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A visitor from Italy

Roberto Anichini

Roberto Anichini, visiting the Napa Valley from Tuscany, demonstrates the way to enjoy a bowl of Minestra Scema. Submitted photo

I made a new friend on my last Let’s Go Cook Italian adventure in Tuscany. Roberto Anichini is the owner of the Italian driving service “In-Transfer” and is also a gelato maker extrordinare.

Roberto is here in the U.S. for two months to study language and some of our customs, in order to best serve his American clients. Technically, he’s studying slang. We use slang daily and don’t stop to think how this does not translate with folks in or from other countries. There is no literal translation for words or phrases like “would ya,” “gotcha,” “okey-dokey,” “whatever” and the like.

Some customs that have caught his attention are that we actually stop at stop signs. In Italy, a stop sign is merely a suggestion. He also likes the fact that in the grocery store, our purchases are bagged for us and taken to our car.

It’s been an absolute hoot explaining our language to Roberto. I’ve learned that many things just don’t translate. His favorite phrases: “I’ll call you back,” “I’ll be back” and “My pleasure.”

Having Roberto staying with me while he is in the U.S. definitely has benefits for me, because he likes to cook! I’ve learned several new dishes that are personal recipes from his family. 

I prepare “all-American” dishes for Roberto and he prepares Italian dishes for me. His favorites: chocolate brownies, hot dogs with all the fixin’s, cheeseburgers and clam chowder.

I’ve enjoyed Picante Mushroom Risotto, spaghetti with simple tomato sauce, and Granita Al Caffe. My favorites: Minestra Scema and Carciofo Trifolati.

Minestra Scema literally means “Stupid Soup”and is the invention of Roberto’s father-in-law, Eduardo. This recipe was created when the cupboard was bare and nobody wanted to run to the market. When my cupboard is bare I’d have to make Condiment Soup.

Italians typically have certain staples in their kitchens: celery, potatoes, onions, some form of tomato, pasta and Parmesan cheese. With these simple ingredients, Eduardo created Stupid Soup.

Another shared family recipe comes from Roberto’s mother, Amabile. Carciofo Trifolati, or sautéed artichoke, is very simple with a sturdy savory flavor.

I’d like to tell you about another “foodie” adventure with the Anichini family in Tuscany. I am so excited about this opportunity for guests of Let’s Go Cook Italian.

Guests are invited to the private home of the Anichini family. Their house once belonged to the groundskeeper of the Renaissance Villa Torrigiani, located in the Scandicci area of Florence. This area is home to historic farms, abundant with vineyards and olive groves.

Roberto provides round-trip chauffeur services between his home and Florence via his “In-Transfer” company.

Guests arrive in the early evening and enjoy prosecco and antipasti as dinner is prepared by Roberto’s mother and his wife, Manuella. Dinner is served al fresco on the terrace overlooking ancient olive groves and the lights of Florence below. Of course, the olive oil used is produced by the family. Wait until you see the menu for this feast:

• Prima Piatti: Crispelli Beschamel, Tagliatelli with Wild Boar Ragu, and Ribollita soup. 

• Secondi Piatti: Roasted Veal, Tuscan Chicken and Brick Oven Roasted Pork Ribs. These are served with roasted potatoes, seasonal grilled vegetables, salad, Tuscan breads and free flowing local wines and water.

• Dolce: The famous Florentine dessert, Torta Della Nona, served with coffees and Vin Santo. 

The party continues into Roberto’s private gelato kitchen. For many years Roberto owned an artisan gelateria in Florence, where he was the Gelataio Italiano, aka the Italian Ice Cream Man.

Guests look on as Roberto creates a fresh cream-flavored delight, followed by a second tasting of fresh fruit gelato and finally gelato with decadent Italian chocolate. Gelato this fresh can only come from an Italian ice cream man.

Dinner with the Anichinis is by invitation only. This will be an amazing opportunity for my Let’s Go Cook Italian guests. The price per person is less than the cost of an average bottle of wine here in the valley. I hope you’ll join us.


Minestra Scema al Eduardo

Serves 4.

3 small to medium white potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes

3/4 cup coarsely chopped celery

3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup uncooked ditilini pasta (tiny)

1 small ripe tomato, chopped; or 3 heaping Tbsp. plain tomato sauce



Using a large pot, sauté onion and celery in olive oil until onion is just translucent. Add potatoes and sauté an additional 5 minutes.

Cover ingredients with 6 inches of water. Add tomatoes (or sauce). Add pasta, bring to a steady simmer and cook until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Salt to taste.


If you have some bacon, finely mince 1 slice and add to soup pot along with the tomato.

For your pasta you can add small broken pieces of spaghetti or lasagna strips instead of ditilini. Remember, this is a “the cupboard is bare” recipe.

If you have vegetable broth, you can use 1/2 water and 1/2 broth. If using a vegetable bouillon cube and water, use only 1 pinch of a cube and then omit additional salt.


Carciofo Trifolati al Amabile

Serves 4.


1 onion, diced

2 cloves fresh garlic, cut in half

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 large fresh artichokes

4 Tbsp. tomato sauce

6 cups vegetable broth or water 


Remove leaves, choke and stem. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts.

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is just golden. Remove the garlic.

Add thinly sliced fresh artichoke heart. Sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce. Begin to add broth a little at a time. Allow broth to reduce before adding more broth each time, while simmering steadily. This process should take about 40 minutes. Salt to taste.

Serve aside roasted meats or atop freshly toasted crostini.


1/2 cube vegetable bouillon and 6 cups water may be used instead of vegetable broth. Omit salt if using bouillon cube.

Diane de Filipi leads cooking tours to Tuscany. More information can be found on her website,, and at cook-italian.

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