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Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Meal Made in Heaven

A great meal is the nectar of the gods. It’s heavenly. Sometimes it’s better than sex. I love writing books about chefs and cooks. Such fun.

All four of my grandparents were from the Abruzzo region of Italy. My grandmothers and my Italian mother-in-law were terrific cooks. However, of all the wonderful meals I’ve eaten through the years, one stands out above the rest.

In 2006, my husband and I traveled to Abruzzo, Italy, to join a tour run by my Australian cousin, Luciana. A cousin from Arizona joined us. Luciana had just started her tour company, and this was the maiden tour.

As we traveled through mountainous, wildly beautiful Abruzzo, we ate the most scrumptious food every day. Luciana had arranged the meals and the elegant wines to complement them. We ate at several agrituristicas, farms that grow and serve organic foods and are subsidized by the Italian government in an effort to bring more tourism into the lesser-known regions of Italy.

One such agrituristica, Ill Nespolo, was run by a husband and wife, Maria Angela, from the province of Calabria, and Gabriele, from Abruzzo. Here’s the menu for that meal:

Antipasto consisting of home-made sausage, cheeses with honey and saffron, marinated vegetables, bruschetta with olive paste.

Primo(First Course)-Gnocchi al pomodoro-gnocchi alle verdue
(Gnocchi with tomato sauce and with green vegetable sauce)

Secondo(Second Course)-Petto di tacchino con arancia e rucola (turkey breast with orange and rocket. Rocket is similar to arugula)

Dolce(Dessert)-Home-made biscotti with honey

All served with local Abruzzese wines.

Our hosts provided us with a surprise dish--saffron gnocchi with fresh-shaved truffle. Oh. My. God. That was the best food, hands down, I’ve ever eaten. Ever. In my life.

All the food we ate on that trip was incredible, delicious, wonderful. And the wines were exquisite. But nothing compared to the heavenly delight of saffron gnocchi with fresh-shaved truffle. During the meal, my husband whispered that he might have to divorce me and marry Maria Angela because she cooked like an angel. Couldn’t blame him. I wanted to marry her myself. Our group went nuts over all the food at that meal, but especially the saffron gnocchi. There wasn’t a scrap left of anything when we were done. To this day, I can’t eat gnocchi because nothing will ever be as good as the dish I ate at Ill Nespolo.

Food is more than eating. It’s companionship and memories. I have the most marvelous memories of that trip and of the meals shared with family and new friends. I can’t think of that meal and the others without remembering Luciana and what a great host and tour guide she was. I got to spend more time with my cousin Kevin from Arizona, whom my husband and I traveled with to Australia a few years earlier; the friendship of the others in our group, all Australian, warmed me. As a group, we grew close, sharing some rough times, like when our van got stuck in road ruts in the Abruzzo wilderness. Or when we hiked one of Italy’s national parks on a scorching hot day. Or visited medieval monasteries carved into the sides of mountains. All the memories are bound together with the food we ate.

That trip, and the food, connected me to generations of my family who are as much a part of that region as the stark mountains and hillside villages.

Here are pictures of the gnocchi, the truffle being shaved, and our group. I’m second from left in the turquoise top, holding a glass, conversing with the man next to me.

My romantic suspense, Murder, Mi Amore, is set almost entirely in Italy. Every setting is authentic, based on places we visited and stayed during that 2006 trip. The meals I mention in that book are actual meals we ate. My very first published book, from Avalon Books, A Catered Affair,(reissued under the title A Catered Romance) featured a caterer heroine. Lots of food references in that book. My most current foodie book is Capri Nights, set on the Isle of Capri.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Abruzzo region of Italy or taking a trip there, check out Luciana’s website:

Check out all my books at:

Buy Murder, Mi Amore:

Danger. Deception. Desire.

Murder, jewel thieves and terrorists intrude on an American woman's Roman holiday; can she trust the sexy, mysterious Italian man who comes to her aid?

Buy A Catered Romance:

Delicious. Hot. Sensuous.

There's more than business brewing between two old high school flames...

Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her with no appetite for love. 

Buy Capri Nights:

Sensual. Sumptuous. Sizzling.

Love under an Italian sky.

A San Francisco sous chef discovers she might have bitten off more than she can chew when a scrumptious Italian man stirs up a recipe for romance on the delicious Isle of Capri.


Paris said...

What a fun post! Your tour (and the delicious food)sounded incredible:)I'm Italian on my father's side and many of the dishes I grew up with still provoke fond memories. My mom and grandmothers were good cooks too and the best times were spent around the table. Now I'm hungry for Italian food:)

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paris. I'm hungry for Italian food now too.

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