New location, new problems

With every new location comes new problems… I have been in Bari, well Mola di Bari for about 5 days now.  The first day I was here I tried calling the insurance company to get car insurance on my dad’s old Fiat 500, they told me that they had to get approval from Milan and that they would send a fax to have my dad sign…well five days later and nothing! I have called numerous times everyday to try and get this taken care of, and now they just don’t answer the phone anymore.  There is no sense of urgency in Italy!  America is super fast-paced and Italy is super slow-paced, there is no in between and I’m really starting to struggle with the Italian sense of time.  To get anything done around here is such a hassle!

I called the restaurant I was going to be working at, but because I was not able to get there when I was supposed to the chef decided to go on vacation.  I tried going to another restaurant close by but they didn’t like the idea of an American coming in and trying to learn all their secrets.  Another problem with working at restaurants over here is that even though it is an unpaid internship, the restaurant has to pay the government, similar to workers comp contributions.

This weekend starts the “Festa della Madonna” meaning that almost everything closes down except the restaurants, and the whole town parties.  Everyone says the piazza is going to be lit up like a Christmas tree.  Even though I don’t believe in the Saints it will be very interesting to see.

Thank God I have friends and family here that are helping me out- special shout out to Nicola Tagarelli and his family who have been feeding me, hanging out with me and really making me feel at home.

One night we went for pizza in Mola and I needed a ride home so Anna (Nicola’s daughter’s) boyfriend offered to bring me home on his scooter.  If anyone has seen the Italian scooters they know that they are not designed for two full grown men…he insisted.  After bottoming out several times, the tires looked like they were flat and I told him to just leave me and I would walk the rest of the way home and that he should go pump some air into his tires.  Certainly a memory on my journey.

Despite not working this week I have been keeping busy visiting family and friends, and eating good too! Time is going fast and there is just over one week till I get to see my beautiful wife and daughter!

Congratulations to Rocky the first winner!!  Keep reading the posts and you could be the next winner, I think I’m going to visit Giachi Olive Oil in the next few days so stay tuned.

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And the winner is…

I’m a few days behind in my postings but I’ll catch you all up to date.  After the cheese factory I went to a Balsamic Vinegar factory, Acetaia San Giacomo.  I absolutely loved it.  It was so fascinating to see the process right before my eyes and taste the variance of the ages of the balsamic.  True balsamic vinegar is made from pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes.  The syrup from the grapes “mosto cotto” is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels, kind of like wine. 

You can tell how many years the balsamic is aged for based on the label color.  A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years and a gold label that designates the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.

 

As I travel I am going to be giving away products from the places I visit and it is time to do so…the winner will recieve a bottle of balsamic vinegar “Agro di Mosto”, and the winner is Roc***1@comcast.net Congratulations and thank you for following the blog! Please leave a comment to let everyone know that you are continuing to follow and I will contact you via e-mail!

To catch up on my travels, I arrived in Mola di Bari, that special place was I was born and where I feel most at home in Italy.  I spent my day with my dad’s friend Nicola and his wife who prepared a 12 course amazing meal including delicious sun-dried tomatoes.  I felt very welcomed and relaxed.  Then I spent my evening cleaning the villa where I had to dispose of three lizards and sweep up some debris that made its way in.  I was quite productive despite having a vehicle.  I am still waiting to get insurance and hoping to get it ASAP so I can get a new phone card, internet card and start working in Bari!

Ciao a tutti!

Say Cheese…

The other day Andrea and I went to one of the 40 Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factories.  I learned in depth about how the cheese is made and I’ll try and explain it as best as possible… Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from fresh cow’s milk that arrives about every half an hour. The milk is pumped into copper-lined vats where they add cultures and raise the vat up to 95 degrees.

  The mixture is left to curdle for about 10 minutes.  Then they break up the curd and raise the temperature again, but this time to 150 degrees.  After that the curd is left to settle for about an hour.  They then collect the curd and make wheels of the cheese using a stainless steel round mold.  After a day or two, they take it out of the mold, imprint it with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number, and month and year of production then put the mold back on it and and put it in salt water bath for 3 weeks.   After brining the wheels of cheese are left to age.  The only thing thats left to do at that point is sample… and let me tell you, I did plenty of that 🙂

 

 

Keeping Busy

The past few days have been so busy I haven’t even had time to go on the computer!

Saturday was the wedding here so I worked from 9 am until 3am (with breaks for lunch and dinner.  We served just over 250 people and I was exhausted.  Saturday was also Tawni’s birthday so I talked with her a few times through out the day.  I wish I could have sent flowers, but couldn’t because I don’t have a credit card anymore…  After only a few days of having my phone all the chefs know my ringtone so when the hear it they all look at me and say “la moglie” – most of them are single.  Last night I went to the pub with them and received a phone call from Tawni who put my cousin John on the phone and was blessed with wonderful news.  After several family and friends heard about what happened to me in Rome they started a fund where many of them made generous contributions.  Tawni and I are so touched to have such thoughtful friends and family in our lives.  We truly appreciate that during this tough time everyone came to together to help out and I really appreciate all of the words of encouragement-

“Tony, we are praying for you, and know that this is just a mere bump in the road. Keep your head up, and enjoy the beauty around you, and all that you will learn. Looking forward to following your blog. Love, Marisa & Jason”

Thank you to everyone who made contributions- Zio Vito and Zia Rosa, Zio Ottavio, Marisa and Jason, Giovanni, Mark and Agnes, John and Dana, Paul (Dana’s brother), Francis and Enza, Roberto and Caira, Zio Frank and Zia Angela, Nick and Mariella, Allesandro Bellini, Zio Tony and Zia Dina, and Cousin Anthony.  Your generous donations are greatly appreciated!!!

Today I am running around doing errands at Ipercoop, the Italian version of like a Target, where one of my single Italian friends wanted to purchase a Ukelele, perhaps to seranade a woman, haha I don’t really know why, he just wanted to.

I am looking forward to tomorrow…something having to do with cheese and balsamic…check back for more.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, for a chance to win products!!!!

Ravioli by the 1000

I’m finally getting my feet back on the ground and establishing my routine.  I’m working at Al Vedal, a Michelin star restaurant in a small town just outside of Parma.  I live in an apartment over the culattelo cellar (where all the cured pork butt hangs from the ceiling).  Culattelo is similar if not better than prosciutto.  Anyway, I am just steps away from the restaurant so I wake up every morning and walk over for a cappuccino and then start working around 9 am.  I have been working on the pasta station for a few days and make ravioli all day long!  The past few days I have spent making a ton of ravioli.  I make about 1000 a day all by hand, some for the restaurant and some for a nearby store that sells fresh pasta.  The #1 selling dish on the menu is a tortelli, similar to the ravioli, where they are stuffed with ricotta and spinach.  Then we put fresh parmigiano reggiano  on the bottom of the dish, then the pasta, top it with more cheese and then butter.   Another popular dish is Pollo Borrato, an egg battered chicken breast fried in butter.  Overall the menu is a nice mix of traditional Parma food and modernized food including a lot of game such as duck, chingalle (wild boar), goose, and today I tried frog!

 

Much like the menu, the staff here is quite diverse.  Although there are obviously Italians in the kitchen there are also people from Brazil, Argentina, China, Phillipines, and Vermont.  Many of them, like me, are also here interning and broadening their horizon on Italian cooking.

 

We work 9 am until around 5 and then everyone goes home for dinner, but I stay and hang out with Chef Enrico.  Everyone returns to work around 7:30pm and we work until around 12.  Tonight we had a 20 person wedding so we were there a bit later than usual.  We also have another wedding coming up on Saturday that is supposed to be 100 people. (I’m going to have to make a lot of ravioli! Haha)

 

Based on what I know so far I don’t think there is anyway I could live here, but the chefs here say that I am just saying that because my wife and daughter aren’t here, which could be true.  Everybody here knows about Tawni and Francesca because I talk about them all the time, and the guys all applaud me for marrying a younger woman haha.  Although all the guys invited me out for una birra (Believe it or not I am getting compliments on my Italian 🙂 ) at the pub tonight but I was too tired…maybe tomorrow.

 

*Pictures Coming soon*

Including one with me in the tall chef hats we wear!

Update on Tony

After being borderline very angry with my husband for not calling or emailing me since the incident he finally called me!   Once again the conversation was quite brief because he had to borrow someone’s phone to make the call.  Apparently the Italians are still on “Holiday” so all of the stores are closed so he can not get a calling card or internet minutes quite yet.  He does plan on trying to find one in these next few days.  In addition, he said that the town he is in is soooo small and there are stacks of hay and he wakes up to the sounds of the chickens and roosters.  The most important thing is that he is ok, and that he sounds very happy.  He also wanted to let everyone know that he appreciated the warm wishes and prayers during his turbulence!  As everyone has mentioned, hopefully that was the only hiccup of the trip and it is going to be smooth sailing from here on out!

-Tawni

Day 1-Robbed

Hey all, It’s Tawni, Tony’s wife…  just to keep you all posted on Tony’s travels…

Yesterday we received a phone call saying that his flight has been cancelled, luckily they had his flight protected and rerouted him through Detroit Michigan and then on to Rome.  This morning he arrived in Rome and what happened there is truly unbelievable… I received a phone call verifying that I was Tawni and from that point every bad thought rushed through my head, the next statement out of the lady’s mouth was we have your husband at the police station…  I instantly panicked but continued to listen as the lady from the US Embassy of Rome filled me in on Tony’s adventures.  Apparently he picked up his car and was loading his stuff in when he got robbed.  I have had very minimal communication with Tony (less than two minutes) and it has been via other peoples phones.  I do know that all of his important documents were taken…passport, credit card, atm card, money, cell phone etc…  The call continued as this lady informed me that “your husband requests that you to transfer him money, cancel the credit cards, and see if you can gps track his phone.  He will be calling you collect later this evening”  I spent the majority of my day running around to the currency exchange and being on hold explaining the story to every credit card supervisor and t-mobile management.  “We can not cancel the card with out Tony’s verbal approval”  “Miss…” and from that point I lost it  I handed the phone to my mom as she tried to explain that we could not verbally communicate with him because his cellphone was stolen… customer service at its finest.  Everything seems to be ok for the moment as I have booked Tony a hotel in Rome for the evening deviating from his very structured itinerary.  He has also received the money transfer, hopefully enough to get him back on his feet in foreign country.  For my day being as stressful as it was, I can only imagine what my husband went through, and the over 12 hours he spent at the airport trying to sort everything out.

-Tawni