"Don't you just love living in Italy?" my friend Weezie Mingenbach asked, though she said it more like a statement than a question. "I bet you hardly ever miss anything from L.A." Another statement. She was certain of what I was going to say, even as we sat watching an incomparable West Coast view: a brilliant red sun slipping into the Pacific Ocean.
The truth is that I do love my life in Tuscany. Ten years ago my husband Jean-Louis and I bought a few wild acres of farmland and a heap of stones that had once been a house. Our plan was to bring the place back to life and to use it as a summer refuge from the demands of running Locanda Veneta and our other Los Angeles restaurants. We weren't expecting to be captivated by what emerged: the ochre house with its green shutters and climbing roses set in a patchwork of grapevines, olive groves, woods and fields. Our children and I now spend about nine months a year in Italy, Jean-Louis somewhat less. And yet, even if I lived there for a thousand years, I would never become Italian. Sometimes I just want to be unapologetically American in America.
Weezie, a costume designer, and I were at my homecoming dinner party at our friends Judith and Dominick Guillemot's house in Malibu. He is a fashion photographer; she's the West Coast editor of Harper's Bazaar. Their home is everything an Italian farmhouse could never be: pale wood, clean lines and glass, with one huge wall of windows overlooking the Pacific. The interior is so open and luminous it makes me feel like I'm outdoors.