“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Memories of Ischia: The Food, Part Uno: Lunch on the terrace

Last summer, I spent a month in Italy. Two of those weeks were spent on the stunning island of Ischia, where I was studying Opera. When most people want to spend some time on a resort island in Italy, they often go the Amalfi Coast or nearby Capri, not even knowing of Ischia. Ischia looked to me as I imagine the Garden of Eden to have looked. My sole purpose of being in Ischia was to study, but of course, a girls got to eat. So one of the many perks of being on the island was the amazing, fresh food.


During the week, I would wake up, have a light breakfast, take a walk, go to lessons from 9-12, go back to the room for a swim, lunch on the terrace, take a quick nap, swim again, take a walk, shop and go back for more lessons from 6-9 and then have dinner, followed by another late evening stroll. It was heavenly.

One of my favorite things about our room was that we had a terrace overlooking the hotel’s pool, lounge area, palm trees and to the right, you had a stunning view of the mountains. Where better to enjoy lunch?  We would eat in our bathing suits with our sunglasses on, overlooking all the beauty that Ischia had to offer. It was sort of a picnic style lunch, but this was no standard picnic.

Most mornings before class my mother and I would take a walk to the local supermarket and shop for that day’s lunch, we wanted everything to be nice and fresh. We would get an assortment of meat, cheese, nuts, bread, tomatoes, beans, etc. This was a typical lunch for us in Ischia. Other days we went to the local cheese shop and got a mix of all the lovely cheese they had to offer for the day.

Come lunch time, we would open the terrace doors and set our table. Cheese on one plate, meat on another, a bowl of nuts, a tray of bread and a bowl of fresh tomatoes and beans and a small cup for pesto.

We would take from the mix and make our own plates. Fresh mozzarella on one side. When you cut into it, it was like butter. A small piece of smoked scamorza, which is similar to mozzarella, but dry. A slice of fresh ricotta, which we would eat spread on the tarillis. I have to admit, I became somewhat obsessed with these particular tarallis while in Italy. I have had them in New York, but never like this. Tarallis are a classic Italian snack food; they are a cracker similar in texture to a breadstick. They can be sweet or savory. These particular ones were savory, made with olive oil and almonds.
My mom would make a salad of cannellini beans, tomatoes, olive oil and herbs. The tomatoes we ate while in Ischia, were honestly the best tomatoes I have ever had in my life. So plump and juicy, they have spoiled me for anything else. There were all of these lovely little gourmet shops around Ischia that sold pasta, oils, cookies and these wonderful little packets of seasonings, which we used for the salad. We would put a little drizzle of pesto over all of the food. The fresh pistachios added a nice crunch to all of the creamy cheeses. And a small slice of Parma cotto rounded out the meal

Sitting out in the blazing sun (don’t worry, we always wore sunscreen), overlooking the view and eating the freshest, most delicious food was truly something I will not soon forget.

Buon Appetito!

P.S. If any of you have been to Ischia, I would love to hear from you or if you have a particular memory of a certain meal or food when you’ve traveled, let me know! Grazie!