Lasagna alla Bolognese

Lasagne alla Bolognese

By Sharon Sanders

Lasagne alla Bolognese (Bolognese-style lasagna) is a dish that embodies the allure of slow food. It has only four components but each deserves attention.

Little language lesson:

Lasagna (singular) is one sheet of pasta.

Lasagne (plural) is more than one sheet of pasta.

The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the ingredient that takes the most time to produce—an average of two years. Luckily for us, the fine cheese makers of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano shoulder that task.

The salsa besciamella (béchamel) can be whipped up on the stovetop in 10 minutes. I enrich my besciamella with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (salsa alla Parmigiana) which makes it technically a Mornay sauce.

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The Great Flood of Florence

Among those cleaning up the Santa Croce courtyard after the flood are Marcello Gori (left standing on the ground), who was my employer at The Leather School, and Padre Franchi (second from right) who became head of the Franciscans at the Basilica.

Some of the men who would become my friends in Florence labored to clean up the Santa Croce courtyard after the flood. Massimo “Max” Melani’s head is just visible (third from the left on the truck bed). On the ground are Marcello Gori (left), who was my employer at The Leather School, and Padre Franchi (second from left) who later became head of the Franciscans at the Basilica.

By Walter Sanders

When I moved to Florence in 1971, the city was still recovering from the disastrous flood of November 4, 1966. High water marks—stained by mud, heating oil, and gasoline—stretched like taut ropes across building facades near the Arno.

It was harsh stuff that floated to the top. And below the crest mark, on walls around the city, were murky shadows of flood residue.

These ugly reminders faded with time, but have been memorialized with plaques designating the height of flood waters throughout the city. Five floods from five different centuries are noted by these marble plaques; none are as high as those commemorating 1966.

I worked at the Scuola del Cuoio, the Leather School,  from 1972 through 1975. The workshops and showrooms were located in the old Franciscan monastery attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce, one of the hardest hit victims of the flood. I still remember the stains, and even the faint smell of fuel, on the exterior and interior walls of the courtyard.

Kayla Metelenis and Diane Cole Ahl

Kayla Metelenis and Diane Cole Ahl

Those memories rushed back when I attended a presentation “Looking Back at the Flood of Florence in 1966: Disaster, Recovery, and Cultural Conservation,” sponsored by the Art Department and The Ideal Center of Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

Sharon and I had met the one of the presenters, Diane Cole Ahl, Rothkopf Professor of Art History, when she curated a traveling exhibit of “Offering of the Angels” from the Uffizi at the Michener Museum, Doylestown, Pa.

Ahls’s student Kayla Metelenis ’15, art history major, was co-presenter.

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From Italy to Your Table

La cucina l’italiana is rooted in the land.

My food-loving friends in Italy may live in towns or cities, but they all ‘know someone’ in the country. Someone like il cugino who cultivates olives and shares the olio with family. Someone like lo zio who preserves his sweet garden tomatoes and always has too many. Someone like l’amica who prepares divine apricot marmellata and loves to spread the sweetness.

Santisi medium logoPhil Noto knows someone: his cugino, Giuseppe “Pippo” Calantoni. Pippo lives in Motta d’Affermo, Sicily, in the province of Messina, in the house where Phil’s father was born in 1924. Pippo raises olives. He shares the olio with Phil and Phil is sharing the olio with us. Phil is a partner in Santisi Imports, a wholesale and retail Italian specialty food purveyor based in an office complex in Easton, Pa., about 100 miles west of NYC.

Like any self-respecting buongustaio, Phil not only knows where the olives are grown and the oil is pressed; he also knows the varieties of olives– Sant’Agatese, biancolilla, and nocellara Messinese.

Santisi oil is produced in Motta d'Affermo on the northern coast of Sicily about 24 miles east of  Cefalù.

Santisi oil is produced in Motta d’Affermo on the northern coast of Sicily about 24 miles east of Cefalù.

This level of authenticity extends to all the products offered by Santisi. Phil began the business in his garage in 2005 with olio and origano but now has dozens of products that boast as genuine a pedigree as the oil. Phil and partners Vince Sciascia and Mario Vicidomini scour the Italian peninsula to secure the best of the best: aceto balsamico, dreamy pistachio spread, saba, canned cherry tomatoes that melt in the skillet, assorted condimenti, and colatura d’alici (the ‘secret’ seasoning of so many Italian dishes).

As for dried pasta, partner Mario happens to be co-owner of one of the oldest, most-respected pasta makers in Italy. Mario and his brother Luigi are the fifth generation of Pastificio Vicidomini to carry on the family tradition (Luigi’s son is the sixth generation). Situated in Castel San Giorgio, Campania, the pastificio has been featured on Italian television‘s Linea Verde and is the darling of chefs and food critics.

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Villa San Michele

Villa San Michele is perched on a cliff top in Anacapri.

Villa San Michele is perched on a cliff top in Anacapri.

Capri’s Crowning Glory

By Sharon Sanders

The village of Anacapri sits more than 1,000 feet above the coast on the fabled island of Capri. The white stucco structures are blinding under the Mediterranean sun but nothing in Anacapri dazzles more than Villa San Michele.

The singular creation of Swedish-born physician Axel Munthe (1857-1949), Villa San Michele includes a museum, gardens, and cultural foundation supervised by the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome. During my visit on a June afternoon, visitors were amazingly few. What a gift it was to savor this magical spot at my leisure.

After threading my way through the center of Anacapri, past vendors hawking sandals and sunglasses, coral and mass-produced maiolica, I turned at the carved marble sign that read “Capri Beauty Farm” (a spa?) and walked down Via Axel Munthe.

The simple white stucco façade of Villa San Michele looks vaguely Spanish. A few antiquities are positioned out front. With a visitors guide book, I navigated the bedroom, study, and kitchen that remain as Munthe had furnished them and lived within their walls.

Enamored with Capri from previous visits, it was in June of 1895 that Munthe purchased a tiny house and vineyard in Anacapri from the carpenter Vincenzo Alberino. It stood on the ruins of an ancient Roman summer villa. At the same time, Munthe bought adjoining land and a ruined chapel from other sellers. On this ground, he built Villa San Michele from scratch with his own money and design, and the labor of his neighbors. At the turn of the 19th Century, the village was impoverished. A foreigner leading such a construction project was unprecedented since ancient times.

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St. Francis in Brooklyn

Francis doc

The Codex 338, dated between 1224 and 1226 (the oldest existing copy) contains the writings of Francis and among these the “Canticle of the Creatures,” a work considered the first literary document written in the vernacular and a poetic and spiritual masterpiece.

By Tess Sanders

This time of year, the Brooklyn Borough Hall is ablaze in all its holiday glory. But its current display, in particular, more clearly conveys the spirit of Christmas than any number of colored lights.

From now until Jan. 14, 2015, Brooklynites and visitors can see–for the first time in this country–papers that belonged to St. Francis of Assisi. The exhibit, Frate Francesco: Icons, Words, and Images, features documents from the early thirteenth century that capture the spirit of this extraordinary individual.

The show, which originally appeared in Rome, was displayed at the United Nations prior to coming to Brooklyn. These documents have only been viewed in Italy before this year.

The exhibition is divided into three sections:

  • Icons in the documents that closely witness the historical life of Francis
  • Words relating to the life of the saint
  • Images in miniatures portraying him in various ancient contexts
One of the most moving documents from the show is the illuminated Bible, which depicts St. Francis' union with God. The illustration of the saint remains vibrant for all viewers who want a reminder of all the good that can be done in this world.

One of the most moving documents from the show is the illuminated Bible, which depicts St. Francis’ union with God. The illustration of the saint remains vibrant for all viewers who want a reminder of all the good that can be done in this world.

St. Francis’ virtues of compassion and connection are more important than ever nearly one thousand years after he lived. Francis sacrificed his life and wealth in service of the poor, and his commitment to his fellow man transcends all religions.

At the recent opening reception, his spirit was in the air.



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