Friday Recipe: Ribollita (Twice-Boiled Vegetable Soup)

Twice-boiled vegetable soup

I’ve eaten a lot of the classic Tuscan soup Ribollita (re-boiled). This is one of the best I’ve had. With Stefania and Walter Gambaccini, the owners of BaoNecci on Green, it goes back 5 generations in their families in Altopascio near Lucca.

While Stefania and I were crafting this recipe she said to me that Ribollita isn’t for “big-shots.” It’s “umide” – a “humble” dish for ordinary folks. I call this food la cucina povera (kitchen of the poor) or la cucina rustica (rustic kitchen).  Walter said that a ribollita could have as its base all sorts of left-overs that the cook has at hand. The left-overs are simply augmented, re-boiled and served over stale bread. This is the kind of food I like best.

This recipe will serve 6 to 8 people and takes at least 2 days to make. Make the soup the first day, let it sit overnight and re-boil it the next day assembling the zuppa as described below. We serve this soup on a plate not in a bowl. See if you can too!

This is a vegetarian soup. For meat-eaters, if you can find them at your Italian market, add a small prosciutto end and a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind. Other friends make this with a beef or chicken broth. Have it any way you want!

If you can’t devote 2 days to Ribollita, the Day 1 zuppa (soup) is a wonderful minestrone.


You Need to Chill, North Beach

I thought this was behind us. Another North Beach art gallery, open just four months, was vandalized recently. The historical home of San Francisco poets, artists, bohemians, City Lights bookstore, of Ginsberg’s Howl that they tried to suppress in the ’50s – can do better than this.

Remember 2004? The Iraq war polarized the country and North Beach wasn’t immune. Right after Abu Ghraib Capobianco Gallery on Powell near Filbert hung a painting of Iraqi prisoners tortured by American troops. The gallery was vandalized, eggs splattered the window, trash dumped high in the doorway. The owner got hundreds of emails and voicemails threatening her life and the lives of her two small children. She was spat upon. A man came to the door and when she opened it he punched her in the face and broke her nose. Dozens of North Beach residents protested the violence and supported free expression. But the painting was removed and the gallery closed.

Here we go again. Gallery 454 on Columbus hung a painting in the window last month and this gallery too was attacked. Saturday I blogged about the Abrams tank in the gallery that stopped me in my tracks. But it wasn’t the tank that was the target.

Oh are you offended?

Soon after the current exhibit, {Control} “Sex, Money, Power”, opened, Nick Flatt, the gallery curator and artist-in-residence, saw a crowd staring at his window as he approached to open the gallery that morning. He thought something was up with the tank but it was a painting of a sexy threesome hung inside that was vandal’s target. “As the father of a daughter I find that painting offensive,” was scrawled in lipstick on the display window.

I caught up with Nick today. He said the tank caused some furor but nothing like the painting. Pressure from neighbors forced him to move the painting to the back wall of the gallery behind the tank. He said, “We had to tone it down.”  Free expression chilled once again.

“We were going to post a sign in the window but didn’t.” The message – “Thank you for using vandalism to show us proper etiquette.”

Lucky for us Nick is unbowed. He’s currently working on a new piece that hangs as a work-in-progress. Stand up for freedom of expression. Stand up for the artists in the Village. Stop by to see the exhibit and check out Nick’s work on the painting near the front window. He thinks it will be done in a few weeks. I saw his sketch. I can’t wait!




Pollo Oreganata (Chicken and Vegetables Roasted with Oregano)

Quick, simple, and zesty.

We’re in Naples for this recipe, but we’re in Venice this weekend. Don’t miss a truly special private meal at da Flora Ostaria in North Beach – my favorite restaurant. Join me this Sunday, May 22, to enjoy an authentic Venetian spring dinner, 4-courses paired with 4 special wines.

Now, on to the recipe!

Here’s a zesty dish from Campania that you can have on the table in about an hour. Not many pots and pans to clean up–it’s all made in a single oven pan. This is one of my go-to dishes when I hit the kitchen after a grueling day with nothing ready to eat. Everything will be crispy and golden brown, the fennel mellow and the chicken moist.

Have your way with this one-dish dinner. Use sausage instead of chicken. Use parsnip or turnip instead of potato.


North Beach Primavera: Yo-Yos, Stonefruit and Tanks!

Still got some energy after Bay to Breakers? Meet up with me today at Cavalli’s on Stockton from 2-3 pm. Never know what you’ll discover in The Village.


For instance, it was quite a North Beach morning yesterday.

Hundreds surrounded the stage at the annual Yo- Yo competition in Washington Square. Almost everyone had some kind of yo-yo and mingling was kinda dangerous!

Spring has sprung at Union Produce. California stone-fruit has arrived. Apricots, peaches, cherries and they’re not bad for this early in the season. Baby artichokes, sweet peas, fava beans are there too. Yipee!

I almost fell over passing gallery454 on Columbus. Is it loaded? No, thank God, it’s made of wood.

Nick Flatt’s 21-foot-long, 63 percent- scale M1A1 Abrams military tank completed with frightening attention to detail.




Friday Recipe: Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Photo by Flickr user der_dennis

Got a request from a YouTube fan for this recipe. It’s super easy and delicious. This sauce pairs best with a good 100% semolina bronze die dried pasta from the Italian regions of Campania or Puglia.

This is a versatile base for steamed clams, mussels or even crab. (I tell you more at the end of the recipe.)

I get cravings for this zesty, satisfying simple pasta. You can make the sauce in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Easy to do and “sciue sciue” (very fast).

Here’s a recipe for 500g or 1 pound of pasta.

(If you’re a lover of Italian regional food, be sure to see the details of my upcoming Venetian dinner in San Francisco.)


Photo by der_dennis

Strolling for Gelato in North Beach

Naia in North Beach. Image by chad_k.

Gelato is one of those quintessential Italian desserts. With less butterfat and more sugar than American ice cream, it has a smoother texture that allows the quality of the ingredients to shine through. In the heart of North Beach, you might expect gelaterias to line the streets. You’d be right (there are dozens with more popping up every week), but not all gelati are created equal.

Taking a stroll through North Beach on a sunny day, you can hit the community’s top gelaterias all within a few blocks. Start at Union Street and make your way south on Columbus. You’ll spot Alimento, an upscale convenience store featuring a hodgepodge of delicious goodies. The blood orange gelato comes highly recommended. And if you’re so inclined, you can compare this Italian treat with its American counterparts, because Alimento also sells ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Don’t fill up, because right next door is Mara’s, a well-known Italian bakery. Get the classic nocciola gelato (hazelnut) and grab a table outside to enjoy the unique North Beach atmosphere. Don’t forget to buy a pastry or two (or some cookies by the pound) before you leave.

Cross Columbus and you’ll find what many say is the city’s number one gelateria. Gelateria Naia boasts rave reviews and great customer service. They feature old favorites like Gianduia and Stracciatella but also add a flare of creativity in new flavors like Earl Grey, Cannoli, or Tiramisu. You don’t have to decide on a flavor right away; the staff is very willing to keep the samples coming!

Head north on Stockton toward the famed Washington Square Park. To the right, on Union, is Gelato Classico, one of the most authentic gelato shops in North Beach. It has been a staple in the community for over 20 years. The storefront doesn’t contain much more than a counter and a bench outside. It’s the simple philosophy of this place that makes its gelato famous. Try the Coppa Mista (meaning “mixed cup”) – chocolate, vanilla, almond, and pistachio gelati all in one cup.

Bring cash (a few are cash only) and prepare your walking shoes, because North Beach has a rich array of gelati to offer. Hopefully, you get flashbacks of your last trip to Italy.

Image by chad_k.

Gianni’s First Recipe eBook is Available Now

Things have been busy around the Village lately. I did a live pasta-making demonstration in front of friendly crowds on Sunday at the Noodle Fest; our next regional dinner – Venetian at da Flora – is open for reservations; you can join me on my food adventure to Italy this Fall; and now, we’ve released my first cookbook

It’s a nicely crafted eBook, with nine recipes and photos, and it’s optimized for iPhone and iPad (the iBooks app) – with linked table of contents for easy navigation. (It works on all platforms and devices.) This eBook introduces my vegetable series, and includes some vegan dishes. Stay tuned for other recipe themes to be announced soon.

Purchase link and screen shots below. Enjoy!

Veggie Recipes, Vol. 1
Veggie Recipes, Vol. 1
A bunch of the most requested vegetable dishes by those at my table. (I’ve included some of my vegan niece’s favorites.) These recipes will serve 4-6 people but they are all scalable.

North Beach & Chinatown Mix It Up for Noodle Fest

Italian flag? Maybe the Irish. Oh well.
There will be a video of the day soon, but until then, I just wanted to report what a beautiful day it was, and how much fun.

I enjoyed making pastas the colors of the Italian flag. (OK, I admit, the red bell pepper variety came out a little orange – so it was the Irish flag. Sue me.)

I also met chefs from some of my favorite North Beach restaurants (future dinner event details to come) and tasted some wonderful samples.

This is an annual event, and next year will be the third, so be sure to come out and be reminded of the authentic side of North Beach, and the ways in which it is complemented by Chinatown.