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Giro in Italia 2009

This year's tour brought four top chefs, two from Las Vegas and two from the Bay Area. Everyone had a blast, and hopefully learned a lot and connected with the producers of the olive oil that they use. Everything worked like clockwork; well, maybe except for the driver's propensity for swiping things with the wide van on very narrow streets. The chefs were:    Ben Cohn, Chef de Cuisine at Spruce Restaurant in San Francisco.

    Peter Rudolph, Executive Chef at Madera Restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park.
    Shirley Chung,  At the time, Chef di Cucina at Carnevino at the Palazzo in Las Vegas
    Jason Neve,     Chef di Cucina at B & B Ristorante at the Venetian in Las Vegas Also traveling along was Laura Deutsch, a freelance writer who is doing a piece about the tour and it effect it has on chefs and the cooking.

Enjoy this photo essay of the trip and don't miss the video of these chefs hand making pici on the Select Videos page. Great fun! 

When you are in San Francisco or Las Vegas be sure to check-out their restaurants. 


Things Kicked Off in Rome with a Dinner at Trattoria Pereilli in Testaccio. In the same family since 1911, Perilli is the quintessential example of old Roman cuisine epitomized in this x-slaughterhouse district which specializes in cucina quinto quarto, the fifth quarter - referring to the animal innards that were given to the workers as partial pay and are now a mainstay of Roman cuisine.

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The day before, a visit to Volpetti, Rome's best specialty food purveyor
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Our waiter at Perilli serving-up the Bucatini Amatriciana
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Yum, Peter's right in there
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"What do you think they put in there?" mused Ben , nicknamed
Discreto
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Now this is Carbonara!
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Pajata - Baby lamb's intestines - the mother's milk cooks to a delicate ricotta; usually served with rigatoni, but with two pastas we have it in a beautiful spicy tomato sauce
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Puntarelle - a Roman specialty bitter green with an anchovy, oil and vinegar sauce. Super refreshing with all the rich meats.
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A full table having a good time; Shirley & Jason, then Jason's wife Heather then Zach
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Zach Allen, Mario Batali' & Joe Bastianich's Executive Chef in Las Vegas joined us for the kick-off dinner
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After plating the pasta, someone gets the service bowl to eat from. Zac got the Amatriciana; I got the Carbonara


Half way between our long journey from Rome to Puglia, we are refreshed with a stunning lunch at Ristorante Oasis Sapori Antichi in the tiny town of Vallesaccarda in the Campagna coutryside. The Fischetti family delivers impeccable hospitality and totally delicious food founded in old recipes fashioned from local ingredients, earning them a Michelin star.

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The gracious dining room at Oasis
 
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Fava Purée with truffles
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Local prosciutto and lardo made on premise with spectacular fresh ricotta
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A visit to the kitchen
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Shirley with two generations of chefs, headed by mother Giuseppina


The Estate of Francesco De Padova in lower Puglia, maker of exquisite organic olive oils.

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The team with Sig. De Padova, left, and Franco Cazzola, Director of Sales, center
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The harvest in full swing
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The chefs enjoying learning about olive harvesting
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Sig. De Padova and Shirley checking the olives
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Sig. De Padova laid a wreath of olives on Shirley - here with Jason
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Fresh from the spigot! Delicious newly pressed olive oil.
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A visit to De Padova's wine canteen made Peter happy
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A trio of estate grown peppers. The cute ones on the right are dubbed "bombetti" & we would love to import them if they could grow enough
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View from the roof of the new masseria. Beautiful
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Ancient olive trees take on beautiful and strange forms - while still providing abundant fruit after hundreds of years


Lunch in the charming fishing village of Gallipoli at Antico Ristorante Marechiaro, which is built on stilts right over the amazingly clear Ionian Sea and which serves the freshest fish in great abundance.

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Blue is the color of the fishing fleet in Gallipoli
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Ristorante Marechiaro
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The grilled fish followed fritti & 4 or 5 courses of crudo - all dressed in fragrant olive oil
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What a nice afternoon!
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One of 200 pauses in a cafè for a refresher


A night in Ascoli at the beautiful Villa dei Priori where we are hosted by Marchello Priori and his lovely girlfriend Assunta Rasicci who prepares a delicious regional dinner.  The next morning we head to Norcia, famed for the production of cured meats.

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The dining room at Villa dei Priori, table set with Assunta's beautiful breakfast cakes
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Ansuini, the most famous Norcineria, cured meat shop, in Norcia
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A view towards the Porta Romana in pretty Norcia
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An autostrada stop. Check out the solar panel shade guards
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"Sure we just ate, and we are headed for dinner, but can you resist one of these panini?"


Frantoio Olivestri in Petrignano del Lago, Umbria where the chefs collaborate on a big feast for the family and friends of the Vestri family.

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This is it, the olio nuovo. The chefs used this entire tin preparing the dinner - and were giddy doing do

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This is Graziella, the owner of the working farm agriturismo La Quercia del Pentimento, who stepped in and helped the chefs make pici. See the great video below

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The beautiful emerald green olio nuovo being poured on a fresh late-season salad
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Pinzimonio
Fresh tender vegetables with the green olio nuovo for dipping and beautiful sea salt from Trapani in Sicily
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Simple bruschetta: open fire grilled, a quick rub of garlic, olio nuovo and sea salt. Yum, Yum
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Ben with his beans. Beautiful Gigantica white beans cooked with a prosciutto bone and lots of green olio nuovo
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Peter taking the huge and beautiful veal roast off the bone
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The veal roast on the table
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OK, Jason is having fun
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Guess Discreto loosened up
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Kris & "Ooward" with the chefs. Since Italians have trouble pronouncing Howard, I quickly became know as Ooward
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Relaxing in the agriturismo. Evenings always ended with a snack, wine and, of course, lots of grappa
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Lunch in Cortona at the beautiful Tuscan restaurant La Bucaccia where chef Agostina makes great regional food while her husband Romano deftly works the front of the house
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Guido and Fiorella Vestri with the chefs and Kris & Howard
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Oops, I guess someone closed the door too hard!


Our final stop is the compound of Agribosco, producers of Italy's best organic beans and grains, where the gracious Cinti family hosts us in their home for a delicious truffle dinner, prepared by Alba Cinti.

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Pietro Cinti giving a very informative discournce on the different kinds of farro
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Pellets manufactured by Agribosco from the organic waste. They are used for fuel. Likewise, we learned the waste from olive oil production is similarly processed. Sustainability is way of life here.
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At the Cinti home, Pietro is shaving fresh white truffles for a very happy Peter
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White Truffles on Alba's simple but elegant risotto. Perfect!
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One last toast!

Check-out the stories and photos from some of our other trips:

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 (some day I will assemble 2007 & 2008)
There are also some fun videos on the Select Videos Page


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