Thursday, April 28, 2011

From Dirt to Dinner with Mary Ann Esposito CiaoDC Podcast

"Eat seasonally and eat local...Italians have a reverance for is because of their connection to the land." -- Mary Ann Esposito

Learn the basics of cooking from dirt to dinner with the "Mamma" of Italian cooking on PBS' Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito TV Host/Chef, Mary Ann Esposito listen here. Start planting the seeds for your Italian garden with Guy Esposito's tips here. Bake a special Ciao Italia Mother's Day cake recipe here.

Buon Appetito and Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Don Pasquale, May 13-27 at The Kennedy Center Opera House

By Alyssa Loy, Special Features Contributor

Just in time for the La Dolce DC celebration, Gaetano Donizetti’s last opera, Don Pasquale, will play at The Kennedy Center as the final fully-staged opera of the Washington National Opera’s (WNO) 2010-2011 season.

Renowned American bass-baritone James Morris will be making his WNO debut – and steering away from his usual Wagnerian style to try his hand at comedy – as the title character, Don Pasquale. Pasquale’s nephew, Ernesto, will inherit his uncle’s fortune, but only if he gives up his one true love, Norina. The scheming but well-meaning Dr. Malatesta attempts to help Ernesto in a hilarious storyline that includes a fake marriage, disguise, pervasive overspending, and even a slap in the face.

Norina will be played by Russian soprano Ekaterina Siurina, who is also making her WNO debut. Dwayne Croft, the renowned American baritone best known for his countless performances at the Metropolitan Opera, will take on the delightful role of Dr. Malatesta. The WNO’s General Director, Plácido Domingo, will conduct this magnificent production from New York City Opera featuring a libretto by G. Ruffini.

The comedic story and the enchanting score make Don Pasquale one of Donizetti’s most memorable operas and a can’t-miss evening.

The three act comic opera will be performed in Italian with English supertitles and lasts two hours and 35 minutes. The show runs from May 13-May 27 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House. Tickets run from $55-$300 and are quickly selling out.

The production will also feature some corresponding events. There will be Pre-Performance lectures in the Opera House on both May 26 and May 27 at 6:15 p.m. There is no additional admission fee; guests simply must present a ticket or stub from any performance of Don Pasquale. There will also be an Artist Q&A following the evening performance on May 16 and the matinee performance on May 22.

Furthermore, when you purchase a ticket to Don Pasquale, you will automatically be entered into the Roman Holiday Sweepstakes sponsored by WNO and the Phillips Collection. The winner of this sweepstakes gets round-trip airfare for two to Rome, accommodations for five nights at Rome’s Hotel Anglo Americano, two tickets to Rome’s contemporary art museum MACRO, and a tour of Rome’s American Academy followed by lunch with members of the Academy. The sweepstakes closes on May 28, 2011 at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Top Five Picks for Easter Dinner in DC

By Brandy Simpson, Special Events Contributor

Looking for an Italian Easter Brunch or Dinner?

Look no further! Let CiaoDC help you celebrate a wonderful Easter morning at a great Italian restaurant. Here's our top five restaurant picks:

1. Bibiana 1100 New York Avenue, NW (Corner of 12th and H St) Washington, DC 20005

Named as one of Esquire's 20 "Best New Restaurants 2010", celebrate Easter morning in style with Bibiana. Bibiana is offering a traditional Italian lunch on Easter Sunday from 11AM to 3PM. At a set menu price of $45, you can enjoy a delicious three course meal. Special Easter menu items include Mozzarella di Bufala, Acetosa, L'agnello Pasquale, and Persico.

2. Dino 3435 Connecticut Avenue Washington, DC 20008

Stop by Dino from 11AM to 3PM Easter morning for a great Easter brunch. Dino has been named as the #1 Italian restaurant in DC by Washingtonian readers for two years running now. Dino will be offering a fantastic three course meal for $35 on Easter Sunday. Enjoy a great mix of Italian-American cuisine with menu items like torte di mela, budino di pane, and panini americano. Also, Dino offers specialties like Risotto al Nero di Seppia and Cinghiale.

3. Café Milano 3251 Prospect Street, NW Washington, DC 20007

Georgetown's upscale Café Milano is a terrific place to spend Easter morning. From 11:30AM to 3PM, you can get a fabulous three course meal. For your main dish, you can enjoy dishes like imported casereccia pasta with veal and San Marzano tomato ragout or braised veal cheeks in a primitivo sauce. For desserts, Café Milano is offering an assortment of Italian sweets like neapolitan pastiera wheat cake and colomba.

4. Potenza 1430 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20005

A 2010 Where the Locals Eat Best Italian Restaurant winner, Potenza pairs an old world ambiance with unique food. Open from 3PM to 10PM, Potenza is offering both its unique dishes and traditional Italian dinner dishes. Baked egg pizza and a citrus cured salmon board are just two of the special dishes that Potenza is serving. On the more traditional side, Potenza will also be serving risotto and cherry wood smoked ham. The Easter special menu prices range from $8 to $28.

5. Café Italia 519 South 23rd Street Arlington, VA 22202

For those of you just outside the District, drop by Arlington's Café Italia for a tasty brunch or dinner. Enjoy brunch at a price of $14.95 with a cocktail drink included or have a three course meal for dinner at the price of $24.95. Brunch is served from noon to 3:30PM and dinner is served from 3:30PM to 10PM. For brunch, try the nina nona sandwich or try the veal alla saltimbocca for dinner. Café Italia will also have live opera music on Saturday April 23, 2011 starting at 6:30PM.

Buona Pasqua!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fiola is Fantastica

Last Thursday night CiaoDC and one of its favorite italophiles ventured to try out DC's most promising new Italian restaurant, Fiola da Fabio Trabocchi.  Back in February, CiaoDC chatted live with Fabio and his wife about Fiola and Fabio's work at the National Gallery of Art in Caffe' Italia.  You can read the live chat transcript here.

Now, on to what you're all reading this post for: a run down of the glorious food we enjoyed at Fiola last Thursday.  To start, we ordered a 2007 Rosso Piceno from De Angelis in Le Marche region of Italy - the region where Fabio is from.  This wine was incredible, very smooth through the finish but not really fruity or sweet.  Pretty perfect to go with any dish.

I have to apologize for the lack of pictures of our antipasti.  I was so excited about them that I forgot to take pictures.  We had the grilled calamari with red peppers marinati in an agli-oglio sauce.  The calamari was done perfectly so that it was not an overpowering fishy taste but had a great texture - not tough, and it made me think that some chefs may be underestimating the versatility of squid, by just trying to fry it with different flavors or serve it fried with different dipping sauces.  We also ate an incredible burrata dish with pesto and two different types of tomatoes.  If you've never tried burrata, you really need to, even if, like me, you don't usually like soft cheeses.  It has the flavor of mozzarella but almost literally melts in your mouth.

Main Courses
Now, I'm sure there is plenty of dispute out there as to whether it is appropriate to term a plate of pasta as your main course, but I don't know how anyone could eat an antipasto, a primo and a secondo in a restaurant in America.  The portions just aren't made for most people to be able to eat all three and then go on to a dessert.  So putting that digression aside, here are the pasta dishes we ate:

Housemade Penne with Baby Octopus
This dish was incredible.  Although it is difficult to explain, you know when you're eating housemade pasta as opposed to pasta that comes out of a box, and this dish was no exception.  The penne were delicious and cooked to al dente perfection.  Like the calamari, the baby octopus were grilled but mild in flavor, and they were tossed with the pasta in a light tomato, basil mixture.  The combination was excellent.

I Paccheri
Fiola's menu describes this dish as Neapolitan Maccheroni, Tomato Braised Oxtail, "Vaccinara" Style.  A completely different type of dish from the penne, but just as good, if not better.  Again, unquestionably pasta fatta in casa, cooked just right.  The oxtail and tomato combination was perfectly balanced, neither flavor overpowered the other, they just came together extremely well.  These two dishes exemplify authentic Italian cooking because they take simple ingredients and put a flavor combination together that doesn't need a lot of butter or cream or other oil to make it delicious.  Bravo, Fabio!

I Dolci

Gianduia Cake - If you don't know what gianduia is, or you've never had it, or both, don't waste your time researching because it's really not important.  Just go eat this at Fiola!  It has to be one of the best desserts I've had in the last year since I haven't been in Italy.

Affogato - This is the Italian version of a "float" - it usually involves gelato and a shot of espresso.  This one was wonderfully constructed with straciatella flavored gelato and little chocolate cake bits tucked into the glass.  The chef was also kind enough to give me espresso to have left over for myself after the gelato was finito!

 Zuppa Inglese - translates best as "English trifle" - this is a layered dessert that begins at the bottom with a sponge type cake, and then the layers in this one are a special light, but not whipped, cream, and then strawberries.  The top is a wonderful twist with lemon granita and a mint leaf.  Fiola's pastry chef finishes it off with a super slim, wafer-style cookie.  A great part about this one was that we didn't order it, but it came out of the kitchen with our desserts, and I'm not really one to say "No" to free dessert!

Fine - just when we thought we were too stuffed to eat anymore, these lovely dolcini came out with our check:
 Dolcini might not actually be a word - I invent sometimes.  The service was great throughout our dinner, especially considering that this was their first week.  In tutto, Fiola is fantastica, ottima, and we here at strongly encourage you to make dinner there one of your next nights out. 

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cineforum Italiano: Generazione 1000 Euro

A film in Italian with English subtitles

Genre: Romantic Comedy
: Massimo Venier
Cast: Valentina Lodovini, Carolina Crescentini, Alessandro Tiberi, Francesca Inaudi, Francesco Mandelli
Released: 2009
Duration: 91 Minutes

In this entertaining and witty romantic comedy the heroes face the same dilemma as many Italian young professionals today: How to get by on a salary of just 1000 Euros a month?

Matteo (Alessandro Tiberi), a 30-year-old university graduate with a mathematics degree, works in the marketing department of a telecommunications company being ‘reorganized’. He lives in a flat he shares with his best friend Francesco, a PlayStation wizard and film buff.

Matteo’s career prospects seem to be looking up however with the arrival of new Assistant Marketing Director, the seductive Angelica (Carolina Crescentini), with whom he hits it off nicely. Then Beatrice (rising star Valentina Lodovini) moves into his apartment, much to the annoyance of Matteo, who can’t believe his best friend Francesco (Alessandro Tiberi), has broken their “no female roommates” policy! Together these two very different women draw Matteo into an endless series of trials and tribulations, offering him the possibility to trade in his dreams for financial comfort.

Based on the novel by Antonio Incorvaia and Alessandro Rimassa (which began as a hit online blog) 'The 1000-Euro Generation' is a comedy about life's many choices - personal and professional, financial and ethical - played out by likable characters that warmly mix ingenuity and optimism.

When: Sunday, May 15, 2011 4:00 PM
Where: Letelier Theater in Georgetown
To RSVP and purchase tickets:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Buona Pasqua from NYC's Little Italy

Chocolate Eggs, Colomba (traditional) Italian Easter cakes and more straight from DiPaolo's of New York's Little Italy. Find out the meaning behind these goodies and how to get them to a town near you!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Canaletto and His Rivals at the NGA, Now through June

In March we introduced the CiaoDC community to the hallmark exhibit of the Italian embassy's and DC Tourism's La Dolce DC, Canaletto and His Rivals
I had the opportunity to visit the exhibit this Saturday with a special group from NOIAW, with the most fabulous docent. Tiffany Meadows Hunt, an M.A. Candidate at American University with an ebullient demeanor, was a refreshing contrast to many of the stern docents I've experienced in the past.

I should warn you at this point that I am not an art history buff, or even a novice. However, I felt inspired to write something by the veduta paintings that conjured up my own memories of Venice. (Feel free to leave any corrections in the comments.) The exhibit takes visitors through the three stages of Canaletto's painting career in Venice. As you travel through each room, you witness the maturation of Canaletto's style, all juxtaposed against those of his rivals: Carlevarijs, Marieschi, Belotto, and Guardi. All were competing in the same commercial art market for wealthy Englishmen. Rather than working on commission for the church, they catered to the Englishmen who traveled through Venice as part of their Grand Tour.

Canaletto was originally trained by his father as a scene painter. This was somewhat unusual at the time, as many artists in training were sent away to do an apprenticeship with a maestro. Therefore, Canaletto's original vistas reflect the style in which he learned to paints scenery for the theater. The sharp contrast of light and dark creates a chiarascuro effect, with almost a baroque-esque feel.

His earlier works also portray a somewhat gritty reality, of the everyday Venetian life, catching them in their day to day labor and activities. Whereas the, literally, picture perfect paintings of Carlevarijs were proof of the ostenatious Venetian celebrations.
Carlevarijs learned that it was advantageous to paint for those buyers who wanted to captivate and impress folks at home about their journey. Marieschi placed less emphasis on the details of the figures in his paintings, but used a somewhat brighter color scheme.

Bellotto, the nephew of Canaletto, actually started off as Bellotto Canaletto, using his more prominent uncle's last name. His style was also somewhat similar to his uncle's in the beginning, but as his skills developed, he began to experiment with the use of more natural lighting.

The last of the rivals explored in the exhibit is Guardi. He became well known for his pittura di tocco, or use of small dots to paint, which created tighter composites. His paintings are somewhat reminiscent of Canaletto's earlier work, if only for the similar mood they evoke.

One of the recurrent themes of the gallery visit was that of fictitious vedutas. Canaletto and his rivals used camera obscura to sketch the actual skyline by hand, but then would play with the lines to create iconic scenes of Venice that did not actually exist that way to the naked eye.

Views of Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals is on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC until May 30, 2011. The exhibit is free of charge.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fashion Tips, Chef Chats and more in April!

Jump into Spring with CiaoDC and fashion guru/owner of Daniel's Boutique, Nasrin. Be in the know about European Designs, what's hot and what's not and where to buy it! Live chat on Thursday, April 7 at 1:30 PM. Bring your fashion questions to next week's chat on CiaoDC's Faceboook discussion page here. Watch CiaoDC interview with Nasrin here. Plus, stay tuned for a heart to heart with Chef Fabio Trabocchi on his lastest restaurant venture, Fiola opening this Spring in Penn Quarter! Interview coming soon!