I recently came home from a vacation in Italy where I took a pasta making class from Chef Luigi at Salice Blue restaurant in Bellagio on Lake Como. The town of Bellagio provides the inspiration for the Vegas hotel with the same name, and it’s no wonder they chose a place named for its stunning beauty to inspire their palatial hotel. The real Bellagio is somewhat less grand in scale than it’s Vegas counterpart, and has none of the commercial hype or fantasy-land aspect of the Americanized version. The town is only about as long as a few blocks, and the handful of shops trickle up into the hillside from the main street. The cafes and gelato shops sit right on the water's edge and overlook both sides of Lake Como. This idyllic little spot is where my cooking lesson began.
By the end of the morning we had created a masterpiece of dual colored ravioli, stuffed with potato and pesto filling to serve for lunch at Salice Blue. At exactly 12:30pm the entire restaurant filled to capacity. As though the town had some communal lunch hour that everyone adhered to. This made things difficult for Luigi, who prepares each dish to order. After the morning cooking lesson our lunch took over three and a half hours, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Our little table in the sunshine overlooked both the distant mountains and the piercing blue waters of the lake beneath them. It was my own storybook chapter of my perfect Italian holiday. Sure the next day we’d drop a passport running through the Milan train station, and the day after that realize my credit card had been stolen…but for those few gorgeous hours I ate my heart out in bliss.
We began with a tour of Chef Luigi’s home garden. He showed me the different herbs, lettuces and grass that had been planted there, each to honor a specific moment in time. His own birth and those of his family members properly celebrated by a rosemary bush or a crop of spring onions.
Then the lesson began…