Whenever I have worked on a project, my favorite moment has always been when the ideas begin flowing freely. When I start to feel alive and when every creative impulse transforms into something tangible and real.
For a curious person like me, this phase is full of stimuli, and I learn something new every day. While studying the seasonality of fruits and vegetables in California, more specifically in the Bay Area, I compiled spreadsheet after spreadsheet recording pertinent details such as the local fishing periods and the Italian raw materials available and where to find them. I collected every useful bit of data that pertains to my project, and I always keep this information on hand.
California’s temperate, favorable climate allows local farms to produce excellent products. I focused on organic seasonal fruit and vegetables, indispensable for preparing recipes of Italian heritage. California has exceptional tomatoes. Although I had read about them in Tony Caporello’s book, Una 500 Rossa in California (A Red 500 in California), I was still surprised to see the different varieties and taste them for myself during my first summer visit to the farmer’s market. California artichokes taste delicious and come in several varieties available in the spring and fall.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the dozens of broccoli varieties. Calabrian green broccoletto is available year-round, while excellent brocolletti di ciccio, an Italian heirloom variety, and rapini (turnip tops) are sold in November and December. Endive, Roman lettuce, and red radicchio from Treviso can be found along with, to my great surprise, Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco, a distinct PGI variety from the Veneto similar to chicory.
When I cross-referenced all my research with regional Italian recipes to compile Caponatina Lab recipe book, it felt like traveling around my Bel Paese—thanks to food, every destination has managed to preserve part of its most ancient traditions.
Yet, it’s not only about regional recipes. In Italy, heritage is immeasurable. You can find different food and wine traditions just 10 miles away from each other in the same province.
The choice for me was clear from the outset: to identify dishes belonging to Italian regional traditions—once that can be prepared with seasonal raw materials and imported Italian products. The few recipes are feasible and don’t require frills or modifications, yet authentic and coming from Italian regional and familial traditions.
But there’s more to Italian food. Mediterranean cuisine, recognized for its intangible heritage of humanity, is based on principles aimed at psychophysical wellness. Food must be good and healthy, and the Mediterranean diet respects this idea, calling for meat and fish balanced by a large intake of protein through legumes, eggs, and dairy products.