Italian Eating

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Chef-author Faith Heller Willinger pays tribute to the friends, meals and recipes she has collected throughout her 30-year career in Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. She uses only the finest products in Italian cuisine, including first-rate extra-virgin olive oil, pasta made from heirloom wheat, artisanal salumi and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Florence is now Faith's hometown and her favorite neighborhood hangout is Caffe Ricchi, operated by Enzo, Alfonsina and Alfredo Ricchi. During cocktail hour, bartender Alessandra Tancredi serves Campari cocktail with salami and figs. While in Florence, be sure to visit Carlo and Delfina Cioni's Ristorante Da Delfina and try the seasonal dish, fried green tomatoes with grapes.

Caffe Ricchi
Piazza Santo Spirito, 8/R
50125 Firenze
Tel: +39-055-215-864

Campari cocktails with salami and figs
Serves 1

3-4 ice cubes
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Martini Rosso vermouth (or Carpano, for Enzo's Tosco-Americano)
Splash of seltzer or soda water (or sparkling wine for Sbagliato)
1 ounce gin, for those who want a Negroni
1/2 slice of orange

Put the ice cubes in an old-fashioned cocktail glass. Add the Campari, Martini Rosso or Carpano vermouth, and seltzer or soda water (or sparkling wine for the Sbagliato) and gin (for those who want a Negroni), and stir. Garnish with 1/2 orange slice.

Salami and figs

2 fresh or quality dried figs
Fennel seeds, lightly crushed
4 thin slices of good-quality Italian-style salami

Halve the figs and sprinkle with a few fennel seeds. Wrap each half with a slice of salami and secure with a toothpick.

Ristorante Da Delfina
Via della Chiesa, 1
59015 Artimino (PO)
Tel: +39-055-871-8119

Fried green tomatoes with grapes
Serves 4 to 6

3/4 pound grapes (Delfina uses wine grapes; use the best dark grapes you can get)
8 firm green tomatoes
Soft wheat flour (Italian "00" or White Lily flour), for coating slices
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, mashed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato sauce

Squeeze the juice from half the grapes (Faith processes them, then mashes them in a strainer to get around 6 tablespoons of juice). Cut the remaining grapes in half (not necessary for smaller wine grapes). Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices (cut a slim slice off the top and bottom of the tomato so that all slices will have two wet surfaces) and remove the seeds (easy with a tomato knife or a grapefruit spoon). Heavily flour the slices.

Heat the extra virgin in a large nonreactive skillet, brown the garlic and remove. Add the tomato slices and fry until lightly browned on both sides. Season with salt and pepper, add the grape juice and the tomato sauce, and cook for a minute or two, then add the grapes and serve.

Recipes courtesy of Faith Heller Willinger

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