Category Archives: Family Stories

Eating Brains Will Not Make You Smarter!

Jen picked a wonderful restaurant in the heart of Verona, romantically hidden from site, lending the feeling of authenticity (as opposed to “touristy”).  We were visiting the amazing city for the day (read all about our visit HERE) and had pre-selected, Ristorante Greppia as our place for pranzo (lunch).

The small street leading to Ristorante Greppia

We were instantly taken in by the charm and warmth of the restaurant.  The wait staff elevated our excitement for the meal to come by extending great courteousness and hospitality (indulging me as I took photos with this blog in mind). Continue reading Eating Brains Will Not Make You Smarter!

Wherefore art thou Julieta? Oh… Your Home is in Verona

I know its really, “O Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore art thou Romeo?” but it’s not his home in the middle of Verona that draws thousands of visitors each day; so I took a little creative liberty with the title.  More on our visit to this popular tourist destination in a moment.  Let’s back up and set the stage…

Soaking up the view

Verona is a beautiful city in the Veneto region of Italy, in the Northeast Italy. The capital of Veneto is Venezia (Venice) – the world famous city built on canals.  While Venice is usually one of the most well-known destinations in this part of the country, it should not overshadow Verona – a charming and breathtaking city unto itself.  Since Jen’s parents bought their home in Como a few years ago, Verona has been on our “bucket list” of desired destinations. Continue reading Wherefore art thou Julieta? Oh… Your Home is in Verona

Who Needs Petting a Zoo?

Our little bumblebee has been busy buzzing all over town – and we were right behind her with cameras and video rolling!  Here are a couple of her recent adventures.  Coincidentally, both stories fit in with the Easter theme perfectly; a fortunate blog occurrence given the upcoming Easter holiday.

Julia’s Egg

Julia’s Egg
Our little family likes it’s morning rituals.  Jen and I enjoy drinking our American coffee (probably the one habit from home we don’t want to give up). Julia likes to chose her own breakfast and then eat it herself (even though half ends up on the floor).   Continue reading Who Needs Petting a Zoo?

A Romantic Valentine’s Lunch… On a FARM?!

I just tell you – I am quite the romantic!  I mean, so much so that I didn’t have a card, a plan or a clue this past Valentine’s day.  But I just knew something would work out!

“Sure hope Daddy has something special planned for us”

I figured, what better way to start a romantic Valentine’s day than finalizing one of our last major tasks – car shopping.  Thanks to my new best friend – the internet – we found a car in a town about 40 minutes away.  So we piled in and headed over.  After some intense negotiating (and let me tell you – your author was winning like Tyson versus Spinks) we built up an appetite.  We asked the salesperson for directions to a local pizzeria (having not eaten delicious Italian-style pizza for a full week).  He asked if we wanted pizza, or we wanted to eat like a local.  That was a no-brainer and we answered at the same time in Italian (my accent, perfect – Jen’s not so much) that we wanted to eat like the locals.  He gave us directions and we set our coordinates to GO.

La Pioppa
“Welcome to La Pioppa”

Continue reading A Romantic Valentine’s Lunch… On a FARM?!

A Culinary Odyssey of Epic Proportions!

No, we didn’t oversell it in the title.  This meal was

LEGEN…wait for it…DARY!

Like Odysseus who fought heroically in the Trojan war and embarked on a long journey rife with cyclops, lotus-eaters, sea monsters and hostile giants; we too fought our own heroic battle of hunger and embarked on a journey rife with wrong turns, communication challenges, unpaved roads and hostile baby cries.  In the end however, it worked out better for us than Odysseus.
We decided to visit the neighboring town of  Lecco and grab a bite to eat.  When I quickly opened my browser and selected a restaurant from Trip Advisor based solely on someones comment “good food, family friendly” – we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  We plotted our course in the GPS and set out to eat at Osteria Belvedere Montalbano, a thirty minute-minute drive.

Lecco – a lake town on the east “leg” of Lake Como
A panoramic of the lake that I stitched together – the view on our way to the restaurant

Thirty-five minutes later, we pulled up.  To a house.  This couldn’t be right.  We tried again.  Twenty minutes later we ended up in the woods.  Hmmm???  Twenty five minutes later we pulled up again.  To another house.  How many Via (Street) Montalbano’s could there be?!  Jen dug a little deeper and translated a few google posts.  She discovered that the restaurant is in fact, in the woods.  So we were right when we were in the woods???  We tried that route again and hit a dirt path that looked to be traveled only by horses.  As frustrated as you are reading this, you can imagine our displeasure.  We’d had enough… time to throw in the towel. Continue reading A Culinary Odyssey of Epic Proportions!

Easy and Delicious Marinara Pasta Sauce

Well, we have heard a lot from Greg so I thought it was time for me (Jen) to give this blogging a go.  I have had a lot of people ask me how to make sauce.  Growing up in an Italian family this was a staple in our house.  I didn’t even know until college that most people buy pasta sauce from a jar!  Sorry, but… yuck.

I am by no means an expert cook but I have had many very talented woman in my life that have taught me a lot.  Until recently everything I know has been taught to me by my nonna (grandma), my mother and my mother-in-law, who are all incredibly talented in the kitchen.

Even though my Mom isn’t Italian she learned from the best Italian cook (my nonna) how to prepare all of my Dad’s favorite Italian meals.  In the beginning of their marriage she made all the foods she grew up eating – good Ohio cuisine.  This consisted of meat and potato cooking such as meat loaf and casseroles.  Don’t get me wrong, all these foods are delicious… just not to my Dad.  It wasn’t until maybe a year or so of eating this food that my Dad admitted he missed his mother’s cooking and my Mom’s path to creating mouth watering Italian dishes began.  One of the best things she learned from my Nonna was how to prepare Sugo (sauce).  My Nonna’s recipe requires a lot of chopping and it is time consuming to make.  Since I have been living in Como I have had the opportunity to learn from another very talented woman, my Zia (Aunt) Claudia.  She recently taught me a quick and easy way to make delicious sugo with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator.  I hope you enjoy the sauce as much as everyone here enjoys eating it. Continue reading Easy and Delicious Marinara Pasta Sauce

A Sunday Stroll

What’s a good thing to do on a Sunday?  We thought a stroll by the lake might be the perfect activity.  Jen’s uncle Franco had been telling us about a lake nearby that is an exact 5k and perfect for walking and stroller pushing because it has a paved walkway.
Lago di Segrino

Jen and I had ventured off on our own half a dozen times this past week trying to find this nearby lake. First, we went to Lago di Alserio, because that was the closest.  We discovered a charming new town and another “happy hour” place to try – but alas, the lake was not suited for walking.  Next, we tried Lago di Montorfano and found a place to rent boats and a fun-looking beach bar for the summer time.  But no walking trail.  After a few more failed attempts, we realized that we were never going to find this place on our own, given that this area of Italy is often referred to as the Lake District of Italy.  So Sunday morning we asked Franco if he would show us on google maps the location of the map.  Instead, he volunteered to join us and personally direct us in the car.  And fortunately, Claudia offered to stay home and cook us lunch for our return! Continue reading A Sunday Stroll

Saturday Market in Como

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday there is a market on the north side of Como.  It exists just outside the old fort wall that surrounds the original city.  There is a collection of over a hundred vendors, most which arrive in their vans and vend from open doors.

Vans – vending on the other side

We strolled through and decided there was nothing we needed before moving on to a late afternoon snack (more on that in a subsequent post).  Below you’ll see a collection of the random items you can purchase if you so choose. Continue reading Saturday Market in Como

Christmas in Italy

OK, we realize it’s nearly February and people are more inclined to think about Valentine’s Day than Christmas… but it’s still cold and snowy and hey, who couldn’t use a little holiday cheer any time of year?!  So, if you’ll forgive us for posting about Christmas at the end of January, than you’ll certainly excuse the fact that these pictures were taken last year!

Christmas is such a special time in Italy.  We didn’t want to miss a posting about this wonderful event and some of the local traditions.  When we arrived  on January 4th, all the lights and decorations were still present but we didn’t have an opportunity to photograph anything.  Therefore, we had to use some from last year’s library.

Lake Como’s Duomo – lit up at night

Starting in early December, you’ll find lights and decorations sprinkled throughout each piazza and cobblestone street you encounter.  In front of every church you’ll see a presepio (nativity scene)  that is always presented wonderfully and illuminated each night.  If you venture into the suburbs (or look up toward the windows in most cities), you’ll see hundreds of little Santas trying to climb their way into someone’s home.  And you’re sure to hear “Buon Natale” (Merry Christmas) at every turn. Continue reading Christmas in Italy

Touching Down in Italy

We knew the deadline was coming for months… January 3rd was staring us in the face for a long time.  January 3rd rustled up feelings of excitement (me and Jen), nervousness (Jen…ok, me a little) and stress (mainly me).

It got here before we were ready.  We still had a list a mile long on January 2nd and I don’t think either of us were as prepared as we thought to say goodbye to our friends and family.  Jen’s girlfriends threw an incredible send-off hosted at Mike and Aubrey Ciatto’s home.

Aubrey and Mike’s beautiful home – nice touch with the flag

And then… all of a sudden, we woke up on January 3rd.  We hugged our first set of goodbyes to my parents, Julia’s “Pop-Pop and Grandma” in Darnestown, and got a little misty when my usually stoic parents both shed a couple tears. Continue reading Touching Down in Italy