When our friends, Nathan and Danielle had come to visit this past spring – Danielle pointed at a unique outdoor-oven-with-a-chimney-thingy in a neighbors yard and asked what it was. I replied with all the confidence in the world that it was an Italian-style BBQ, but in reality I wasn’t positive. I had seen the smoke billowing through the chimney and I had seen many of these things in other neighbors yards – but I had never inquired about it. I asked my “go-to guy for all things Italian”… Jen’s uncle, Franco. He confirmed that it was in fact a BBQ and a fairly typical one in Italy. So, my educated guess was right. Whew!
Classic Italian style outdoor grill
I noticed shortly thereafter that the typical gas Weber grills we’re accustomed to using in the States are non-existent here. In fact, it’s possible you may see a round charcoal grill – but more often than not, it’s one of these large, permanent fixtures that people use to grill.
Jen may rule the kitchen around here, but I’ve always loved to rock the grill! As soon as I learned of this wonderful outdoor oven (it’s really more of a wood burning oven, than a simple grill) I knew that we absolutely needed one. However, we live in a condo with other families and we needed everyone’s approval before one of these beauties could bask in our communal yard. Franco became the champion of the project and pitched it at the very next board meeting. The grill got a unanimous vote and so when Jen’s parents were here visiting, we went to acquire the grill.
Franco, Dominic and Gianfranco discuss the various merits of certain grills with the clerk
Once again, I learned that things that are usually simple in the States (i.e. buying a car or procuring cell phones) is not necessarily the case in Italy. Buying a grill requires many visits to the store, many discussions, lots of construction and many more discussions. I was a little taken aback when Franco picked up cement and outdoor paint, realizing this was going to be a much bigger project than I originally expected.
Collaborating on the best way to load the grill into the truck
After our second or third visit to the hardware store, Dominic purchased the grill and we loaded it onto a friend’s truck. He helped us deliver it to the building and we carried the unbelievably heavy grill, piece by piece into the yard. A week or so into the project and we were only marginally complete. The grill lay disassembled, piles of cement and stone until we all returned from a quick jaunt to Scotland. By the time I was finally able to roll up my sleeves and start slinging cinder blocks – Jen’s parents had boarded a plane bound for the States. Sadly, Dominic never got to enjoy the BBQ that he helped acquire. That certainly didn’t stop his brother, Franco from encouraging me to send him images of our first festa (party). Brothers will be brothers!
Stefano helps mix the cement as Franco and I set the frame
Stage One complete!
Claudia scolds me in Italian for dunking Julia’s head
Julia thought this was the funniest thing
Julia wanted to help
We place the final piece
And we’re done! Our new grill is complete
My beautiful baby
The first party we had was a blast. Our neighbors below are from Naples – and boy, do they know how to party. They had extended family show up and bring delectable treats with them. I was pushed away from the grill as Aurelia and her husband, Stefano took over. As I watched a jaw-dropping amount of meat depart the grill – I was glad I had been sent to the sidelines. I know now that I was out of my depth. We feasted on pork ribs, beef ribs, lamb, porchetta, speck and various types of salsiccia (sausage). Our waistlines thanked us for the grilled vegetables – eggplant, zucchini, peppers and more. We devoured homemade salumi and cheeses that kept appearing each time I turned around. Of course, the cheeses were from all over Italy (“this is from Veneto… aged 24 months” or “my grandmother made this in Napoli… it stayed under ground for 36 months”). Hours later, the desserts (insert image of the best homemade tiramisu’s I’ve ever had) and then the coffee appeared. This was quickly followed by round after round of grappa (homemade, of course). All this – and it was just a first of many parties!
Franco shows me how it’s done
This was the first image that I sent to Dominic – I still feel guilty, but Franco and I got a kick out of it
Our first festa went late into the night
Since then, we’ve had many more outdoor parties – including a pizza party, where all the Napolitane baked their own bread and made pizza from scratch.
Setting the table
Now the food has arrived
All different types of homemade pizza
Various types of homemade cheeses from Napoli
Stefano got a mini-keg of beer
Aurelia teasing us for taking so many photos
The food was delicious
Cousins and nieces and nephews. Neighbors and friends – the best kind of pizza party
This seemed to be the easiest way to transport all the grappa
When my parents were here visiting, we decided it was another good time for a BBQ.
Everyone gathers around, doing various tasks
Julia plays a little calico (soccer)
Stefano gets a few lookey-loo’s while grilling (including my dad, who couldn’t understand a word being said)
Beef ribs get a nice sear while the charcoals glow beautifully
Jen’s cousins, Franco and Claudia and my parents
Aurelia telling me “smettere” (stop) with the photos. Her sister Angelina shows me the meat
The pot kept getting magically refilled with grilled meat before it was ever emptied
Everyone digs in
Julia was certainly no exception
Another late party
Another time, we wanted to bring all the family together and so all of Jen’s cousins came for a festa.
The younger generation of cousins pose together
I’ve used the grill for a simple meal for the five of us (myself, Jen and Julia along with Franco and Claudia) and not to be outdone by any Italians – I got about three times more meat than necessary.
Would you eat an entire picante peperoncino – Franco shows us how it’s done
All told, we’ve had a wonderful grilling season and while I’m anxious for the fall and then winter – I’m already looking forward to the time when I can dust off the ol’ tongs and have another Italian-style BBQ!