Life-altering Italian soup

Guest Blogger Chef Sabrina FaloneItalyCiao tutti! My name is Sabrina Falone and I’m the test kitchen manager for Dana McCauley & Associates Ltd. I recently spoiled myself with a trip to Italy. I chose Italy because that’s where my family is from and I thought it only fitting to learn more about my culture before branching out into more exotic territories. I travelled all over the Central and Northern regions of Italy with a girlfriend and 40 other tourists for two weeks. I had a great time, but two weeks is not nearly enough time to truly appreciate Italy. It was ‘only a taste,’ our tour guide informed us at the beginning of the journey.The scenery was amazing and I met fantastic people. Both the art and architecture were literally breath-taking. (The Sistine Chapel can only be appreciated in person, so I won’t even try to express what it is like in words.)You must be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the food yet. Are you thinking it’s because I’m saving the best for last? No, regrettably the food was actually very, very disappointing. Granted, it was the part of my trip I had the highest expectations for but I never dreamed I would come home with so few pleasurable flavour experiences.Let me explain before you think I’m just being a stereotypical cheffy snob. I did have some great food. The two gelatos a day I ate were always delicious; the pizza was always good, regardless of the type of crust or toppings. And I never had a bad cup of coffee, and the wine was some of the best I’ve had. I made a deal with myself before the trip: I would eat anything and everything I wanted while in Italy and deal with the repercussions when I got back; hence the two helpings of gelato each day. (It was in the name of research!)I did, however, endure grey mystery meat, tasteless tomato sauce, over-cooked pork and countless plates of disappointing pasta. I did, however, have a bowl of life-alerting soup. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating but it was damn good!It was served in the least likely of places. A very small, hideously decorated trattoria, tucked away on a sketchy side street in Venice that we chose simply because it was there and we were cold and hungry.The proprietress suggested a bowl of bean soup (zuppa di fagioli) that she said was very good. Keeping to my quest for good food, I took her at her word. The soup wasn’t much to look at. There was no thoughtful presentation, the bowls were far from designer and, truthfully, the colour was a bit concerning. But the aroma made up for these lackings; the delicious aroma would have been enough to knock us over if we’d been standing.Without saying a word, we picked up our spoons and dove in. We were, by this point, all so disappointed by the food in Italy that we didn’t trust our first impressions. After a second taste, it was unanimous — the soup was delicious!Creamy, hearty and earthy. The tender, slow-cooked beans floated in a pureed fine-quality chicken broth with deep herbal notes. You just knew this was a recipe that had been in the maker’s family for generations. I wanted so badly to quiz her about the flavours and techniques but between her broken English and my limited Italian there wasn’t much opportunity to swap recipes.It’s been three months since I returned home from Italy and I can still taste that soup in my flavour memory. Unfortunately, my several attempts haven’t been able to duplicate that wonderful soup. That said, I’m confident that I will eventually crack the recipe and when I do, you’ll be the first to know.[Dana’s note: Take heart, Sabrina! You’ll get this recipe dilemma solved. Just look at Luisa at Wednesday Chef. She finally solved her foccacia puzzle.]

15 Responses to Life-altering Italian soup

  1. Amanda says:

    This is very disappointing to hear! Italian has long been one of my favourite cuisines! Did you find that the economic diversity of the restaurants played any role in the quality of food aside from this diamond in the rough? In my experience it’s usually the small, family owned, out of the way places that have the best food! Did this hold true in Italy as well? I have always wanted to travel to foreign countries and the food will be a major factor in wherever I decide to travel! If you’re planning any more trips to sample the fare I’ve always wanted to go to France, Egypt, Australia, Switzerland….. so if you could sample some of those for me that would be great!!😀

  2. ann willcock says:

    i would have thought you would find good food all over italy. you sure make the soup sound good, be sure to pass on the recipe if you ever figure it out.

  3. Connie says:

    That scenery in behind you of “La piazza di San. Marco” in Venice looks breath taking. hearing about, indulging in gelato two times a day also sounds mouth watering.
    Italy what a country…….

  4. danamccauley says:

    Hey Sabrina!

    Thanks for filling in for me while I’m in Vegas. The title for your post is so funny to me, Martin and I lunched at Olives on Sunday and the waiter urged us to have the beef carpaccio since it was ‘life altering’. Should have known that any food that claims to be life altering won’t be. It’s the surprise finds like your soup that can change the way you think.

    BTW, I did have some life altering American kobe beef night before last at Craftsteak. I had always thought American kobe was a bit of a joke – after all if it’s kobe it has to be from Japan, right? Anyhow, I have been happily proven wrong. Anyone who wants to read more about my restaurant escapades in Las Vegas can check out the mini reviews I’ve written on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=6741550114&topic=4706

  5. Sabrina says:

    Hey Amanda,

    You’re so right; some of the best food comes from the little ‘mom and pop’ type places and that proved to be true in Italy as well. Italian food is supposed to be about freshness and simple flavour combinations. The more ‘upscale’ places tried too hard by drowning their meats and fish in heavy, rich sauces which is more of a French thing. I wouldn’t let my review discourage you from visiting Italy just do your research before you go and talk to the locals!

    I also want to go to France, so if I make it there before you I’ll be sure to pass on my culinary experiences.

    Cheers!

  6. Sabrina says:

    I miss my 2 gelatos a day😦

  7. Sabrina says:

    Hi Dana,

    Anytime, it was my pleasure to be a guest blogger!

    Glad to hear you had some good food while in Vegas. I’m also surprised to hear the US kobe met your standards. I’m definately going to check out you’re reviews.

    Welcome back!

  8. Amy says:

    I also want to visit Italy one of these days so if I’ll follow your advice too, Sabrina. I think my game plan is to stay in a place where I can cook for myself on occasion and enjoy the wonderful fresh produce and cured meats and cheese I find on my travels.

  9. Debbie says:

    My mouth is watering. Hope to see the recipe very soon.

  10. Rosa says:

    Ciao to you Sabrina;
    “La Trattoria” is the place to visit if you are looking for real genuine food and flavour, food is actually cooked right on the spot. That’s why the presentation and the bowl as you said was far from beeing a designers choice. But your key word, “the aroma” you know what you were about to eat was no doubt going to be delicious.

  11. Rosetta says:

    Looking forward to tasting your soup, sounds very delicious!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Sub,

    Amazing blog! you really captured your Italy experience. It was quite unfourtunate that the selection was not to your expectations. Your soup sounded so delicious even I will try it once you crack the recipe of course- and you will!!
    Next adventure France!! I’m def coming. We’ll hang out with Ratatouille.

    Cheers

  13. Stephanie says:

    Sub,

    Amazing blog! you really captured your Italy experience. It was quite unfourtunate that the selection was not to your expectations. Your soup sounded so delicious even I will try it once you crack the recipe of course- and you will!!
    Next adventure France!! I’m def coming. We’ll hang out with Ratatouille.

    Ps LOVE that picture of you!

    Cheers

  14. It seems that people must have enjoyed a lot .. thats really important .

  15. danamccauley says:

    Apparently there is some good food to be found around Florence if you avoid the tourist traps:

    http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/travel/holiday_type/food_and_travel/article3503401.ece

    Shall we book tickets and head to Italy to check these places out Sabrina?

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