Recently, Tom and I attended a Christmas celebration with the Atlanta chapter of Amici d’Italia (Friends of Italy) at the lovely home of its organizer, Gina Micalizio. What a great night! Amici d’Italia does not require Italian ancestry or Italian language proficiency as a requirement for membership and encourages and celebrates all things Italian – food, culture, custom, and heritage. All that is necessary to participate is a love of Italy and the desire to learn more about this amazing country, its people, and to enjoy a community of others who do the same. It doesn’t get any better!
Amici d’Italia in Atlanta http://www.amiciatlanta.com hosts several events during the year where members come together in different venues to enjoy various events of Italian interest. In the past, there have been wine tastings, visits to galleries, shops, local businesses, and lectures. There are off-shoots of the main organization that are more specific in their subject matter such as Italian Genealogy. One of the members, Steve Lembo, participates regularly with this particular group which researches Italian ancestry and genealogical records in Italy dating back generations.
The title of the holiday event we attended was “Beyond Cannoli and Tiramisu”! The evening began with a light tasting of delicious antipasti followed by a buffet of interesting Italian desserts made by a very talented pastry chef and Amici d’Italia member, Linda Boshart, of Oui Pastries http://www.ouipastries.com . Her featured items were meant to demonstrate different types of dolci than the more common ones most of us know.
Linda offered and described an interesting array of dolci which included:
a Mascarpone Cheesecake – a very rich and creamy confection with a freeform pattern of Nutella Glaze;
Espresso Cake – an intensely dark and dramatic cake which left one longing to linger over a slice in a Roman café with an accompanying Espresso;
Sicilian Cassata – a multi-layered chocolate version, different in its presentation with white and dark chocolate curls;
Olive Oil Cake (my personal favorite!)- moist, light, flavorful.
There was even a lovely faux cake, for display purposes only, constructed with inedible cardboard and decorated with real icing and sugar decorations. (See the opening photo in this post.)
The group was generous and welcoming and engaged in lively discussion of Italian family memories and interesting travel experiences. As someone raised in an Italian home, I was very much at ease in the midst of this charming gathering. However, my husband, Tom, who is not Italian, was equally comfortable and involved in the camaraderie that dominated all conversation. What a great group! I highly recommend visiting the site at http://www.amiciatlanta.com and adding your name to their membership list. I just can’t wait until the next event when I can celebrate Italia with all of these fine new friends!
As a special benefit to our readers, one of the members of Amici d’Italia, Lauren Spiridigliozzi, has kindly contributed her family recipe for Tomato Pie! It reminds me so much of the “Hot Pie” offered at Bruno’s Market in Binghamton, New York when I was growing up. It was available by the slice, and they very strategically placed it near the door of the market so you couldn’t leave without walking around it. Lauren is originally from Utica, New York, home to a large community of Italian families - not far from “my” Binghamton. We talked endlessly about upstate New York Italians and the authentic Italian pastry shops in Utica which attract a clientele from all over the state. One of these shops is the famous Florentine Bakery. Thank you for sharing your recipe, Lauren!
Lauren’s Tomato Pie
FROZEN BREAD DOUGH
LARGE CAN OF PROGRESSO TOMATO PUREE
REGULAR OIL(NOT OLIVE OIL)
KRAFT GRATED CHEESE IN JAR
DRIED GARLIC PIECES
DRIED ONION PIECES
TAKE OUT TWO FULL LOAVES OF FROZEN DOUGH. WHILE FROZEN, CUT OFF
ABOUT 40% OF ONE AND PUT THAT PIECE BACK IN FREEZER. THUS, YOU
WILL HAVE 1.6 LOAVES OF DOUGH TO WORK WITH.
PUT DOUGH IN DEEP BOWL (NOT A METAL BOWL) EARLY IN AM, COVER WITH TOWEL AND LET IT RISE. IT TAKES MOST OF DAY.
TAKE COOKIE SHEET/BAKING PAN AND SPREAD A FINE LAYER OF
REGULAR OIL ON PAN. THEN, STRETCH OUT DOUGH IN
PAN SO IT FILLS THE ENTIRE PAN. LET IT SIT 5 MIN AS IT WILL RETRACT A BIT, AND THEN STRETCH IT AGAIN IN PAN USING THE PALM OF HAND, NOT FINGERS.
WHEN DOUGH FINALLY STRETCHES ENOUGH AND FILLS OUT PAN, PUT A LAYER OF OIL , RUBBING IT ALL OVER THE DOUGH.
POUR AND SPREAD THE ENTIRE CAN OF PUREE OVER DOUGH.
SPRINKLE LIGHTLY WITH ITALIAN SEASONING, GARLIC, AND ONION.
SPRINKLE GENEROUSLY WITH THE GRATED
CHEESE, COVERING THE DOUGH.
COOK AT 435 DEGREES FOR 15 MIN.
WITH SPATULA, CHECK IT BY LIFTING THE BOTTOM TO SEE IF DONE.
LET IT COOL FOR 10 MIN. COVER WITH ALMUMINUM
FOIL AND LEAVE IT OUT. TOMATO PIE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE REFRIGERATED.
In the new year, I hope subscribers in the Atlanta area will give the Atlanta chapter of Amici d’Italia a serious look. It is my understanding that other chapters of this organization exist around the country. Hopefully, those outside this area can connect with a similar group. These folks have roots planted all over Italy. They have great stories to tell and have much to impart about their extensive travel experiences there as well as family lore. Even better – they’re fun!
PARLA COME MANGI!
Happy New Year To All! See You in 2011 at My Italian Dish!!
Also: See the RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE!
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography