I’m standing in a skinny cobbled street in the town of Orosei on the eastern shore of Sardinia, an island off Italy’s west coast. Above my head, curved terra-cotta roof tiles slope up toward the domes of historic churches, their cupolas and crosses scorched by centuries of Mediterranean summers. Beneath my toes, the stones have been rubbed smooth by the feet of generations; before me a long wall encases a single door, which slowly creaks open. Behind it stands a tiny old woman wearing a long, gathered skirt, her wispy gray hair scraped back into a bun. She looks confused—who is this stranger at her door?—until she catches a glimpse of my companion and her face breaks into a grin of a thousand wrinkles.
“ Efisio!” she exclaims as she rushes to hug him.
I’m in Sardinia with Efisio Farris, and the woman embracing him is Zia Mary, his father’s sister. Farris was born and raised in Orosei, though he’s spent the past 19 years in Texas, where he is the chef and owner of the acclaimed Sardinian restaurants Arcodoro in Houston and Arcodoro & Pomodoro in Dallas; in addition, he runs GourmetSardinia, which imports traditional foods such as the crisp flatbread pane carasau and saba, a sweet grape-must reduction similar to balsamic vinegar. Farris has also just finished his first cookbook, Sweet Myrtle & Bitter Honey, which will be published next month.