My Dinner With Paolo
Dinner at Paolo's house is always a delicious, belt-loosening and often culturally enlightening affair. The food is great and can be enjoyed to the fullest when you've prepared yourself ahead of time by fasting for at least several hours before. Since Italy is so regional when it comes to cuisine, Paolo is almost as much of an immigrant to Milan as I am. Hailing for Naples, he keeps the Neapolitan delis here in Milan in business buying freshly flown-in mozzarella di buffala, wonderful, real "Italian sausage" like the one I know, babas, cassatas, and other assorted "imported" food. Paolo's also not much for light meals. See him at the upper left on his Flickr page. Hell, have a look at the cool black n' whites he's put out too. He shuns salads, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend who loves them and generally enjoys introducing his guests to the wonders of Neapolitan food. This gorgeous fresh mozarella sliced and eaten on its own (all the better to taste the real mozarella di buffala difference) was our antipasto.
This pasta was as delicious as it is enticing to look at. The sauce, rather than being a traditional Neapolitan dish I think was invented by Paolo. To reproduce it, fry some pancetta until crisp, don't toss out any of the rendred fat (it's delicious!), add a couple dollops of ricotta cheese, mix briefly, take off the heat and pour onto pasta al dente. Serve with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. It's salty, creamy and crunchy all at the same time. Very satisfying. After a hunk of mozzarella and this none-too-light pasta dish I was very satisfied and quite happy there was no secondo (meat dish) between me and the dessert!
We finished off the meal with these Neapolitan "Ministeriale" bon bons from the famous Scaturchio pasticceria. They are dark chocolate with a rum cream on the inside. Really good. They were first made by Francesco Scaturchio as an attempt to seduce a noblewoman. She loved them and so did the rest of Naples. Go here for a short history of the Ministeriale bon bon and a bit of Italian language practice.