round, pork roast, whatever meat and stewing cut you like. You can use pork ribs with bone, but add more weight since the bones are heavy (but give beautiful taste to the liquid).

1 recipe for pork skin braciole (see below)

1 1/2 or so cups red or white wine, or more as desired

1 large can San Marzano tomatoes, (1 lb 12 oz), whole or chopped, plus their juices

3 cups meat broth (or water plus maybe half a bouillon cube)

Approximately 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste, or as desired

Instructions

In a heavy-bottomed big pot, lightly sauté the onions in the olive oil until the onions are softened, then add the roast (or roast and ribs), and a few braciole di cotica, a tablespoon or two of the olive oil, and cook together gently, covered, stirring from time to time, cooking over a low heat for about an hour.

Uncover and pour in a little wine, then raise the heat and let it evaporate, repeating this once or twice, then add the rest of the wine and continue to cook another 15 minutes or so.

Add the canned tomatoes and the broth, then set onto a low heat to simmer. Keep your ears alert: the sound that a good Neapolitan ragù makes while it is cooking properly is a gently bubbling plopping sound. It is said that it “spits,” or “sputters” and is called “pippiare.”

Keep cooking over very low heat, on top of the stove or in the oven, until the meat is very tender, adding more liquid as needed — you might want to add water. 

You can prepare this sauce over 2 days if you like, cooking it, then stashing it in the refrigerator, than cooking it again. Because of the sugar in the tomatoes, the sauce is easily burned towards the end so should be checked frequently. Taste and if the sauce needs freshening, stir in the tomato paste, and if it is too condensed, add a little water, wine or broth.

When the meat is cooked, remove the pork skin from the sauce and set it aside; either discard or chop it for whoever likes to eat it, or for another use. Remove the chunk(s) of meat and set aside for another course or meal, though a small slice on top is very very nice.

Toss the ragù with your pasta of choice, a bit of grated cheese, and a small slice of meat on top, or not, as you like.

Pork Skin Braciole (rolls)

Lay out several slices of pork skin, trimmed of as much fat as you are able. Sprinkle each with chopped garlic and chopped parsley, then roll up and tie tightly.

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Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

Published by Tuesday, June 26, 2018 Permalink 1

Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

France and Italy’s relationship through time, wine & food

PROGRAM FOR 4-DAY MASTERCLASS TASTING WEEKEND IN CHARTRES

with Jonell Galloway and James Flewellen

4th to 7th October 2018
——-
Course Overview

FRANCE AND ITALY ARE TITANS OF EUROPEAN culinary culture. The nations of today are inheritors of rich culinary traditions that are the result of millennia of interweaving relationships between the peoples who inhabit these lands. This is a process that predates even the Romans and continues very much into the 21st century.

Over this four-day weekend, we explore the culinary and vinous relationships between France and Italy from Roman times through to today. We will look at what each nation has gifted the other through various lenses, including food, drink and culinary culture.

The masterclass involves sumptuous feasting, tutored wine tastings, and intellectual discussion. Bring your taste buds, something to say and a willingness to learn!

 

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A Brief History of Coffee

Published by Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Permalink 0

by Brian Yarvin

“Collectively, Europe’s coffeehouses functioned as the Internet of the Age of Reason.”–Tom Standage

I once asked a friend how much coffee he drank and he boasted “500 billion cups a year.” I knew instantly that this was wrong because the entire world drinks only about 400 billion. No matter where we are — in the car-crazed west, the subway riding city of New York, a town square cafe in Kansas, or a science lab in Antarctica — coffee is our fuel.

Coffee is so powerful that it has its own creation myth. We are told that it was discovered by a guy named “Kaldi.” He was an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that when his animals ate certain red berries, they got so excited, they began to dance. So he chewed on a few berries and felt that now universal coffee buzz. Afterward, he picked some more, and then told an Islamic holy man about his discovery. The holy man declared them evil and threw them on the fire. When they smelled the roasting beans, they gathered them up, threw water on them, and enjoyed the world’s first cup of coffee.

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Pumpkin and Anchovy Pudding

Published by Wednesday, December 27, 2017 Permalink 0

I baked my “yellow pumpkin,” my zucca gialla, which the greengrocer recommended as being the sweetest for my baked pumpkin pudding. While pulling out the seeds and flesh with my fingers, I noted some little hard, dark bits, so I pulled them out as best I could, all the time thinking it strange that they were there. When I went to my cutting board to get the chopped anchovies to add to my liver pâté, they were gone. I had kneaded them into my pumpkin. This may be the beginning of a new and improved (?) pudding. Some people like sweet and savory together, right?

 
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On The Marcella Hazan Trail

Published by Monday, June 13, 2016 Permalink 0

On The Marcella Hazan Trail: Paschal Lamb or Abbacchio alla Cacciatora

Publication of Marcella’s last book, Ingredienti, on July 12, 2016, translated and edited by Victor Hazan

by Madeleine Morrow

At Easter Rome is bursting with pilgrims. They gather from across the Catholic globe and descend on the Eternal City like flocks of birds returning from their wintering grounds. Nuns cluster like crows, standing in line for the wonderful gelato, then swish down the narrow streets, rosaries jostling against coni.

I too visited Rome at Easter on a pilgrimage and, while my quest was corporeal, it was no less spiritual, for I had come in search of the Paschal Lamb. I wanted to cook Abbacchio alla Cacciatora. This dish of early spring lamb can only be prepared during a few short weeks as the lamb required is but one month old. The Italian sheep are a smaller breed to those farmed in the UK and, consequently, the lambs are smaller too. At their tender age, the lambs have only drunk milk. The thigh bone is no longer than that of a chicken drumstick. The meat is tender beyond description.

I discovered this dish while searching for recipes to prepare on a family holiday in Rome — as the old adage suggests, “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” My chosen recipe was from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, a treasure trove of Italian cuisine. She describes the dish as a celebrated Rome speciality, which suggested to me that to cook it in Rome was imperative.

the classic italian cookbook marcella hazan italian cooking recipe book food Victor Hazan Ingredienti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the morning of our anticipated feast, my family set out early for the Campo de’ Fiori where I expected to find the full list of my ingredients, as the market stalls and small shops surrounding the square sell every culinary delight one could need for a happy life. On arriving at the Campo, my young sons were immediately intent on securing football shirts before my attention was diverted. For the princely sum of 10 Euros apiece, they each walked off in a “fake” footie shirt bearing the name of Totti, Roma’s favourite son. Their attire had a magical effect as they were soon patted on the head and smiled at by every man we passed, from the local stall owner to the guards in the Vatican! The universal language of football and the passion it evokes is at least equal to the glories of cuisine amongst Italian men. Perhaps the food served up at the Stada di Roma is an improvement on the hotdog and chips ubiquitously sold to English football fans attending a game on home turf.

But what of the lamb? The Campo hosted a butchery stall where I explained my mission. The butcher set about chopping up the meat of tiny carcasses, not a sight for the squeamish or sentimental nor for vegetarians or the virtuous. The meat was delicately wrapped in greaseproof paper and settled in my shopping bag. I set off for the Salumeria in search of salted anchovies. The Italian delicatessen was an Aladdin’s cave filled with oils, vinegars and relishes of every kind. Huge hams formed a sculptural installation on the ceiling. Tiny tins contained exotic ingredients. There was an array of pancetta, prosciutto and other meats, fresh pasta of every hue and flavour, pesto and parmesan wheels, an endless store of delights to bring a rush of excitement to the most jaded palate.

cesaro eating abbacchio romana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The customers discussed their requirements with the shop assistants who acknowledged the importance of every purchase and handled the food courteously, each item wrapped with care. My request for salted anchovies led to a debate between two assistants as to which anchovy would be better suited to Abbacchio. A third joined in and asked to see my recipe which I had removed from my bag to check on whether any guidance was offered by Ms. Hazan herself. He shook his head gravely and announced to my fellow customers that he had never prepared Abbacchio in this way and that, in his opinion, the anchovies had no place in the dish. I decided to have the casting vote and soon 10 anchovies were laid out. My shopping trip gave slow food a new meaning. Every ingredient was deliberated over, the assistants presented as specialists in their field who contribute their knowledge to enhance the food that will end up later on your plate.

salt-packed anchovy creative commons photo serious eats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although described as a dish that is slowly pot roasted, the cooking time was surprisingly short due to the tenderness of the meat. The lamb was browned in batches. Then salt, pepper, chopped garlic, rosemary and dried sage were added before the meat was dusted with flour. Once the meat had been turned and it had darkened, the vinegar was added. The recipe does not specify what sort of vinegar to use but I think that balsamic adds great value to meat and so in went more vinegar than seemed sensible. The aroma that filled the kitchen at that moment was exquisite and the gathering guests were drawn to the tiny galley to discover the source. The anchovies were mashed and added at the end of cooking, giving the sauce a salty punch.

Within an hour we sat to eat on a terrace up above the city, the weather warm enough, even on an April evening, for al fresco dining. The Chianti flowed and the conversation was convivial but it was the lamb that stole the show. Meltingly tender, the meat was basted in its sauce which married the sweet balsamic and salty anchovies with the garlicky back note of herbs. A simple accompaniment of fave alla romana was served. It is true that food is best enjoyed when much anticipated and I had been waiting all day. It was declared by many as the best lamb they had ever eaten and who am I to disagree? Even the football shirts proudly bore the stains of a meal well savoured.

The Abbacchio grows ever more delicious in my memory as the years go by, tormenting me with the knowledge that I cannot recreate it in my own kitchen. Perhaps I too will have to make an annual Easter pilgrimage to Rome. As for the football shirts, they unravelled on their first wash and Totti will someday be sold to a rival team. In a world where everything is transient and football heroes are fickle, my sons are learning that when it comes to food, some things don’t change and old traditions can always be relied on to provide enduring pleasure

__________________________

Madeleine Morrow is a freelance food and travel writer based in London and writes for several newspapers based in the U.S. and in South Africa. She also has two blogs. Kitchen Journeys (www.kitchenjourneys.net) has a focus on travelling with family in search of culinary adventure. It also covers restaurants reviews in London. From The Healthy Heart (www.fromthehealthyheart.com) has a focus on lowering cholesterol through eating delicious food. 

***

From the publisher Simon and Schuster’s website:

When Marcella Hazan died in 2013, the world mourned the passing of the “Godmother of Italian cooking.” But her legacy lives on, through her cookbooks and recipes, and in the handwritten notebooks filled with her thoughts on how to select the best ingredients—Ingredienti, coming out on July 12. Her husband and longtime collaborator Victor Hazan has translated and transcribed these vignettes on how to buy and what to do with the fresh produce used in Italian cooking, the elements of an essential pantry, and salumi, resulting in this new book.

Before you know how to cook, you must know how to shop. From Artichokes to Zucchini, Anchovies to Ziti, Ingredienti offers succinct and compelling advice on how to choose vegetables, pasta, olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, and all of the key elements of Marcella’s classic meals. Organic isn’t necessarily best, boxed pasta can be better than fresh. Marcella’s authoritative wisdom and surprising tips will change the way you cook. Her clear, practical guidance in acquiring the components of good cooking is helpful wherever you choose to shop—in supermarkets, farmers’ markets, specialty food stores, or online.

Based on sixty years of almost daily visits to the market to choose the ingredients of that day’s meal, Ingredienti is a life’s work, distilled—an expression of Marcella’s judgments, advice, and suggestions. Uncomplicated and precise, this volume will be essential to home cooks eager to produce meals in the same delicious style Marcella was the first to introduce to America.

 

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Venetian Hours: How Not to Visit Venice

Published by Tuesday, March 29, 2016 Permalink 0

Venetian Hours: How Not to Visit Venice

by Jonell Galloway

There are many ways to visit Venice, but if you want a real Venetian experience without disappointments, here are some tips.

  1. Don’t stay near Rialto or San Marco. There’s nothing at all wrong with the neighborhoods, but they are more expensive and more touristy.
  2. Don’t eat in restaurants with colored photos of all the dishes on a plastic sign outside. They tend to be touristy and unauthentic.Santi Maria e Donato basilica/church, Murano, Venice, Italy, travel
  3. Don’t take the vaporetto everywhere. The vaporetto is good for seeing the palaces on the Grand Canal on a sunny day or at night when they’re lighted, but walking lets you fall by chance on hidden palaces, churches, bridges, canals and cafés. These are the great joys of Venice.
    vaporetto water bus rialto bridge venice
  4. Don’t take Alilaguna if you’re coming from the airport. You can’t see a thing through the windows, and the trip takes about twice as long as the No. 5 airport express bus to Piazzale Roma (20′), which leaves from directly in front of the main airport exit.
  5. Don’t walk the streets looking for a restaurant. Choose restaurants in advance instead of walking in spontaneously when you’re hungry. Venice has its full share of tourist traps, especially around San Marco and the Rialto. Note: there are good restaurants in these neighborhoods, but do your research and reserve ahead of time and you’ll have a happier experience.View from Campo San Vio, looking down Grand Canal into San Marco Basin or Bacino, at Santa Maria della Salute church and Punta della Dogana art museum
  6. Don’t go to just any shop or restaurant. Try to frequent places run by Venetians and Italians. This is not racist or chauvinistic; it simply means you’re more likely to have an authentic experience and support the economy in Venice.canal venice san polo
  7. Don’t set out on your day’s sightseeing without studying where the major landmarks in Venice are located. Know where San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma are in terms of north, south, east and west and your day will go much more smoothly. It’s also good to memorize the vicinity of major landmarks and the names of the sestieri or six city districts: Castello, Cannaregio, San Marco, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce and San Polo.sestieri or districts of venice map courtesty of //www.italyguides.it/en/veneto/venice/interactive-map-of-venice#!/catid=36
  8. Don’t think you can get everywhere like you do in a city with a grid layout. Maps are not always the best way to get around. Let yourself get lost. When you’re really lost, look for the arrows near the street names marked San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma.
  9. Don’t buy tickets each time you get on the vaporetto. Buy a Venezia Unica Citypass for one, two, three or seven days. Yes, it’s expensive, but so are individual tickets at 7.50 Euros a shot.
    Ponte di Chiodo, only bridge without parapet/side rails in Venice Venezia
  10. Don’t go to Venice uninformed. Do your homework before arriving. No matter what, you’ll spend a lot of wonderful hours getting lost, but you’ll make better use of the restricted opening hours.
  11. Don’t sleep in. Museums and churches tend to close early and some even close for lunch.
  12. Don’t rely on your guide books for opening and closing hours. They’re invariably out of date and times tend to change according to the season and the budget. Web sites are not always up-to-date either, but they’re more reliable. City museum opening times can be checked on the MUVE site. Otherwise, look at websites for individual museums.

Interactive map of Venice.

 

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Happy 1,595th Birthday, Venice!

Published by Friday, March 25, 2016 Permalink 0

San Marco and Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy

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A French Cook in Venice: Fegato alla Veneziana

Published by Sunday, March 6, 2016 Permalink 1

Franco-Venetian Cuisine

What to Eat in Venice: Fegato alla Veneziana, or Venetian-style Calf’s Liver with Caramelized Onions

by Jonell Galloway

Many say this is the ultimate Venetian specialty, but considering that Venetians eat mainly fish, one could easily argue that point. A good fegato can be the highlight of a day or weekend, however.

Everyone loves caramelized onions, but some people dislike even the idea of eating liver. Calf’s liver is finer than beef or chicken, and when it’s topped with sweet onions, it is indeed a highly refined dish.

You’ll see the influence of my background in French cuisine; I went a bit heavy on the white wine when deglazing the pan, but it renders a succulent sauce.

One of the crucial elements to the success of this dish is that the liver be of exceptional quality and thinly sliced. Thick slabs simply don’t work and take away from the refined aspect of this dish.

Another secret is to slow cook the onions and to just seize the liver, no more. If you cook it more and on slow heat, it will become leathery.

Recipe

Ingredients

400 g onions
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
400 g calf’s liver cut in extra-thin slices
1-2 cups white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley, chopped
Skillet large enough to spread liver in a single layer
White polenta

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Venetian Hours: Looking for a Nonna

Published by Thursday, March 3, 2016 Permalink 0

Venetian Hours: Lost in Italy and Looking for a Nonna

by Jonell Galloway

If you live in Italy, you have to have a nonna. Having just lost my “adopted” Italian grandmother, Nonna Margherita, in Switzerland, the time was right, and it happened in the most unlikely place: Bellaria-Igea, a seaside town in Romagna, known as the Italian region of land-and-sea because of its plentiful bounty of both fish and meat. As a result, the cuisine is varied and copious, playing on unending themes of the two. The hillsides beyond the shores are verdant and rolling, producing excellent wine, meat and cheese, while traditionally, the inhabitants by the seaside are fishermen.

Fishing net of a batana fishing boat in Adriatic Sea, Igea-Bellaria Marina, Nonna Violante, #lovingromagna

Originally, Bellaria-Igea was a village of solely fishermen and their families. Their wives supplemented the family income by renting out rooms in their seaside cottages. While the men were fishing, the wives tended to the guests by cooking, cleaning and generally making them feel at home.  Over the years, they added extra rooms and their homes became locande, or “inns,” and eventually pensioni, or “small hotels,” and this became a seaside resort. This is the story of the family of my new nonna, Nonna Violante.

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