A Summer of Reconnecting

Greetings Everyone,

Like last year, I took a little break from writing during the summer months and fully focused on our many Summer Events. We also dedicated a lot of time to our two cafes at the museums and they were very busy.

Between events I found some time to take a little trip back home.  It had been over two years since my last visit, and I felt a need to reconnect with my roots and my family.  I also felt my family needed a well-deserved break after over a year of extreme growth at our company, with the new Café in Balboa and big developments on the catering side.

I had the privilege to work with so many great clients and organizations this summer.  There were lavish weddings, fashion events, a stunning private estate reception, and of course all of our Charity Galas that took us to some really cool venues. So to begin, I want to tell you about our “Party Of The Season” and why this event gets our award this year.

Private Dinner for the Ronald McDonald House Sponsors

Phil and Cheryl Stewarts, long time clients of mine and great supporters of the Ronald McDonald House, opened up their beautiful estate in La Jolla for the evening.  The estate is a stunning space and I feel one of the best homes in the entire county.

Great care and attention was brought to every detail.  And with that in mind, we wanted to create the best possible event for them by creating the perfect menu for the occasion.

Phil and I planned the menu together, and from the start I was looking forward to working with his favorite chef he was flying in from Texas, Jon Barrios.  Jon created some really cool and flavorful Hors d’Oeuvres while my crew and I prepared the Six Course Dinner.

The menu featured an Amuse Bouche of Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup topped with Yuzu Crème Fraiche and Dulcinea Cantaloupe.  We followed this with a Little Gem Butter Lettuce with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Candied Hazelnuts, complete with a Banyul’s Shallot Vinagrette.  For the third course, we served juicy Mana De Leon Scallops topped with American Caviar served over a colorful Lemon Mascarpone Risotto.  During dinner, the guests sipped Veuve Cliquot to a great performance by an internationally-acclaimed tenor flown to the U.S. by the Stewarts just for the evening.  By then the dinner with its unbelievable concert under the stars was going so well that the guests felt transported to the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

For the Main course, we prepared Wild Alaskan Halibut with Yellow Pepper Coulis served alongside Thyme Roasted Peewee Fingerling Potatoes and Oregon Wild Mushroom Ragout.  Of course we couldn’t forget a great cheese course featuring all Sustainable cheeses from California cheesemakers, “Andante Dairy,” with some local Figs, Champagne Grapes, Truffle Honey and a Port Wine Gelee.  The dinner ended with Warm Flourless Chocolate Cakes topped with Frangelico Whipped Cream.

What a night my friends!  The entire experience of working with people from Texas taught me a great lesson in Southern Entertainment and I will treasure that for future events.

Now we are off to the big Ronald McDonald House Gala, named “The Romp,” coming up Saturday October 2nd.  We will see everyone who attended the Sponsors Dinner and many more!  We predict the event will be sold out, so if you would like to attend, please purchase tickets soon here.

I look forward to seeing you there and celebrating a great cause with many friends….  Look out for a chic playground dining experience!

Our Trip to Italy

Since it was couple of years since we’d taken a vacation, Salem and I decided that, during our trip to Italy, we’d leave the kids  with my parents and spend a week in Capri and Positano.  And well, beside the fact that the Euro kicked my (you know what), the whole get-away was fabulous!

We stayed at the Caesar Augustus in Anacapri, which is hands-down one of the best places I’ve ever stayed.  Polished, elegant, authentic, and it has a million dollar view from the cliffs of Capri.

What is so interesting is that the family who owned this Hotel rented out the operation for 15 years to a company that almost ran the hotel to the ground.  Then Mr. Paolo Signorini, the oldest son of the family stepped in, fired the company and took over  by remodeling the entire property and raising it to the highest standards on the Island.

Me with Chef Giuseppe and Mixologist Massimo

It is a must see, with an all-organic Vegetable Garden where Chef Giuseppe (another one!) cultivates every vegetable and fruit used for his menus.  We would be laying by the pool and he would run by with a basket of Zucchini Blossoms, then 10 minutes later, there’d be an amazing tray of lightly fried zucchini blossoms passed among the hotel guests.  Such an unexpected treat!

Also one of the most impressive parts of the Hotel is the bar where Massimo creates cocktails with 100% passion and commitment to seasonal fruits and top spirits.  We were thrilled  to be invited for “Aperitivo Time,” where we had the most delicious Peach Bellini, and we were able to take a few moments to get to know the Signorini family.  When you have a chance to visit Capri, this is the place where you want to stay!

RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Bucatini All’Amatriciana

Now, the whole idea of going back home was to reconnect with my roots, which of course involves the food I love.  So I went to visit my very first boss, Ottavio, the man who gave me the opportunity to start doing what I do today.  Twenty-five years ago he took me under his wing and taught me some of the most valuable things I know in the culinary field.

We chatted for a while, and he was so proud to tell me that a Swedish TV Network had been in town and did a complete documentary of Cori, my hometown.  Among the different topics in the documentary was Ottavio’s cooking demonstration of the Bucatini All’Amatriciana, one of the most popular pasta dishes in Lazio (the region where Cori is located).  I had watched Ottavio make this pasta dish for years, but I’d never seen him on TV.  I was so proud that my mentor had made it to the screen!

In Ottavio’s honor, I’ve made the Bucatini All’Amatriciana this month’s recipe.  You might think, “Yeah, pasta.  I will try it out.  It should be EASY to make.”  But just like any other worthwhile venture, you need a special process to make it just right.

To help you get the best results, I am guiding you through the preparation by video.  If you like the idea, I will prepare a video demonstration each time I have a new featured recipe.  Just enter a comment below to let me know and I will start doing so.


Bucatini All’Amatriciana

1 lb  Bucatini or Perciatelli (De Cecco Brand)
3 Tbsp  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 Slices  Guanciale or Thick Sliced Pancette
2 Basket  Cherry Tomatoes
2 Cups  Puree Tomatoes (Pomi Brand)
1 Tsp  Red Chili Flakes
1/2 Cup  White Wine
1 Cup  Grated Pecorino Romano
Salt and Pepper to Taste
4 portions

Heat Up Olive Oil in a skillet, dice the Guanciale or Pancetta and add to the oil at high heat.  Remove the meat once the meat starts getting brown and crisp and place on a paper towel. Add tomatoes to the hot oil, splash the wine and reduce the heat. Add chili flakes and seasoning and let simmer for a few minutes, then add the puree tomatoes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water (make sure to salt the water.) Once cooked, drain and add to the sauce.
Add the Guanciale back and mix with the pasta.  Add half a cup of the Pecorino, divide the pasta in four plates, and top it off with remaining cheese and enjoy!


If you’re not familiar with “Culture and Cocktails” at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, you must check it out.  It is one of the most fun parties in town and it happens a few times a year.  The next Culture and Cocktails on Thursday, September 30th will be inspired by Toulouse Lautrec with a French cabaret theme.

During the first part of the evening, you’ll enjoy cocktails and stroll through the galleries.  You’ll be entertained by music and live dance performances in the spirit of the cabaret.  Then at 9:00 pm, it’s show time!  I am extremely honored to announce that we are going to be hosting the “After Party” at our Sculpture Court Café space.  We’ll be serving a sidewalk Bistro with some really cool French Inspired Club Plates, as well as some cool and trendy cocktails.  Our favorite DJ Scott Thompson will get everyone going on the dance floor.

I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but I will tell you that our partners in crime, Haydee and Fred from Concepts Event Design, will make the place look fabulous.  We look forward to seeing you there!  Please visit the SDMA website here to purchase the admission tickets and remember that parking will be tight. I recommend you arrange a cab ride and take the opportunity to party safely with no worries!

Venerdi Veloce

Ok… enough of food, travels and parties.  Let’s talk about another big part of my life…sports and fitness.

Last year my friend Bob and I came up with the idea to start a bike ride that would be an opportunity to meet  people, ride, chat, network and have a great time.

We call the ride VENERDI VELOCE (Italian for Fast Friday), and we meet every Friday at 7.30 am in front of our favorite bike shop, CALIFORNIA BICYCLES.  Shop owner Kevin and his son Jason always welcome us with smiles and great appreciation for supporting their local business.

I’m happy to announce that Bob and I are celebrating Venerdi Veloce’s one year anniversary!  Now that we’ve reached this important milestone, we’re thinking ahead with a plan for creating a legitimate cycling club in La Jolla.  We want to start the club for three reasons:

  1. To encourage more people to enjoy the benefits of cycling
  2. To start an elite circle of athletes who want to start racing for the Club
  3. To give back to charity by creating some key events and fund raisers related to the sport

Though we have some sponsors lined up, we will always be looking for more partners.  And we need to know from our La Jolla residents if you like the idea of having an Official Cycling Team to represent our community.  If you do, you’re invited to write me, to submit a comment, and of course to join us in Venerdi Veloce any Friday to see what this is all about…

For the next Giornale, look for the Holiday Season Menu update.  We are finalizing our food selection, and we will send out all the information  in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, please remember to look at your Fall, Holiday and New Year entertainment plans and let us know right away [click to link] if you will need our catering services.   if you know that you will need our catering services please let us know right away.  This is going to be a busy season, and we’re already quickly filling up our December calendar.

Until then – –

Mangia Bene e Vivi Meglio

Truly Yours,