A subgroup about one of those countries where it seems almost impossible to get a bad meal. What are your favorite ristoranti, trattorie, osterie? Cooking schools? Food markets? Favorite delicacies? If it's edible and Italian, it's fair game. More info in English:

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  • Check out a classic Italian recipe from Rome's reknowned Hotel Hassler, eggplant parmigiana, now on the Tripatini blog.
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  • I just posted this in the Italy group and realized it has to go here, too! I came across this item that ran last summer re Italy cooking schools. I'll be commenting more on Emilia Romagna -- it's one of the best eating areas in the country!

    Adesso ho fame!

    Learning to make fresh pasta in Bologna, Italy
    August 31, 2008

    If it is possible to get a bad meal in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, I have been unable to find one. The worst meals I have had there were very good; the best, transcendent.

    The Bolognese have a saying that their city excels in the three T's: torri (two leaning 12th-century towers are the only ones remaining of many more that once dominated the skyline), tetti (the defining characteristic of the legendarily well-endowed Bolognese women) and tortellini, which are less a regional specialty than a municipal obsession.

    On a recent visit, I concentrated on tortellini - and lasagna and tagliatelle - the glories of Bolognese fresh pasta. Whereas dried pasta (e.g. spaghetti, linguine, shaped macaroni) is made from hard-wheat flour and water and is kneaded and extruded by machine, fresh pasta is made with soft-wheat flour and eggs and is kneaded and rolled into a sheet, a "sfoglia," optimally, by hand.

    We ate our fill of fresh pasta in Bologna and we spent a couple of hours one morning learning to make it at La Vecchia Scuola (literally, "the old school"), run by Alessandra Spisni.

    The school is housed in a small shop-front in a residential neighborhood (Via Malvasia 49, 011-39-051-6491576, Stefania Spisni, whose facility with both pasta and school administration belie her 22 years, teaches alongside her mother and her uncle Alessandro, who also makes pasta for Anna Maria (Via Belli Arti, 17/A, 011-39-051-266894), home of Bologna's best lasagna (in my humble opinion).

    The school's one-day "tourist" course consists of a three-hour lesson in preparing and rolling out pasta dough, as well as tortellini, tortelloni and tagliatelle. After the lesson there is a three-course lunch featuring fresh pasta. Cost is 70 euros a person (multiday courses also available).

    Stefania and Alessandro guided us through the pasta-making process: weighing out the ingredients, mixing the flour and eggs first by fork, then by hand, on the wooden work surface; kneading the yellow dough until it is smooth and then rolling it out with a 3-foot-long dowel. This is definitely the hardest part, because as you roll the dowel back and forth you also move your hands from the center of the dowel out toward the ends and then back again. Stefania did this with grace and assurance. Me, not so much.

    Then we learned how to cut the sfloglia into noodles, and fill it and fold it to form the tortellini and tortelloni that we later enjoyed at lunch in the dining room.

    Hand-rolled pasta, we learned from eating it, has a springiness and porousness impossible to achieve with a machine, which tends to make the dough smoother and more compressed. Armed with this newfound point of snobbishness, I waddled back into Bologna for dinner.

    Cooking schools in Italy

    There are hundreds of cooking schools in Italy geared toward vacationing Americans. Here is a sampling of reputable ones:

    Cook at Seliano
    Formerly host of Food Talk on WOR, Arthur Schwartz is one of this country's foremost teachers of Italian cooking - and we share a great-grandmother. Four times a year he conducts a cooking school at Tenuta Seliano, an agriturismo (farm-inn) that belongs to his friend Baronessa Cecilia Bellelli Bartta.

    Awaiting Table Cooking School
    Silvestro Sivestori is the owner, instructor, chef and sommelier of this well-run school in the gorgeous Baroque city of Lecce, the vibrant cultural capital of the Salentine Penisula in Puglia.

    Cooking with Giuliano Hazan

    Hazan is the son of the great Italian cooking teacher and author Marcella Hazan, and he has established himself as an authority in his own right. The school, held at a Renaissance villa, is run by Hazan and Marilisa Allegrini, one of the regions best winemakers.

    Maureen Fant
    Fant runs half-day cooking programs in Rome. Participants "join my life for part of a day, and in a few hours I try to teach them everything it took me more than 20 years to learn the hard way." After a morning of shopping, "we take the bus back home to cook lunch in my apartment kitchen. I never plan a menu. Instead, I always hope people will find things at the market they've never tasted, or even seen, and will be curious enough to want to try them." E-mail Fant at

    Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Italy
    The granddaddy of Italian cooking schools geared to Americans: In 1973, cookbook author Giuliano Bugialli founded the first cooking school in Italy to be taught in English. Guests stay at a hotel in Florence and are transported by bus to the school, in a 15th-century farmhouse in the Chianti Classico region.

    La Cucina del Garga
    Trattoria Garga is one of Florence's most acclaimed restaurants. Proprietor Sharon Oddson runs one-day cooking classes as well as four-day and eight-day gastronomic excursions in southern Tuscany.
    • Hi David,
      I am doing something about food in Italy for a new website you will soon know lots about. Is this material on cookery schools copyright or could I post it up? It's all so very useful.
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