The vivid Tyrrhenian waters, the brilliant sun and the rolling hills of Italian wine country have inspired artists for millennia. Jean and Steven Lester, the winners of Carlino’s romantic Italian vacation contest, clearly felt inspired to create some art themselves as they shared their photo album featuring images from their trip of a lifetime. During their romantic eight-day Italian getaway, the couple took snapshots of everything from colorful roadside stands and rustic country vistas to world-famous attractions such as Trevi Fountain, the Villa Borghese, the beautifully restored Sistine Chapel and the iconic Coliseum.
Throughout the album are pictures of the winning couple, smiling in the warm Mediterranean sun and clearly reveling in the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy. Only the Lesters know the meaning behind every frame, but the album describes a narrative of an unforgettable vacation.
From memorable shots of Jean Celebrating Steve’s birthday at a Roman dinner in a neighborhood restaurant to posed pictures of Steve preparing to zoom through the streets on a Segway tour, the pictures are as full of light and life as Italy itself. The pictures showcase the kaleidoscopic personality of a country that holds vast reserves of centuries-old priceless art alongside the most modern shops. Snapshots of sleek Italian cars roaring past silent marble monuments that have stood for thousands of years are a study in contrasts, the magnificent variety that Italy has in store for visitors. Eight days is hardly enough to see all that Italy has to offer, but the Lester’s fit as much in as they could, seeing all the highlights and discovering the place where Jean’s grandparents lived.
Carlo came up with the contest as a way to show his love for his native Italy with his guests. Steven and Jean Lester have generously shared their experiences of their romantic vacation with us at Carlino’s, and we thank them for the chance to see their once-in-a-lifetime trip through their eyes. The well-traveled Lester’s still visit the restaurant and have become local celebrities. If you ask, you may hear an anecdote or two about their fabulous vacation.
While he can’t take everyone to Italy, Carlo’s dream of bringing a taste of Italian life to Long Island comes true every day. Celebrate Italy’s rich contrasts and zest for life with the best in southern Italian cooking at Carlino’s.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more
With tasting notes of raisin, caramel, and oak; a smooth, enduring taste; and a bouquet of fine port, balsamic vinegar can be as enjoyable as a fine liqueur. Its complex taste – sweet, tart, slightly smoky and rich with as many subtle overtones as a great wine – takes years to develop. Considered an elixir to cure any ill by the monks who made it 700 years ago, balsamic vinegar has now become a staple in Italian kitchens.
Unlike its common cousins, balsamic vinegar comes not from wine but from the grapes themselves. Instead of fermenting the grapes, vinegar makers press them and boil down the fresh juice until it becomes as thick as syrup. This concentrated syrup goes into an oak cask just like a fine wine. As the vinegar slowly evaporates, it goes into smaller and smaller casks. Vinegar makers call the portion that’s lost to evaporation “the angel’s share.” After years of maturation, the vinegar is ready to grace anything from a dish of fresh strawberries to slivers of Parmesan cheese.
Three Categories of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar falls into one of three categories: traditional, condiment-grade and commercial balsamic vinegar.
The original balsamic vinegar ages for years or even decades before it’s enjoyed; a few brands even reach the century mark. Some families pass containers of the vinegar down through generations, and the casks are only breached for a momentous occasion like a large family wedding. Balsamic vinegar must age for at least twelve years to get certified as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale by the consortium that regulates this rare elixir. Only Modena and Reggio Emilia produce certified traditional balsamic vinegar.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is used exclusively as a finishing touch and is never cooked; cooking would destroy its complex taste. As thick as syrup and as dark as espresso, this vinegar can be as costly as a well-aged wine and fetch triple-digit sums.
Most of the balsamic vinegar you’ll encounter in fine restaurants is condimento vinegar. It undergoes the same process as its costlier counterpart, but it ages for less than a dozen years or comes from a region outside of the vinegar-producing regions of Italy. It’s typically more liquid and less syrup-like than traditional balsamic vinegar; it also has a milder flavor that lends it to a broader range of uses in the kitchen. Think of condimento balsamic vinegar as you would a good table wine – perfect to enjoy regularly and not just for special occasions. Add it to mixed fruits or to salad dressings to enhance their flavor without overwhelming them the way a concentrated traditional vinegar might.
Commercial balsamic vinegar undergoes very different processing from its more traditional cousins. It starts with red wine vinegar to which reduced grape juice and flavorings are added. These vinegars mimic the sweetness and tartness of balsamic vinegar, but lack its complexity. They also lack its price, so they’re a good choice for glazes that undergo cooking.
Sample a quality balsamic vinegar on Carlino’s house specialty fruit salad with mesclun greens, fresh fruits and Italian cheeses. While it may not be the panacea that medieval monks meant it to be, balsamic vinegar is an excellent cure for the garden-variety salad.
Sincerely, Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’s RestaurantTweet read more
To us, Italian food names sound delicious. In their native language, some of these names are fanciful, whimsical or even a bit strange. A plate of little tongues followed by a monk’s hat and a pick-me-up might sound unusual, but you may have ordered just such a meal on your last visit to Carlino’s.
Tongues and Ears: Pasta Names
The many shapes of pasta lend themselves to creative naming. Most names come from the pasta’s resemblance to familiar items. Farfalle, for example, is Italian for butterflies; conchiglie look like cowrie shells, and that’s what the name means. Some pasta names are more of a stretch. Orecchiete and linguini don’t look especially like ears or tongues, but those are the names they bear. Ordering a plate of ears or tongues in English might raise a few eyebrows, but in their native Italian, they sound as delicious as they taste.
How Italian Foods Got Their Names
Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, so chicken cacciatore is literally “hunter-style chicken.” The game birds and rabbits that comprised a hunter’s evening meal required a pungent sauce that could stand up to their robust flavors. Tart tomatoes, briny olives and browned onions paired well with these foods. Today, they more often accompany tender chicken, but the bold flavors of this hearty sauce are perennial favorites.
Pasta puttanesca also has its origins in a profession – specifically, the oldest one. Etymologists aren’t quite sure how the savory dish got its unsavory name. One theory is that ladies who worked at night couldn’t always get to the market before closing time; they devised a sauce made up of ingredients that kept well such as olives, anchovies and capers so they could cook something delicious even if they hadn’t gotten a chance to shop. The name may also be a sly bit of marketing from an Italian nightclub owner in the 1950s. Whatever its true origins, pungent pasta puttanesca has become a favorite for diners from all walks of life.
Dead Man’s Bones and Pick-Me-Ups: Italian Desserts
You’ve probably enjoyed tiramisu, but you may not know what the name means. It’s Italian for “pick me up,” which is exactly what this confection of layered ladyfingers, espresso-flavored cream and cocoa does. Others suggest that the dish is so rich that you’ll swoon with delight and may need to ask someone to pick you up, but it’s more likely that the name comes from how the coffee-laced sweet energizes you after a hearty dinner.
Dead man’s bones sound like something an ogre would enjoy, but ossi dei morti are a traditional treat to serve with coffee. The meringue-based cookies bake firm and brittle. The spicy cookies contain plenty of cinnamon and cloves, sometimes in a marrow-like layer between two bone-shaped cookies.
Although Italians take coffee seriously, even coffee names are prone to a touch of whimsy. Cappuccino gets its name from Capuchin monks’ clothes. When it first reached Europe, coffee was generally served black, but Italians preferred it mellowed by a dollop of milk. The soft brown hue of a perfect cup of milky coffee was the exact shade of the Capuchin monks’ hoods, so the coffee became cappuccino.
Italian food is almost as delicious to say as it is to eat, so the next time you enjoy a plate of hunter-style chicken or a quick pick-me-up with a monk’s cap after dinner, think about the fun the creators of these dishes must have had naming them.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more