Antonio Ciminelli prepares this starter year-round with whatever produce is in season. In the fall, that means apples, mushrooms and late-harvest zucchini, fried in a batter made extra-light and crisp by adding sparkling wine and whipped egg white. The fritto misto is best eaten hot from the pan, perhaps served in a paper cone.
"My grandmother felt that cooking was her life. She used to come over and whip up a batch of stracciatella," says Linda Meyers of this classic Italian chicken soup with spinach and delicate bits of egg. "Tasting it brings back all these memories of her."
After blanching peas, snap peas and fingerling potatoes, Andrew Carmellini adds them to a homemade mussel broth along with sea bass, clams, an herb pesto and little seafood meatballs made with shrimp, chorizo and scallops.
Pairing: 2010 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna
Porchetta, a traditional Italian street food, is a moist and fatty fresh ham covered with skin that's heavily seasoned with salty garlic, rosemary, fennel and lemon. Chef James Lewis of Bettola in Birmingham, Alabama, adds some heat to his version with crushed red pepper.
Pairing: 2009 Valle Reale Vigneto Vigne Nuove Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
For the past 18 years, Celestino Drago (an F&W Best New Chef 1993) has opened great restaurants around L.A., like Drago Ristorante. Drago Centro is his most ambitious yet. Anchored by an enormous glass wine-storage tower, it specializes in updated Italian food, like the squab: "It's traditional to stuff birds with plain bread," Drago says, "but I like to use focaccia with herbs; it's nicer."
The pasta for this tortelli (a larger version of tortellini) is extremely silky and supple, which makes it excellent with the creamy ricotta-and-spinach filling. If there's any dough left over, cut it into noodles, as Marco Canora does, then dry it and store it in bags in the refrigerator to have on hand for last-minute dinners.
Giada De Laurentiis, host of Food Network's Everyday Italian and Behind the Bash, cuts swordfish into chunks and cooks them on skewers so the fish is done extra fast. Alternatively, "I like to skewer the swordfish on rosemary sticks before grilling them," De Laurentiis says. "The rosemary sticks infuse the fish with such a nice flavor."
Pairing: 2009 Villa Matilde Tenute di Altavilla Greco di Tufo
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Warm Seafood Salad with Pistachio and Capers
A version of this recipe was served to Oceania passengers by chef Francesco Cutrì of Ristorante Le Bocche, in the Ligurian village of Portovenere on the Italian Riviera. The shrimp-and-squid salad, with its piquant dressing of capers, olive oil and ground pistachios, was a hit.
Pasta cacio e pepe ("cheese and pepper") is made with Pecorino Romano, a tangy aged sheep's-milk cheese originally from Rome, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. In Lazio, chef Antonio Ciminelli of Osteria Fontana Candida serves an elegant version with short pasta on the menu, and a rustic one with spaghetti for staff.