Celebrating People Who Do Things the Right Way
I recently returned from Italy, a quick trip to help my Mother with one of her culinary adventures (peggymarkel.com). Lucky for me it was my favorite trip that she leads, a week sailing around the islands of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast. I’ts insanely satisfying to jump in the warm waters of the Mediterranean in June and eat fresh lemon pasta on a sailboat overlooking the backside of Capri. Thanks, Mom, glad you needed help.
What always sticks with me after a trip to Italy (and a night in London), are how the people there are doing things of immense quality. It’s the exact kind of inspiration I need as I’m starting down this road with my wine business, Buona Notte.
Over the next few weeks, I will share a bit about my favorite places I visited, what spoke to me about those places, and how the people did things which make the experience stick with me and inspire me. I will include a simple recipe to go with each experience as well.
Home Cooking and Family with Mamma Lucia and Elio Scotto Di Perta
Mamma Lucia is the best Italian home cook I know. She is so kind. Due to her smoking habit, she has a raspy voice deeper then Pavarotti. She loves the Bold and the Beautiful almost as much as her family.
Elio is a gentlemen, a gardener, and perhaps the most charming person you will ever meet. The more wine he gives you (and drinks himself) the better his English becomes. Lazio is his favorite soccer team.
Really, one could write a whole book about happiness featuring these two gems. At least from the outside, they have it figured out. They are the mother and father of my friend Antonio, the owner of Blue Dream Charter, the sailboat charter company my Mom works with on the tiny little island of Procida in the Bay of Naples. The Scotto Di Perta family goes back five generations on Procida… at least. The island has less than two square miles but has more than 10,000 people and the only nautical high school in the world. They basically run the shipping industry worldwide. I spent five months on the island ten years ago working with Antonio on the boats. I spent every one of those days eating lunch with Mamma Lucia and Elio. It made being there worth it.
Mamma Lucia cooks a meal for ten people every day. At most six usually show up. She has three sons. (When I was there, she had four.) The lunch menu included, but was not limited to: fried sardines, rabbit, pasta with fresh tomato sauce, artichokes, potato salad with green beans, lemon salad, fresh favas with spec and pecorino, and tuna preserved in olive oil.
The best thing about eating there is the fish Elio plucks from the sea each morning. The veggies and lemons come from the organic garden behind the house. The rabbit is also from the garden and is killed fresh for lunch. I ate so much rabbit my nose started to twitch. I loved every little bit of it.
Their garden is perfection. Silty volcanic soil makes for zippy sweet tomatoes and spicy peppers. The pergola is hung with massive lemons which are famous in that area. Procida lemons are called “limoni pane” or bread lemons because of their abundant pith and may be the biggest in the world.
The classic scenario we’ve joked about for the last ten years is that every day I would insist on going to have lunch at the house with Mamma Lucia no matter how much work had to be done on the boats. At lunch, Elio would start pouring wine into my glass and yelling, “Grhaaam, grape juice.” I simply couldn’t refuse. It was all homemade wine that Elio and his cousin made every year. A mix of Lambrusco and who knows what. He served it cold, and it's an inspiration for anything I make; that's for sure. An hour later, a half hour late for work, Elio and I finally stopped eating, drinking, and laughing; I would return to work after two espressos from the local cafe in the port. I felt like part of the family.
My take away from them is simple; I want to be as happy as those two. They are neither rich nor poor, but they are generous to no end. They live to provide for their family and friends. Two of the sons still live at the house (I would too if I could) and the other lives just down the street. They have three grandkids and counting. The family eats together a few times a week, and most the food comes from the garden, the sea, or a friend’s house on the island.
I declare that being rich is not the end goal. I want to be wealthy, healthy, and have the opportunity to cook a meal for my family from the garden I tend. Fishing every day would be beautiful too!
Here’s one of my favorite recipes:
Artichokes Alla Mamma Lucia
Serves four People, or two hungry boat captains.
Takes about a four cigarettes or an hour to prepare.
1 Bunch of parsley (Italian flat leaf)
2 Cloves of garlic
2 Whole small dried peppers
4 TBLS. Extra virgin olive oil
1 TBLS. Salt
1 Tsp. Crushed red pepper
First, cut off the very top half inch of the artichokes where most of the prickers come together. Pluck the leaves of the parsley and peel the garlic. Take the parsley, whole head of garlic, dried pepper and shove it in the small opening at the center of the artichoke that you have created. Be careful not to prick yourself! Artichokes are a dangerous veggie. Close the artichoke back around the herbs as best you can. Place in a boiling pot of water with salt and oil, make sure the water in the pot covers the artichokes. Cook for 45 minutes, or until you can easily pluck a leaf of the artichoke.
Let it cool slightly and serve with a bit of good olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper as a sauce. Butter is an acceptable and delicious alternative to the olive oil, but Lucia might smack you with a wooden spoon.