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Once upon a time, eight years ago (“otto anni fa”), a guy and a girl left their jobs and flew to Italy to follow their dream. Their dream took them to Calabria to the Institito Culinario Italiano and Master Chef John Nocita for a 3-month intensive master’s program in regional Italian cuisine. As Rynn said, “Had it not been for this program, we would not be on this path.” So the rest is history!

20140501_104557Today we went back to where it all began for David and Rynn, and our group was able to experience a day in their life as culinary students. Our morning with Chef John was spent learning20140501_105548 about and making (and tasting!) pasta. Not only did we learn the difference between Northern and Southern Italian pasta doughs, but also saw at least 20 different shapes rolled out and got a culinary history lesson to boot! Farfalle, schiatelle, cavatelli, cappelletti, orecchiette, fusilli…the list goes on! We were then given dough and all of the fun kitchen tools to try to replicate these shapes ourselves. From the results, I’d say we had some pretty good students!

Even though he and Chef Nick have been feeding us throughout the morning, we were treated to an amazing lunch of pasta with porcini and sausage, marinated artichokes, some awesome ricotta “poppers,” and a hazelnut chocolate cake that everyone managed to find room for! Lunch was followed by a gelato lesson, including a taste of their tasty almond gelato.

20140501_205921We had a restful afternoon back at the hotel, some people going for walks or just enjoying the sea view from their balconies, before our trek up the mountain for dinner. This ristorante is a definite favorite – the rustic fare is quite different from the seafood-based dishes we’ve been enjoying, just by nature of their mountaintop location. Local pecorino, slow roasted beans in crocks, a pheasant ragu, braised pork, lamb and goat – all local and amazingly delicious. Bellies full, we made our way back down the switchbacks to our hotel to (sadly!) prepare for our last day of the trip!