Rocco spends the day putting together an insider's food guide to Florence. Along with his photographer friend Chris, Rocco shows us the ins and outs of buying fruits and vegetables at one of the city's fabulous open air markets; he explains everything you've ever needed to know about ordering a coffee in Italy. He shows us a recipe from one of Florence's hot restaurants, and finally, he takes time out to enjoy a pre dinner aperitivo and of course, an after dinner digestive. This is la dolce vita.
While in Sicily, Rocco visits Salvatore, who runs his family's business harvesting natural sea salt. The visit kick starts an adventure that takes him to the fishing port of Sciacca, a visit with Baldo, his family and a trip to a frenzied market where fisherman pull their boats in, auction their catch off and head back out to sea to do it all over again. Along the way Rocco cooks with local ingredients and teaches us how to make world class lemon granita.
When spring comes to Tuscany, Rocco, Nina and their friends celebrate by heading out to the country to soak in a natural spa alla ancient Romans. On the way back to town, Rocco comes-um-face to udder, with the process of making sheep's milk cheese from sheep to the finished product, at one of Tuscany's small specialty diaries. Along the way Rocco makes spring inspired meals and ends the day at a Florence street festival that dates back to the Middle Ages.
When Rocco and his soccer pals get their butts kicked at a pick up soccer game they agree that they've got to get back into shape. Rocco feeds them one last comfort food meal before taking them through a day of physical activity and light, but tasty dishes. Will their resolve stay steady or will it crumble in the face of a new toy and a tasty aperitivo time food spread?
Rocco and his friends throw a monthly potluck dinner party. This month the theme is chocolate, an ingredient that has a surprisingly significant historical tie to Tuscany. Rocco uses chocolate to make some savory main dishes for the gathering, but it's not all work for our intrepid foodie. Rocco treats Nina to a chocolate and wine tasting at a favorite bar, and a chocolate massage in a local spa.
The Roccos travel to Sicily to visit the Planetas-a Sicilian noble family of winemakers. A tour of exotic vineyards, some family recipes, and wine tasting on a yacht, these are some of the ingredients of a full day that ends with a feast and a bonfire on a secluded Sicilian beach.
Rocco and Nina take a scenic drive to the Medieval Sicilian town of Erice, to visit a man considered the epitome of Sicilian Hospitality: hotelier/chef Carmelo Tilotta. True to his reputation, Carmelo has booked every second of the day. Rocco learns how to make Sicilian cannoli. They wind up the day at a noisy backyard festa --a BBQ--Sicilian style, where everything is homemade and where friends become family.
Rocco and Nina are in Sicily visiting friends who run Fontanasalsa, an agriturismo in Sicily that grows, produces and exports olive oil. The Roccos are treated to a private olive oil tasting. They explore the countryside on horseback, take part in a traditional garlic harvest, and Rocco makes authentic Sicilian dishes using fresh ingredients at hand.
Palermo, Sicily is famous for its three massive outdoor markets, where the food ranges from the freshest fish, meat and produce available to some -um, shall we say unique--specialties that perhaps only a local could love. Rocco takes it all in. Along with his friend Giacco, an internationally renowned musician, and his band, Rocco fires up the grill and helps throw a name day party right in the market piazza.
The Roccos take a relaxing weekend visiting the Sicilian beach resort of San Vito Lo Capo. They explore the beautiful beaches by boat. Rocco makes some of his favorite beach food and is taught how to make a surprise Sicilian specialty - couscous - from scratch by an internationally renowned expert.
Since Roman times people have been coming to the Italian town of Ischia to bathe in its thermal waters, said to have healing properties. Ischia is also famous for its incredible natural beauty, its beaches and great food. Rocco and Nina explore it all -- visiting old friends at their beachside restaurant, and a top chef, who has landed a gig at the luxurious Manzi Hotel and Spa. While Nina gets pampered, Rocco and the chef go to new heights to get fresh ingredients.
It's one of Florence's hottest bars with a reputation for its sophisticated aperitivo menu and signature cocktails. So what happens when the owner/manager has an emergency and asks the Roccos to step into the kitchen and behind the bar to run the place for a night?
It's St. Andrea's Day, as Rocco and Nina return to Ravello to visit their good friends Professore and Eddie. They discover that Professore now owns La Rondinaia, the former home of famous writer Gore Vidal. It's a beautiful property built into a cliff with incredible views of the Mediterranean. Rocco helps Prof and Eddie throw a party on the terrace and makes dishes using the famous Amalfi lemons. The Roccos end the day at a traditional St. Andrea's procession in Amalfi.
David throws a fall feast at his farmhouse for friends and neighbors with a little help from a group of artistic friends. This is an annual feast where they celebrate the vegetables of the season, freshly pressed olive oil and serve Italian classics like fire-roasted porchetta.
Welcome to Chianti - one of Italy's most famous wine regions. Here in the verdant rolling hills of Tuscany is Castello di Trebbio, a historic 11th century castle now owned by Anna, Stefano and their family. They produce some of the best wine and olive oil in the area. David tours the grounds, takes part in the grape harvest and makes some dishes using their wine and grapes.
Simple ingredients make magical meals. For instance, it's just flour and water but from these two humble ingredients Italy has built several culinary classics. David goes to an organic farm, grinds his own grain in a windmill, and then makes some of those classics: including Tuscan bread and pasta. And then another simple combination produces the classic dessert zabaglione.
Who doesn't love pizza? David makes dough from scratch and then it's pizza pandemonium as he makes savory pizzas, calzones, foccacia and dessert pizzas in his wood-burning oven.
David travels to the Tuscan town of Panzano and spends time with the most famous butcher in Italy, maybe the world! Dario Cecchini is a flamboyant character who is fanatical about meat and a master at selecting, cutting and serving it. People from all over the world make pilgrimages to meet him and eat in one of his restaurants. David and Dario spend a wild time together exploring their mutual passion for meat, cooking meat and eating meat!
In Italy, it's considered the food of the Gods. For generations the harvesting and pressing of olives into olive oil has been one of the major food events in the country. In Tuscany, people take time off from their regular jobs to work the harvest and take their payment in olive oil. David goes to Fattoria La Vacchio where Faye and her family have been producing organic olive oil for over 40 years. He learns about their farm and participates in the harvest. David makes a number of recipes that feature olive oil.
Inspired by a lunch in Florence at one of his favorite street vendors, David makes a series of Italian sauces including a chili pepper jam that is to die for.
David visits his local butcher who raises his own animals and sells organic meat from a cart at the side of a country road. After the visit, David heads home and makes a variety of meatballs using the beef. He also makes meatballs out of fish and some vegetarian 'meatballs' that would please any meat-eater. And for each meatball, there's a matching sauce.
David makes a series of foods called 'sfizi': These are smaller bites that can be enjoyed on their own or put together in a big antipasto spread.
Fall is chestnut season in Tuscany. David finds out everything you'd ever want to know about chestnuts, from the very unusual way in which they are harvested, to how versatile and nutritious they are.
What's more comforting on a chilly day than a bowl of soup? David makes simple but hearty soups using mostly inexpensive cupboard staples with a few seasonal vegetables thrown in.
Every fall the Tuscan Hills ring with the sound of guns as hunters track the famous cinghiale, or wild boar. This wild meat is so associated with Tuscan cooking that the area's capital Florence has a bronze statue honoring the beast in one of its major tourist markets. David goes out with a group of hunters and then prepares dishes with the meat. David also befriends his neighbors who have a gourmet men's cooking club that meets once a month to cook some macho dishes-including their own take on cinghiale that no woman in their right mind would touch.
It's in every kitchen, but it doesn't get as much respect as olive oil or wine. David travels to the Tuscan town of Volpaia to see how fine vinegar is made and cooks with it. The same place also makes fine Vin Santo, a wine with spiritual associations that he uses to make a heavenly dessert.
David and Nina celebrate their first Christmas with their twin daughters in their 500 year old Tuscan farmhouse with dear friends and family. David prepares a series of traditional classic Italian Christmas dishes like stuffed and fried squid, and spaghetti with braised octopus. He and Nina go to Florence for some Christmas shopping, to take in the city at Christmastime and to raise a glass to the season with good friends.