If you're anything like me, you love meeting locals when you travel. It adds a completely new dimension to the trip but isn't always easy to do.
Unless you have an inside connection.
The folks at Le Cesarine have perfected sharing their inside connections via 'Social Dining", a fantastic experience for travelers to Italy. The idea behind social dining is this: a local home cook invites you into their kitchen or dining room and shares their life, recipes & a meal with you.
Sometimes it is a cooking lesson and a meal, sometimes just a meal together learning about the recipes. Hearing the history behind these family recipes and their importance to the region deepens the experience further, and after an evening of shared laughter, stories and delicious food- you leave with new friends, perhaps best gift of all.
I was quite impressed with what I knew of Le Cesarine from word of mouth, reading about them and seeing them on social media- and so was very thrilled when they invited me to have a tasting experience during my recent trip to Rome.
Le Cesarine offers cooking classes and taste experiences in the homes of their carefully picked home cooks, as well as tailor made events in your home.
The "taste experience" is what I did, and it is like having a meal at a private restaurant where the chef invites you into his/her kitchen and shares all their secrets with you, then sits down to dinner with you.
Can you imagine? I'll tell you exactly how you can have this experience on your next trip to Italy. But first, I want to share the story of my evening with Massimo & Federica in Rome.
I had the honor of dining in the home of Massimo & Federica in the heart of Rome. They were so much fun, warmly welcoming me and introduced me to their aunt Luisa, who was joining us for the evening.
I'm not going to lie, it's easy to feel a little nervous when you are meeting people for the first time, especially in their home but Massimo, Federica & Luisa were so kind, generous and easy to talk to, I immediately felt at ease. It was such a lovely evening.
I loved learning about their jobs and their day to day life. Massimo is a Neurologist who works with Alzheimer's patients (something dear to my heart from my work with Alzheimer's & Dementia patients) and Federica works for the IRS. They have lived in Rome all their lives, but their family roots are from Tuscia north of Rome in the region of Lazio.
Their passion for travel, food, and life is infectious. Even though they have very full time careers, they love cooking and meeting new people and so working with Le Cesarine is an excellent match for them. Luisa was a charming dinner companion and told me she was excited to be experiencing "Chef Max" with guests for the first time.
Our meal started with a gorgeous artichoke flan (sformatino di carciofi con fonduta) followed by Massimo showing me his technique for making the Roman classic, Cacio e Pepe. The next course was Massimo's grandmother's polpette (meatball) recipe with wild fennel roasted potatoes.
Each course was delicious and accompanied by water, wine and lots of stories. Even though I love dining out in Italy, it was such a happy cozy experience to have a home cooked meal with new friends after traveling alone for several weeks.
Our menu was very special, because of all the family recipes & connections.
Sformatino di carciofi con fonduta (artichoke flan with cheese sauce)
Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with cheese & pepper-a Roman staple and one of my very favorites)
Polpette (meatballs) with roasted potatoes, (Massimo's grandmother's recipe)
Tiramisu alla Romana (Homemade, of course, with local ricotta!)
A special after dinner digestif that Massimo gets from friends who are monks- (it's a 17th century recipe)
A meal in a local Cesarine home is such a wonderful way to get a completely new & unique glimpse of Italian food & culture. The friends you will make along the way are an extra special bonus.
Whether you are traveling alone like I was, or traveling with friends or family members, I highly recommend that you ditch the restaurant one meal and go meet some new friends. You will come away with a new understanding of what local life might be like, and enjoy a lovely meal with someone new.
I cannot thank my hosts enough for sharing their home, recipes and kitchen secrets with me. I'm still dreaming of those wild fennel potatoes and thinking about the stories of Condaleeza, the Parmigiano-Reggiano-loving Jack Russell Terrier...
Many thanks to Le Cesarine for inviting me to this tasty adventure and for opening up a whole new world to travelers to Italy. I can't wait to return.
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