I love, love, love Italy! Compared to our dear Deutschland, Italy is simply peaceful. Even in the most touristy of towns, when the wine flows freely, time seems to stand still. But this last trip south, I was on a mission and had very little time to let the hours pass by as I lingered in a café. We have titled it the Weekend of Pasta, Purses and Pottery. My mom was visiting us during the month of July and we took Lindsey and Lauren on a whirlwind excursion to Nove and Soave in the northern region of the country.
PASTA Good Italian food is, above all else, fresh. Tomatoes, spices, herbs and pasta all combine to provide a party for your mouth. In northern Italy we’ve discovered a little gem of a dish: faggotini—a pear pasta served with a white sauce. There are two outstanding restaurants near the Army post in Vicenza that battle for being the best at pear pasta: Aeolia’s and Al Portego. So, we sampled both on our trip. The presentation and overall ambiance at Aeolia’s can’t be beat. Copper pots line the walls and hang from the restaurant’s ceilings and a fabulous courtyard with water features and sculptures enhance the patio seating. The faggotini was good. The sauce was thick and the pasta wasn’t overcome by the sweetness of the pear. We topped off our meal with espresso and good conversation. On our second night we dined at Al Portego. They’ve recently redone the patio, enlarging the space and taking steps to make the atmosphere a bit more enjoyable. (the view used to be marred by the large, unattractive parking lot) They still have a way to go in the atmosphere department but the table wine is cheap and the location is very close to the post. The faggotini here is just a notch above Aeolia’s. The pasta is stuffed with pear and chopped walnuts which add that extra nuttiness to the dish. The sauce is still creamy but thinner and so you don’t leave stuffed when dinner is complete.
PURSES Buying leather in Italy is one of the great deals around. Florence is known for their buttery leather gloves and jackets. Here in northern Italy, we like to stop by the showroom of Nicoli. Nicoliitalia.com The small shop features both current season handbags as well as those reduced for quick sale. Last year on our visit, the top of the line purses ranged from 100-150 euros; this time, all of the “expensive” purses were on sale: one for 60 euro or two for 100 euro. We caved in and bought four purses all together. This year’s colors were simply mouth-watering: orange-tangerine, blueberry, and apple green. Nicoli’s address: VIA PIAVE 18, 36031 DUEVILLE
POTTERY Nove is well known among military wives for its abundance of pottery shops that fulfill orders for Lenox , Tiffany and Vietri. In fact, at the VBC shop, in addition to buying complete sets of dishes, you can duplicate popular magazine layouts for tablescapes from stores like Crate and Barrel. We know this because on the shelves next to the featured pottery were magazine clippings showing the place settings being advertised. We spent a good deal of time on our first day determining which pattern to select. It became overwhelming and I decided to table my decision for the night and sleep on it. (I went back on day 2 and purchased Lennox Butler’s Pantry) While the village of Nove offers over a dozen pottery shops, there are only three that I frequent: VBC, Larry’s and Ancora. And, I always buy the most at VBC, time and time again. The prices are good and the selection is extensive. The draw for Larry’s is the ability to have custom painting done on your pieces (but then, you need a good friend to mail the items to you once they are finished).
Our favorite shops:
Ancora no website; address via Martini 26/28, Nove – 36055
No trip to Italy would be complete without some wine. We stopped at the “wine gas station” across from Camp Ederle to fill our 2 liter bottles with table wine. This is one of the best deals for wine enthusiasts: a liter costs 1.30 euro here and for lazy afternoons and simple dinners, the taste is perfect. And, making our way back to Germany on the A4, we stopped in the town of Soave and headed to the Rocca Soave boutique winery. Their tasting bar is hosted by friendly English-speaking staff and features some of their high end wines (be sure to request a taste of Amarone, their signature wine, which sells for 27 euro a bottle) Because Rocca Soave has a wide price range, it makes for a good place to stock up on table wines as well as some nice dinner wines. Don’t forget to toss in a couple bottles of the exclusive party wines–you won’t be disappointed.
Rocca Soave http://www.cantinasoave.it/News.aspx?prd=471&lng=1