DINAMO…hidden treasure

On 821 West Cary Street, nestled between homes, small businesses and the VCU campus you’ll find a hidden treasure of homemade pasta…DINAMO.  dinamorichmond.com Dinamo is a tiny spot that seats maybe 30 people at once, so if you want to eat there, better make reservations complements of opentable.com.

Accompanied by a fellow foodie friend, I enjoyed the sleek but still charming atmoshphere and superb homemade pasta dishes.

The menu offered a bounty of fabulous choices, making choosing difficult.

Wedding Soup:bread

I opted to begin my meal with the traditional Wedding Soup served with fresh baked bread…divine. My friend chose the tagliatelle with eggplant and I chose the calamari & shrimp with squid ink fettuccine.  Both excellent choices.  The generous portions provided enough for a second meal via our take home boxes.

Now, I must confess, that we both felt duty bound to indulge in at least two of Dinamo’s dessert  options.  I mean, in the interest of thorough investigation an all.   Tiramisu and Limoncello Tart…worth every calorie.

 

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The New Casa in Town

Casa Italiana is the new Italian restaurant in Richmond.  It is hidden away in a little strip mall at 8801 Three Chopt Rd, Suite B, just a stone’s throw from Freeman High School. www.casaitalianarestaurant.com

Three siblings, all chefs in three different States decided that they wanted to come together and form a family company that shared beloved old family recipes as well as some new twists on those family favorites.  Lucky for me, they chose Richmond.

Genova Family

The decor has a chic European simplicity that is both peaceful and warm.  The seating is comfortable, the lighting is bright, but not overpowering and the small bar offers a place to enjoy a drink if you have to wait for a table.

 

The atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive.  Kristi, one of the three siblings, graciously served us and told us a little of the family story that brought them from Sicily to the States and from three different States to Richmond. After the meal, Kristi introduced us to her brother and fellow chef, Gaetano, who we thanked for a terrific meal. The Genova family offers great food at prices that won’t break the bank.

I had the Eggplant Rollatini appetizer and a house salad with grilled salmon.  The Pomadoro sauce was on point with its authentic simplicity and rich tomato flavor.  The eggplant was cooked to perfection and the ricotta filling tender and delicate.  The house salad, topped with piece of tender, crispy skinned salmon was just the right accompaniment.

My friend and fellow foodie, opted for the Roasted Mushroom, Grilled Asparagus on a bed of Arugula appetizer and the Caprese Salad with Grilled Salmon.  Gorgeous.  Almost too beautiful to eat.  Almost.

We both gave up sugar for Lent, so we had to pass on the dessert options of cannoli made with an imported Sicilian shell or the limoncello cake dessert so common in southern Italy.  I will definitely come back after Lent…maybe I’ll try the flaming spaghetti dish too.

Flaming Spaghetti

RVA charity leads to cooking in Tuscany

This past Spring my husband and I attended a Saint Gertrude High School charity gala at the VMFA.  One of the silent auction items was a week at Franco’s Friendly Villa in Tuscany. To our delight, we won the bid and made our plans to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in Italy. Italy is one of my all time favorite places to visit: wonderful food, engaging and enthusiastic people,  gorgeous landscapes, rich and ancient history.   Italy calls you back.

My mom accompanied me on my first Italian vacation, so cooking classes were non-negotiable.  On that first trip, Chef Jeff Thickman showed me how to make Pasticcio all Napoletana, what my family affectionately calls “pasta cake”, and now that dish is a Christmas dinner staple.

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“pasta cake”

I knew that this trip, I wanted my husband and our good friends to experience the same joy and cultural enrichment that Jeff generously granted my mom and me back in 2004.

Part of understanding, appreciating and enjoying a different culture is understanding, appreciating and enjoying its food.  Food reveals a great deal about people.  Let me tell you, Italians are serious about their food.  Oh, and p.s., there is no such thing as “Italian” food.  There is Tuscan food, Umbrian food, Lucca food, Florence food, Rome food, Bologna food, etc….  Each region, each city has its own distinct food, particular recipes and seasonal specialties.  Just ask our friend Tim, who dared to ask for Lasagna while dining in Lucca!

We spent 10 fabulous hours with Jeff and our other classmates and it felt like the blink of an eye. We learned about Parmesean and authentic buffalo mozzarella cheeses, Balsamic vinegar, Prosecco wine, nutmeg and olive oil.  All while cooking and eating a five course meal, enjoying stimulating conversations with new found friends and Jeff’s  spellbinding tales of past cooking adventures that included well known politicians, musicians and actors. Jeff has an easy manner and a generous spirit.  He invited us into his home and while we enjoyed his beautiful Tuscan vistas, gardens and hospitality, we learned the tricks of an even cookie crust, folding egg whites into semifreddo and frying batter, chicken stock that has rich color and flavor,making pasta without tearing it, piping out ricotta for pasta, easy and beautiful garnishes and several delicious recipes that are destined to become new family favorites.

The pictures speak for themselves: Jeff Thickman’s cooking class is a must if you are traveling in Tuscany and well worth the 150 euro per person tuition.  jthick@gmail.com