Eleven years of blogging, eight of podcasting

Another year! The good news is that this blog is still active and luckily keeps being found by those searching for Italian specialties like pizzoccheri or canederli or Italian misconceptions like my 6 Italian myths. The bad news of course is that I haven’t posted any new articles or recipes this year. I know, it’s terrible – but it’s also okay, given that social media has taken the place of blogging in many ways.

But I did resume podcasting (yay!) and produced 16 new episodes with as many guests and collaborations this past year! This continues to be a lot of fun for me and I’ve already started to work on a new round of episodes to hopefully reach my dream milestone of 100 episodes very soon!

Here is a list of the episodes this year. Thanks again to all of my wonderful guests!

On a personal level, we keep well here in southern England, still working from home and enjoying plenty of homecooked food. We pretty much spend our time planning meals, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, and being grateful for having a dishwasher. As the government lifted all social distancing measures exactly two weeks ago, we are far from back to normal, unfortunately. Traveling is still not really possible, including to and from Italy which of course breaks our hearts. But we enjoy our area, which is wonderfully green after a very wet summer, and spending time with our cat Rascal, who just turned 19, overall doing great and still a great source of comfort and inspiration to us both.

I hope you’re all well, wherever you are, and please get in touch for collaborations, to be on the podcast, or just to say hi – I’d love that 🙂

Ten Years!

Ten years ago, I pushed ‘post’ for the first time. What a journey! Honestly, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into, and I am so glad I didn’t: I took it one step at a time and learned along the way. The discovery was both on the content front and on the technical side, and there were hurdles on both. At some point, though, things became quite clear and predictable. This blog was not really going to be a blog, as in a “weblog,” rather it became a collection of about 60 of my favorite recipes, a place where to publish short articles or essays, as one could say, on Italian culture, ingredients, and products and the companion website of my podcast, which has 78 episodes to-date.

If you’ve been following me, you have certainly noticed however that, lately, my posts have been lacking significantly and that my presence on the social networks has also gone down. This was an exceptional year, however, and I do plan to resume blogging and podcasting as soon as things will normalize a bit. I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to, COVID-19 has seriously disrupted our lives, if not worse. On top of this, the pandemic hit as we were renovating our new house in preparation for moving in. This, of course, proved to be challenging, but it all worked out in the end!

Moving to a nearby town while lockdown is in place was probably the hardest part. We lost the physical presence of neighbors, friends, and coworkers, as well as familiar places and routines. No more strolls to the neighborhood park, no more day trips to London, no more stopping at the local grocery store where you know where everything is! And of course no more favorite restaurants and cafes. Normally, when one moves, they replace the comfort of familiarity with the excitement of discovery. Well, there hasn’t been a lot of discovery with social-distancing in full effect. Just a few strolls around town, some getting in line at the grocery store, and some careful errands at the post office or the hardware store. Things are getting much better now, with more businesses reopening. But we all know that there is still a significant risk of a second wave and that – really – we should all still try to stay home whenever we can.

Staying home though has its advantages. A lot more cooking! And a lot more planning around what to cook, based on the availability of delivery slots from the online superstore we started using heavily. With more time for cooking as well, this was a win-win situation for us. We experimented with more recipes and cuisines, some baking, and of course still going strong with my sourdough! Speaking of which, the only recipe/article I posted this year was about my proofing and baking method and I couldn’t be more proud of the reliable results I keep getting, still with the same starter which has now been with us for 16 months! At first, during lockdown, everyone seemed to have started baking and it was a bit challenging to get a hold of the strong flour needed for feeding, but with the help of friend bakers we still managed to source enough of it, and it’s now back on the shelves. I hope that more people got into baking as a result!

During the past year, I only published one podcast episode – a chat with writer Andrew Cotto on his lovely novel Cucina Tipica, which is set in Italy and centered on food, as you might have guessed! I have been in touch with future podcast guests and I plan to resume production in the next few weeks.

To end this anniversary post, I would like to thank you all for your support during these months. I wish you all the best and hope to chat with you soon via messages, comments, and – who knows – maybe through a podcast! Stay safe.

Nine Years of Blogging, Six of Podcasting

Another year has gone by! After settling down in England, I found myself cooking more and dedicating more time to the podcast. With 17 posts, 10 of which are podcast episodes (four with new guests and six with returning guests), six recipes, and the first guest article, this has been a pretty productive year for me! After nine years, I’m as excited as ever for this project.

Why more cooking? I think it’s mainly because of two reasons. First, an increased availability of quality ingredients, especially produce, courtesy of the town’s street markets and of a couple of great supermarkets. Second, the access to a gas stove, as opposed to an electric range. I had forgotten what highly controllable, high-power heat can do for the home cook–get the water boiling in no time and then quickly bring it to a simmer; get the oil to a searing temperature, then lower the heat for braising and finally turn it all the way up for reducing. If you have tried both kinds of stovetops, I’m sure you agree. I hear induction is somewhere in between, but I have never tried it.

Why more podcasting? Well, because it’s a lot of fun! As I mentioned before, I love every aspect of the production, from approaching (or being approached by) a candidate guest to publishing the result. Partway through the year, I started tracking subscription numbers and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the podcasts had nearly doubled the blog’s subscriptions. I hope that this is an indication that podcasts are becoming more popular, which makes me happy since I have always felt part of a quiet minority of avid podcast listeners. I would like to thank my fabulous guests once more! I loved working with each and every one of you 🙂

This year, for the first time in this blog, I had the pleasure of hosting a guest article covering a topic I couldn’t have handled myself, but that perfectly fits within the project. Writer and enologist Melinda King kindly broke down the complex world of geographical indications and their cultural, political, and economic impact. To further discuss these themes, Melinda was also back as a podcast guest. Thanks, Melinda, for your generous contribution!

Looking ahead as year 10 starts, the podcast remains my main focus. I’ve already started working with future guests and can’t wait to have them on the show. I also plan on documenting a few more of the recipes I like to prepare, including my newest tradition–artisan bread from my sourdough starter, Bubbles! As you may have seen, Bubbles has now been in the family for four months, pretty much taking over my Instagram feed, in a rewarding and self-sustaining way 🙂

To close this brief retrospective, here is a summary of this year’s posts, grouped by themes, just in case you missed any of them. Thanks again for reading and listening, it has been an honor.

Recipes – First Courses

Asparagus Risotto
Mushrooms and Cheese Crespelle

Recipes – Second Courses

Potato Crusted Sea Bream
Deep Fried Squid Calamari Fritti

Recipes – Sides

Braised Fennel
Battered Cauliflower

Podcast Episodes

Guest Post

Geographical Indications: Italian Food, Made Official Or “Complicated Simplicity”

Eight Years of Blogging, Five of Podcasting

Hello everyone! Today this blog turns eight years old, prompting me to give an (overdue) update.

As you have heard in the latest podcast, and seen on “the social channels,” I have some big news. After spending over 17 years in Vancouver, two months ago I moved to England! Precisely, to the town of Guildford, 30 miles south-west of London. I won’t go too much into the reasons for the relocation, other than saying that they are both personal and professional, and that I am super excited about being here!

Guildford – High Street

If you wonder what’s going to happen to this blog now that I am much closer to Italy and perhaps no longer bombarded by the worst Italian Food “interpretations,” please rest assured that I will continue the project! Even though England’s proximity to Italy, along with a much reduced Italian-American influence should result in a much closer rendition, Italian cuisine is still foreign, and as such, subject to adaptation to the local palate, and I have started to see this already. But in any case, what I’m interested in the most is food culture (and I think you are interested in it too!); England has so much to offer on that front, and I hope to dive into it over time.

Cream Tea
Cream-tea: fruit scones, clotted cream, jam, accompanied by tea, of course!

For now, all I can do is share my first impressions. I may be stating the obvious, but, to me, the most noticeable difference between England and western Canada is that in England, the weight of history has resulted in a stronger national identity. However much I love Vancouver’s openness towards all cultures, it’s fascinating to now be exposed to more rooted customs, which may be even stronger in a small town such as Guildford. Moreover, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to explore and discover, for instance, that pretty much all cafes serve cream-tea, that the only fruit in fruit scones is raisins (or should I say sultanas?) and that crusty bread may be called a ‘bloomer’ (having no reason to be called “Italian!”)

I will talk more about British culture and traditions going forward, in comparison to the Italian and North American ones.

Now, onto a brief retrospective on this last year of blogging, or podcasting, as I should say. With only one article published, no recipes (boo!), and eight podcast episodes, it appears that I have been dedicating myself almost exclusively to Thoughts on the Table. I have certainly enjoyed producing each episode, along with my wonderful guests (some returning and some new): from the planning, to the recording, to the editing. If you missed any of them, here is a summary:

060 – The Basic Rules of Italian Food with David Scott Allen

DavidReturning guest, food blogger and photographer David Scott Allen returns on the show to discuss The Basic Rules of Italian Food, such as that no Italian would dare to cut spaghetti with a knife, or to have a cappuccino after a meal!

061 – Rediscovering Artisan Craftsmanship and Ancient Grains, with Alida Zamparini

AlidaFood blogger Alida Zamparini returns to give us an update on her latest recipes and blogging trips. As you will hear, Alida has been focusing on regional Italian products and artisan craftsmanship, such as the production of ricotta in the Friulian Alps. Alida also introduces her passion for ancient grains such as spelt and Kamut Khorasan.

062 – Introducing Enzo De Chiara from The Italian Guest

EnzoAn interview with blogger Enzo De Chiara during which he explains his link to the United States and how he started his blog to document his food, travel, and lifestyle experiences across from his hometown of Bergamo (in northern Italy) and his adoptive city of Columbia, Missouri.

063 – Italian and Italian-American Christmas Traditions, with Nick Zingale

ChristmasA Christmas episode with my friend and recurring guest Nick Zingale. In the episode, he describes how his Italian-American family celebrated Christmas over the years, with a special mention of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

064 – Introducing Crazy Italians and Their Video Series on Italian Food

Crazy Italians RestaurantYvette, Giampaolo, and 9-year-old Azzurra describe how they started producing short videos to promote their Memphis restaurant and help introduce continental Italian food to North America.

065 – Introducing Foodiamo – the Italian Guide to Italian Food

FoodiamoFoodiamo’s founder Raffaele Asquer and chief editor Roberto Croci talk about the Foodiamo project and how it expanded from guide to Italian food in Los Angeles to online magazine of global appeal.

066 – Introducing Giuseppe D’Angelo from Pizza Dixit

GiuseppeNeapolitan born and raised Giuseppe D’Angelo describes how he made a mission for himself to discover the best Neapolitan pizzerias around the world. In his blog, he praises how pizza makers outside of Naples can obtain an excellent product despite operating in less than ideal conditions.

067 – The Premise of Italian Cuisine, with Melinda King

MelindaWriter and editor Melinda King talks about her background in food and wine science and history and shares her view on the true nature of Italian food with an insightful analysis that transcends its well-known allure.

Seven Years of Blogging, Four of Podcasting

Hi! Here I am celebrating seven years of blogging and looking back at the past 12 months, as I do at this time every summer. Thank you for reading this post. Your choice to dedicate a bit of your precious time to me and to my work is humbling and makes me proud to be a blogger!

So, what happened in the last 12 months? The podcast Thoughts on the Table continued to be my main focus and has become a great passion. I enjoy every aspect of it, from the planning stages, through the ever-exciting moment of the recording, to the post-production and its magic. But among everything, I especially love the fact that the podcast allows me to work together with amazing people around the world and meet them face-to-face on Skype. In the last 12 months, I published 12 episodes with new and returning guests, including food writer Mark Preston, food bloggers Linda (Signorina Spaghetti) and Ale Gambini (A Queen in the Kitchen), restaurateur Simon Pagotto, as well as travel blogger and storyteller Nick Zingale, who has quickly become a recurring guest. This year, the podcast also hit an important milestone, its 50th episode! For the occasion, I was joined by my buddy Jason (with whom I started this series four years ago) for a special episode dedicated to balance in food.

Celebrating seven years of blogging with my new friends at The Happy Herd Sanctuary in Aldergrove, British Columbia
Celebrating 7 years of blogging with my new friends at The Happy Herd Sanctuary in Aldergrove, BC.

The series has since hit 59 episodes, and still counting! I have already started working on new outlines with future guests and I look forward to organizing many more. If you’d like to be on the show, I’d love to work with you on themes that you find meaningful — please contact me for more information. BTW, the podcast is now available on Google Podcasts and on Stitcher, besides of course iTunes, and direct playback on the Internet Archive and on this blog.

In other news, this past year I have posted three new recipes: Buckwheat Gnocchi with Mascarpone Tomato Sauce, Mascarpone Cream as the perfect accompaniment to Panettone, and Piadina Romagnola, the iconic flatbread of the Adriatic region of Italy.

Mascarpone Tomato Gnocchi Mascarpone Cream on Panettone Piadina Romagnola

I also wrote an autobiographical article on my first impressions as I arrived in Vancouver, Canada, 16 years ago, to discover a whole new culinary world: An Italian in Canada – From the Food of Italy to “Italian Food.”

“ I had discovered a parallel universe! A pretty unappetizing one […] the portions were too big, the pasta was either drowning in sauce or looked pale and overcooked, and the sauces looked overly rich.”

Finally, I’d like to thank all of you who follow me on the various social networks. Thanks for joining the discussion and for helping me preserve authentic, continental Italian food and its main qualities of simplicity, balance, and flavor. If you don’t already, please follow me on Instagram (where I also share my recommendations for good food in Vancouver or in Italy, and occasional pictures of my gorgeous cat); Facebook (where I sometimes take a provocative stance against the horrible Italian food aberrations I come across); Twitter (where I occasionally also share random thoughts of some wit); and of course on the blog itself, Disgraces on the Menu.

As always, your feedback is really important to me — if you have any corrections, suggestions, or ideas for future collaborations, please contact me! Thanks again.

Disgraces on the Menu Turned Six – Time to Blow Out the Candles Again!

Another year has elapsed – this blog just turned six!! As usual, I’d like to stop for a moment and look back at the last twelve months of blogging and podcasting. Before I do that, I would like to thank all who have been supporting me by reading, by listening, and especially by sharing their thoughts via personal messages and comments. It means a lot to me, please keep sending your feedback!

Now, back to my “retrospective”, so to speak. Podcasting seems to have become my main focus. This past year, I have published ten episodes featuring amazing new and returning guests: Hannah Solomon, Diana Zahuranec, Rick Zullo, Gino De Blasio, Domenica Marchetti (twice), David Scott Allen, Silvia Arduino, Alida from My Little Italian Kitchen, and Giulia Scarpaleggia, thanks for participating and for putting up with me and my questions! Recently, I also began posting full transcripts of some of my favorite episodes, and narrations of meaningful articles, starting with Il Mercato – the Tradition of the Italian Street Market.

During the year, I posted seven new recipes for as many favorite dishes: some old staples (Valdostana Onion Soup, Squash Risotto, Passato di Verdure, Oven Roasted Vegetables Stripes), and some preparations I recently discovered and fell in love with (Pesto alla Trapanese, Spaetzle-style Passatelli, Chard and Spinach Gnudi).

I also wrote three articles on food and culture; two were published as guest posts: Dried Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta (for Experience Italy Travels) and The Basic Rules of Italian Food (for Once Upon a Time in Italy), which was written after consulting with several Italian food bloggers. The third article, which was published on this blog, deals with Personal Space and the Italians, a topic I have been meaning to discuss for a while. All three posts were great fun to write, I hope you enjoyed them.

I am also happy to have connected with five more bloggers who, like me, talk about the authentic food of continental Italy. Of course, I promptly gave them the Cannolo Award. David from Cocoa and Lavender, Luca Marchiori from Chestnuts and Truffles, Coco from Coco’s Bread & Co – Eating Healthy, Giulia Scarpaleggia from Jul’s Kitchen, and Viola Buitoni from Viola’s Italian Kitchen, congratulations again!

Finally, I’d like to add a note on a technical detail. Last October, this blog was migrated to WordPress! I can’t say it was a trivial task, but the process was much smoother than I initially thought – a testament to the platform and its amazing community. I hope you are enjoying the new layout and functionality.

All in all, year six has been a great year, with lots of new connections and ideas. I am very much looking forward to year seven with the same enthusiasm as when I started in 2010!

Thanks again and… Salute!

Year Five: Complete!

I can hardly believe it has been 5 years since I started this project! Time flies when you’re having fun, and flies especially fast when you’re in good company – over this past year, I connected with many people and I like to believe that together we changed how Italian food is perceived around the world! Slightly, of course 🙂

By far, the biggest networking opportunity came from participating in Turin Epicurean Capital, a food literature event that saw me as a moderator. Particularly, I continued to work with fellow participant Diana Zahuranec), who has since become a recurring guest in the podcast and a great contributor to its success.

My visit to Turin also allowed me to reconnect with friend wedding planner Valentina Lombardi, who introduced me to her new project: Experience Italy Travels, a service aimed to show international travelers the true side of Italy. To help reach that goal, Valentina offered me to write: “Italy: Instructions for Use”, a fun section where I try to explain the ins and outs of Italy and of the Italians. Naturally, I accepted enthusiastically!

Recently, I also had the honor of being interviewed by Rick Zullo, awarded blogger and author of popular ebooks, as part of his new podcast: The Fatal Charm of Italy. Our chat was a lot of fun – if you want to hear us talk about the unwritten food rules that Italians follow, and much more, please head over to Rick’s blog.

As this blog completes Year Five, I would like to thank all visitors and followers for their support in the form of feedback. Please continue sending me your comments, observations, and corrections – as a blogger, nothing makes me happier!

I was featured on Rick Zullo’s “The Fatal Charm of Italy” podcast!

A few days ago I had the pleasure to be invited by my friend, writer Rick Zullo to be part of his new podcast: “The Fatal Charm of Italy“. I had a fantastic time! Rick is such an amazing host, and his insatiable curiosity makes for a very insightful conversation. You can listen to the episode online or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, which is definitely what I recommend!

During the episode we touched on:

  • The different perception on what “Italian food” means in North America, vs. continental Italy;
  • The reason why food is such a big deal to the Italians, and why the Italians follow so many food “rules”;
  • The difference in table service between Italian restaurants and North American restaurants.
I hope you’ll have as much fun listening to it than we had recording it!
Rick, thanks so much also for the kind words you used to introduce Disgraces on the Menu to your followers. Grazie di cuore, è un onore!

One Year, One Second a Day

Have you heard of “one second videos”?‎ They are a bit of an old idea now – a creative named Cesar Kuriyama came up with it, went to TED in 2012*, and since then they have become quite popular. How do make a one-second video? It’s simple: record 1-second long video clips every day, then string them all together into a continuous montage. What is the purpose? To keep a log of each day of life. Now, Cesar is going to continue the project for as long as he lives, but a lot of people who entertain it only commit to doing it for one year ‎- which is what I did from Jan 1st to Dec 31st 2014. You can see the end result here, or embedded below.


For my interpretation of the project, I mostly followed the guidelines Cesar chose for himself. Like him, I recorded all clips from a first-person‎ view, my own, using exclusively my camera phone. Also like Cesar, I didn’t make use of any filters or cropping – leaving the only editing (and creative expression) to the choice of the one-second segment within the daily footage.

April 1st, a sunny commute.
As I wait for the bus, I get a good look at the fabulous Lee building, a historic Vancouver landmark.

Every day I set out to record at least one short video, trying to capture a representative 1 second of that day. On some less busy and more exciting days, I easily recorded multiple clips. On some busier or monotonous days, instead, I barely remembered to capture a single clip. Throughout the year, for a total of 6 times, I managed to let the day go by without recording anything – and felt really bad each time, as soon as I realized it. I debated with myself what to do with those missing clips, and decided to simply leave a one-second gap. Looking back at the montage, however, I discovered something interesting. I know exactly why I didn’t capture anything on those days – those were stressful days and when I see these brief pauses I can still remember why. And it’s a 2% error, not too bad after all!

April 25th, another morning commute. I love this shot! I managed to capture not one but two people yawning together. Did the one with the newspaper start?

Since my video clips were taken over the course of the year, they show the alternation of weekdays and weekends, and a full cycle of seasons. They also show much of the same dear subjects: my cat, several of the dogs in my workplace, and the food I’m about to eat (especially breakfast and brunch). Since all videos are taken from my point of view, you won’t directly see me in them. I also chose not to portray my wife, friends, or family. This was of course to protect their privacy. In the videos, though, you will see a number of strangers – I figured they wouldn’t know and therefore mind :).

May 9, the traditional Foosball match I play during lunch break with my Italian coworkers.

While working on the project, I realized that capturing the most meaningful moment of each day is actually not that easy. Meaningful moments tend to demand full attention, and more often than not I would realize that I should have been recording when it was too late to do it. To capture everything, I should have always been recording, but that wouldn’t have been practical and also wouldn’t have necessarily been legal. So I got into the habit of recording a quick video every morning during my commute to work, just in case I would then forget to take a more meaningful one. This morning clips also served as backup in case the day got busier and I would have risked forgetting. Looking at the end result, though, I was happy to discover that those commuting clips are actually quite interesting to look back at, not at all boring like I thought they would have been.

June 17th, an indoor rock climbing session.

Looking at the end result, I also was able to appreciate an interesting advantage that videos have over static pictures. A one-second video contains a lot more information than a still frame of the same duration. Even though one-second videos are made of only 30, mostly identical still frames in rapid sequence, they are easier than static pictures for our brain to read because they communicate motion and have depth. They also have sound.

July 6th, a great performance by a passer-by on one of the pianos placed on the street as part of the Keys to the Street initiative.

As I was working on the montage, I also realized a couple of other things: 1) I wish I had a camera stabilizer! Many of my clips were just too “bumpy” – in some cases I had a hard time selecting a stable segment. 2) I wish I had paid more attention to the sound! The sound is an integral part of the experience – in some cases I had a hard time selecting a segment where both picture and sound were meaningful.

September 2nd, the opening day of Turin Epicurean Capital.

Finally, I also realized that 1 second each day doesn’t necessarily give true snapshot of how I spend my time. I’m starting to think that there may be a way to refine the project to capture a more accurate log. Maybe I should try a variation where every day I record 1 to 5 clips that capture as many meaningful moments. Then, I could put together a 5-second segment for each day: on days with only 1 clip, I would select a 5-second segment; on days with 5 clips, I would select 5 one-second segments; on days with 2, 3 or 4 clips, I would distribute the 5 seconds among the clips available. What do you think? Do you want to try?

*The original TED Talk is also on Youtube, and so is my one-second video.