Villa Cappuccino Convento on the Amalfi Coast

Recently I had a devoted client of mine stay at this beautifully appointed apartment overlooking the Amalfi Coast.  When he returned he told me he had the most wonderful stay in this part of Italy and at this apartment.  The owner became his best friend! 

The rural farmhouse was bought in 1970 and is still owned and maintained by the original owner.  It  is positioned 200 meters above sea level so your views from the balcony are spectacular.  It is beautifully furnished with antiques.  There are two bedrooms each with a private bath, a living room and kitchen.  The kitchen is equipped with washing machine and dishwasher.

If you think staying at an apartment during your travels in Italy you may want to consider this apartment which has an ideal location.

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For more information please visit www.cappuccini-amalfi.it

Biking the Amalfi Coast by Elana Iaciofano

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Recently, I took a trip with my triathlon team, Full Throttle Endurance, to the Campania region of Italy for four days of intense cycling. The goal was to cover about 250 miles with assorted daily elevations ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 feet. No small feat, to be sure, but we're FULL THROTTLE AND WE'RE HERE TO TRAIN!!!

Or at least that was the "joke" of the trip as we all attempted to win vacation.

I decided to document the trip from the food perspective. What did we eat? What DIDN'T we eat would be a simpler question, as we certainly left no stone unturned in our search for calories. Luckily, Italians as a people are incredibly accommodating about feeding their guests. So accommodating, in fact, that I'm sure we all made up for our expended calories.

By far, my favorite meal of the trip was our accidental lunch at Hotel Parsifal in Ravello.

Having just swished down the curving pathways of the Amalfi Drive and eeked ourselves up the 5 kilometer climb to Ravello, we were hungry. Famished. "Abbiamo fame", as they say in Italian. We stood doubtfully by some road signs momentarily and contemplated where to go. 

Luckily, one member of our group – Benji – took the proverbial bull by the horns and conversed with the natives to get the low-down on what was happening for lunch. He insisted that we go to Hotel Parsifal where we would be assured impeccable and copious amounts of local fare, expansive views and friendly waitstaff. 

Could nine people in sweaty spandex impose upon such an establishment to partake in all these wonderful enticements? They sure can. And did!

The staff at the Hotel Parsifal was incredibly accommodating and tolerant of our questionable hygiene. We sat on the porch (to air out AND take advantage of the view) while we dined on a specially prepared sample menu prepared by the kitchen staff.

Note: Our server suggested we have the "light" menu because we were cycling. We insisted on the "heavy" menu, as we had no desire to count calories and wanted to stuff ourselves as full as possible in order to propel ourselves back down the mountain all the quicker.

We began with a pasta sampler of housemade ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and a pasta topped with local pesto, made with sun dried tomatoes instead of basil. Both pastas were freshly made and cooked to perfect al-dente proportions. More than that, they seemed light as feathers, melting in your mouth with every forkful.

The stand-out pasta for me was the fresh tagliatelle seafood pasta. The mix of muscles, octopus, clams and shrimp had just been wrangled out of the ocean that day, and the pepper tagliatelle circled it all in a salty, brothy web. I felt I was eating right from the fisherman's net.

Following that we were served platters of meat which included veal, sausage and beef, and a fish sampler featuring giant prawns, lake fish and the most flavorful tuna steaks known to man-kind. I jest you not. I thanked them profusely for whatever they did to that tuna (grazie mille!). Buttery, well seasoned and perfectly rare – both in tenderness and likelihood of me tasting such a thing again.

Unless I go back to Hotel Parsifal..

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Order you copy of Mamma Agata's cookbook and pasta!

I know that I have been writing about my fall tour and my favorite restaurant in Rome, so now I am going to write about my favorite Italian subject and that is:  Mamma Agata’s cooking program in Ravello.

The other day I received, by mail, my first and best Christmas present.  I noticed the package was sent to: Gourmet Getaways.  I could not imagine who was sending me a package.  I didn’t order anything.  Quickly I got out the scissors and managed to get through layers and layers of packaging tape.  Before my eyes were four packages of Mamma Agata’s pasta and a few other prized treats from Italy along with a thank you note from Chiara.

Well, I could not resist making pasta for dinner.  Each package is sealed with the logo and a recipe on the back.  How clever!  Now you can get first hand recipes from Italy!

My husband and I had a wonderful delicious pasta dinner.  It was  so good he had a second portion.  The texture of this pasta is best described by a smooth surface but a definite al dente center!

Suggestion:  cook according to directions but watch is slowly as you do not want to over cook this pasta!  It must have an al-dente center!  That’s what makes it truly Italian.

For those of you that want to book a cooking class please send me an email and we will work together to get you schedules for the best cooking class in Italy.  An experience not to be missed!

Those that cannot go I highly recommend you purchase her cookbook.  You will think you are in Italy and after looking at these pictures you will want to give me a call and book that flight to Italy and register for her class.

If you have not purchased your cookbook you can do so by contacting Mamma Agata at

http://Mammaagata.com/shopping-mamma-agata-cookbook.aspx.

HINT:  Best to order the book directly through Mamma Agata's website so that you can get a signed copy!

If you enter Gourmet Getaways in the dedication portion of the order she will know that I recommended you!  Also she will personally send you a signed copy of the cookbook.

Cooking at Mamma Agata's in Ravello!

One of the highlights of this past exclusive Gourmet Getaways tour was to go to Ravello and cook with Mamma Agata.

Our day began early as we had to depart from the Excelsior Victoria hotel in order to arrive in Ravello by 10am.  It was a beautiful day and the ride to Ravello was breathtaking.  Upon our arrival Chiara greeted everyone with a cheerful smile and encouraged us to sit on the terrace and have an Italian breakfast:  Mamma Agata's famous lemon cake and a cappuccino.

Mamma's house is built into the hillside of Ravello with beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast .  Pictures cannot due it justice!  One has to see this to believe this view!  I often wonder what it would be like to wake up to this view every day.  This family works hard to grow their own vegetables and  herbs.  They also have their own lemon trees .    The land is terraced so as to use every available space. 

After we had a chance to collect ourselves we went into Mamma's kitchen and were eager to learn. Everyone was given an apron and folder with notepaper and pens so we could take copious notes. Mamma does not speak English so her daughter, Chiara, translates and together they make quite the team.   The first part of the lesson we concentrated on making eggplant parmesian and fresh tomato sauce.  I has to bake for one hour and then it must rest for about 45 minutes before eating!

Mid way we took a break and explored the working farm and took in the beautiful vistas.  Many of us just marveled at the amount of work that they have to do to  make this an ultimate cooking program. The family works together every step of the way and together they are quite the team.  Even Chiara's children help during the season when another pair of hands are needed.

We returned thirty minutes later.  Mamma then teaches us to make two pasta dishes: one with capers, tomatoes and olives and the other is with sausage, red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes. Next comes Mamma's famous lemon chicken. All the ingredients are grown on the farm.

After many glasses of wines, eating  rolled eggplant and tasting the tomato sauces we sit down to a fabulous meal.  The eggplant is so light and tasty, the pasta is outstanding the chicken so juicy and tender. 

 Of course for dessert there is the  lemon cake and no one resisted having seconds.  With all the lemon trees abundant with lemons Mamma makes her own limoncello.  I think it is the best on the Amalfi Coast and I have tasted several brands.  This a winner!  Hands down!

After our dinner Chiara tells everyone about the farm, how Mamma cooked for very famous people and still does and other bits of information.  She kept our attention for quite a while.

Now it is time for us to leave. All of us wanted to stay, but before we departed  we gather for a group picture and hope that the memories of this special day will linger for a long long time. Chiara and Mamma make you feel that you are part of their family. 

This cooking class is the ultimate.  You will not be disappointed one bit!  I cannot wait to go back and will definitely put together another tour.

Sights of Ravello, Capri, Rome and Cooking with Mamma Agata!

Gourmet Getaways will be hosting another exclusive tour to Italy in September 2011.  The highlights of this tour will include:

  • Accommodations at Palazzo Sasso in Ravelli, a 4 or 5 star hotel in Capri, and Hotel St. George in Rome
  • Welcome Dinner on the first night in Ravello
  • Farewell Dinner in Rome
  • Welcome Drink in  Ravello and Rome
  • Cooking with Mamma Agata

  • Private transfers
  • Tour of Ravelli, Amalfi,  Positano, Capri, Anacapri, and Naples
  • Visit a perfume and limoncello factory in Capri
  • Private tour of Villa Farenesina
  • Breakfast each morning.
  • Tour the National Archeological Museum in Naples
  • Pizza lunch in Naples at one of the oldest pizzerias

  • Much much more!

Dates:  September 18 - 25, 2011

Cost per person: $5850.00 based on double occupancy!  A must!

Does not include:  airfare, travel insurance, meals not mentioned in the detailed itinerary. 

Call for details!  973 644 0906

Talk to you soon!

Limited to 16 people.