Monday, May 30, 2011

The Family Meal

After an hour of opening the kitchen and prep work, we make the family meal. In restaurants, the so-called "family meal" is when the staff dines together before service. This is probably my favorite part of the internship. We take turns and help one another prepare either lunch or dinner using leftovers from previous service or produce that's in surplus or might go bad soon.

Today I helped Johnny make lunch, it sure was delicious.
We reheated some pasta from last night's family meal and gave it a bit more body with the addition of vegetable stock and cream. The rigatoni were doused in a rich tomato sauce full of fresh herbs and spices. The smells automatically made your mouth water. With that out of the way, I began on a side dish that was a bit healthier.

I sauteed shallots in olive oil with a bit of minced garlic. Then I added zucchini and fennel to the pan. With just a little bit of salt and pepper, it was the perfect accompaniment for lunch. I think I have a new obsession with fennel. When it is done right, sauteed until almost transparent with golden edges, it is simply divine.

So, simple recipe:
Olive oil in pan, add 1 clove of garlic (minced), wait for it to sizzle and sing, then add two fennel bulbs that have been cut into 1 inch pieces. Cook for about 5 minutes or until almost translucent and somewhat golden brown on the edges. Then season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

*Chef's tip: safe the fennel fronds to use as garnish!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stocking Up

Making everything in house is one of the reasons the food here is so spectacular. They take the "farm to table" concept very seriously, using fresh produce in numerous ways. One of my tasks today was making the vegetable stock. They make it fresh every few days or until we run out. It's very simple, but creates a full flavored liquid in the end. We use the stock for everything from soups to quick sautes, it's constantly in use.

I coated a large stockpot with lots of olive oil. Then I added some roughly cut vegetable including tomatoes, eggplant, celery, zucchini, white onions, peppers and carrots. I let these get nice and golden brown and then added water until the vegetables were fully covered. We let this come to a boil and then simmer for over an hour. Sometimes they wait over 3 hours before taking it off the heat.

We strained the liquid, keeping the chopped vegetables on the side. The stock was then ready to go. With the cooked vegetables, we make a paste and then use that as the base for vegetable soup. I used the emulsifier to blend the vegetables and then strained it through the chinoise.

For the soup we will alter heat up that paste, add some stock, salt, pepper, and then add tomatoes, cream, and a sprinkle of parsley.

Later in the shift I also made shrimp stock (we always have the vegetable and some sort of fish stock out). It was made similarly to the veggie stock. I started by browning celery, carrots, onions, and garlic in olive oil in a stock pot. Then I added the shrimp heads and gave them a good crush. Once those flavors were married I added water and 2 tomatoes. We put a little port in the stock as well. Strained and it was ready to go!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Favorite Things Friday

More to add to the list...

Red lipstick. All the Italian women make it fabulous. I gave in and bought some. Still haven't worn it yet, as I don't wear makeup in the kitchen. But, can't wait to give it a try!

Coca-Cola Light. I know I have become a traitor to my beloved Diet Coke. The source of my energy, the treatment for my hangovers, and the love of my life. However, Italy has failed me and does not provide Diet Coke. I assume this is the next best thing. Only 64 more days till I am reunited with my DC!

I have named him Pepper. He lives on my street and is so precious. Kin to Caesar and loves to say "Hi!" on my daily walks to town. Gotta love westies!

Sharpening my skills

I am starting to feel like I am truly improving. Sometimes work can be overwhelming, it's a fast-paced environment where there is always something to do. I am trying to keep a specific focus on improving my knife skills. I have been well-trained at the several restaurants I've worked in, but here they demand even more. Julienne and cocasse are frequently used terms explaining how to cut certain vegetables. We julienne, or very thinly slice, anything from spring onions to artichokes. We use concasse, similar to a dice, for tomatoes and vegetables in the ratatouille. Julienne is the hardest of the cuts. To maintain a steady hand while perfectly slicing thin strips of vegetables in identical sizes can be very difficult. But, with lots of practice (which I am getting) I think I am starting to get the hang of it!

One Fish, Two Fish...

This morning I was given the most unpleasant task of cleaning branzino, or sea bass from scales to filet. They showed me this before, but now I actually had to it. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning experience, I signed up for this voluntarily, and I just gotta do it. So, I put on my rubber gloves, held my breath and got started.

Luckily, a new member of the team, Johnny, was there to help me along the way. We made somewhat of an assembly line. I cleaned off all the scales, he pulled out the guts and removed the blood, and Fabio made the filets. Although my job was the least disgusting, I stood next to Johnny as he removed internal organs and arteries. The carcasses were placed in hotel pans, resembling silver coffins more than ever. The remains will be used to make homemade fish stock.

Although the process of cleaning the fish entirely was putrid, smelly, and disgusting; it was a challenging assignment I will never forget. I officially know and can clean a fish from water to plate. It will never be my favorite job, but I can do it all by myself!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Apple a Day...

I have gotten into what I think is a cute little habit of picking up 1 apple each day from the fruit stand near the apartment. It's like a mini grocery store, but only sells fresh fruits and vegetables. I always walk around for a few minutes observing all of the new produce that they bring in daily. Inevitably I always leave with the same thing, a golden delicious apple. I eat on my walk back home. By the time I'm back it's always devoured. I usually have juice dripping down my chin, and sticky hands. But it is one of those simple moments I absolutely love and truly cherish.

The Dish Pit

Yesterday, "Tyson" our beloved dishwasher had the day off. I don't actually know his real name, everyone calls him Tyson because he truly resembles Mike Tyson. He doesn't speak any English, but does a fantastic job keeping the kitchen clean and running.

Without him, I was really put to work. When there was not much going on in the kitchen, we took turns throwing out scraps, scrubbing pans, and cleaning dishes. There was always something that had to be done. The steam of the hot water was overwhelming, and the constant pile of dirty dishes seemed infinite. I was in over my head, but did my best to clean up.

Even once service was over the dishes continued to make their way into the dish pit. Cutting boards, dirty knives, cappuccino cups kept coming in. It was not the easiest job. The hot water scalded by skin and the steam from the dishwasher gave me constant facials. Taking out the garbage, mopping the floors, and putting each and every piece of equipment away also became part of our tasks. It was intense to say the least.

Dad has always said I needed to work as a dishwasher, working my way up throughout the restaurant business. I now know why. I have a new found appreciation for dishwashers. I knew they were crucial to running a kitchen, but I had no clue how hard they work. Without dishwashers we would probably be eating microwaveable food on Styrofoam plates. So, to all the dishwashers out there. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pizza and Beer

Our first clients came to eat at 10:30 pm last night. Since I arrived at 5:30, we had plenty of time to get the kitchen ready and prepare for the evening. So, what does one do in an Italian kitchen when there is nothing to do? Make Pizza of course!

Nino taught me how to make his famous pizza from scratch. We had it once before when we came in March, it's unbelievable. He begins by using the same dough we use for the dinner bread. He kneaded it out a bit then began to run it through the pasta machine, making it thinner each time. Once the dough was about a 1/2 inch thick, he used a rolling pin to form it into an even rectangle. For consistency purposes he rolled both sides of the dough using lots of flour. Once the dough was ready, he placed it on a sheet.

Next was the sauce. At Il Bottaccio we make fresh tomato sauce almost daily. He ladled it on and spread it out evenly. Then sprinkled some fresh edammer cheese all over. Covering that with drizzles of extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Finally we topped it all with slices of smoked cheese. At this stage you can add other toppings, but we chose to stick with the original cheese.

Placed in the oven at 250 degrees Celcius (480 degrees farenheit) for 6-8 minutes or until gold and bubbly on top, and brown on the bottom.

We paired it with an ice cold Guiness, what a perfect way to spend a slow night in the kitchen!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Perfect Afternoon

Work Hard, Play Harder

This morning's shift may not have been the most enjoyable, but it all paid off in the end. This morning we opened up the kitchen as usual. Setting out cutting boards and necessary ingredients. Checking to see what prep needed to be done. And beginning lunch for the staff.

Everything was seemingly simple until the fish delivery came. After we ate lunch, I was put to the task of putting lobsters in bags to then put in the freezer. They are already dead, so this is the best way to preserve the meat. However, I quickly discovered not all of them were dead. Luckily, I had Tyson, the dishwasher, to help me with the live ones. For a little while I was a bit nervous! I really am learning the cooking process start to finish.

Because no one came for lunch, my next project was to clean under the sink. Just because cleaning products live in this cabinet does not mean it is orderly at all. It was a dirty job scrubbing and organizing all that lived under there. I doubt it had been cleaned in months. After a lot of hard work it finally sparkled again.

Once we completed a few more tasks we cleaned the kitchen. I was taught the correct way of sterilizing the counters and how to get the gunk out of tiny little crevices. Even though this might not be the most glamorous of jobs, it's important to be able to do it. Keeping a kitchen clean must be a number one priority for it to be successful.

With a hard days work behind me, I was glad to hear I had the rest of the day off. If no one comes in to eat, no one needs to work. So I began my perfect afternoon and headed to the beach!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Kitchen of Il Bottaccio

Filet O' Fish

The morning shift (11-3:30ish) consists mainly of making the decorations and prep for the evening service. Although lunch service still occurs, there is more time to make the preparations for the night ahead.

Today, I worked mainly with seafood; doing both the cleaning and the cooking. I began with mussels or cozze. Because they do not use the shell I only had to clean off the grit. For the clams or vongole, I put them in a bowl of water to remove the sand. To make sure they were good I dropped them on the counter to make sure they made the right sound. After all were clean we put them in pans of olive oil, garlic, and parsley. Then after they cooked for awhile we added wine and fish stock. We let them simmer, covered, until they all opened beautifully.

Fabio also showed me how to filet a fish. Taking a knife against the backbone, then down the gill, and again to cut off the organs. A bit of a disgusting process, but very interesting. Then you use tweezers to remove all of the tiny bones still in the filet. I think I may need to see this a few more times before they put me in charge!

Later in the night shift, I helped peel shrimp. I felt like I was back in Natalia's kitchen on my first day of work. During my senior year internship I was asked to peel 30 pounds of shrimp, no easy task! But the shrimp or scampi we worked on tonight were a bit different. Not only did we have to remove the heads, but we also had to clean "the vein" which is not really a vein, it's waste.

Although these might not be the most glamorous jobs in the kitchen, they are very important. One of the main reasons I think Il Bottaccio is so successful is because of all the little things that go into each dish. It is all about the process, from cleaning gross parts of the seafood to putting the delicate decorations on top, everything comes together in the final product.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Instead of writing about the constant chaos of each day, I am going to start focusing blogs on my biggest lesson of the day. Primarily featuring anything that is unbelievably outstanding. For example, today my focus was on decoration aka garnish.

Il Bottaccio is known for amazing gourmet dishes that are perfected in each and every way, including presentation. I began my first shift of the day preparing the decoration. I spent over an hour carving out diamond shaped boats of zucchini, parallelograms of carrots, and tomatoes shaped like flowers. It takes time and lots of concentration to make each perfect. I had to be patient and practice over and over again.

Once the shapes were cut out we blanched the zucchini and carrots. Then sauteed the zucchini in olive oil and scallions and sauteed the carrots in vanilla oil and honey. Before each plating we reheated the tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots. We used the zucchini to make a flower and stacked the carrots.

In addition to these vegetables we also made vegetable cylinders, wrapped in zucchini blossoms and tied together with chives. The scalloped potato cylinders also made it to the plate again this evening. All of these items combined with the main courses proved to be an extraordinary meal.

P.S. I know I need to work on the food photography, it is so much prettier in real life!

La Mia Casa

Dinner For 40

Thursday morning I woke up at a decent hour to find Marzia preparing some breakfast. I mentioned I was not very hungry, but she provided me with an array of fruits, yogurts, and finally toast with Nutella. She's simply wonderful! There were peaches, bananas, and pears all juicy and ripe. Even the simplest of meals are wonderful here.

After breakfast we got ready to go to Il Bottaccio. Once we were there I was put to work, doing preparation for the dinner party held that night. I began by filleting the smoked salmon, placing delicate pieces of the pink flesh on crackers spread with butter. Then I filed quiche cups with the vegetable mixture we made yesterday.

Once I was done, Fabio, a sous chef, made the whole staff lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of the vegetable chicken pasta. Fabio speaks English and is quite patient with me. He is a great teacher, giving me plenty to do while also having me taste and watch what he does. Today, I tried pure pig fat, it tasted like bacon flavored butter, so good! We have also become carpool buddies since he lives in Massa too.

After lunch, I finished the shift making the tomato garnish, and pizza tomatoes. The tomato garnish involved peeling the skins off and forming them into a flower, very pretty. The pizza tomatoes are simply diced tomatoes. I also helped Marzia make caramel sauce and cut out the scalloped potatoes with a cookie cutter. Another task I had was to julienne vegetables. This means cutting them very very thinly. I got a compliment on my knife skills so I guess that's a good sign. We ended the shift with a glass of 2004 red wine, I'd say it was a good first half of the work day.

I rested during my break, which didn't last long. Once returning to Il Bottaccio it seemed like a whirlwind. They had a party of 40 from the Lion's Club, similar to our Rotary Club. The dinner was a multitude of courses, beginning with passed hors d'oeuvres. This included rolled prosciutto, crackers with cheese, salami, mini hamburgers, salmon crackers and more. The second course was a tortellini, then the fish course, and finally a chocolate mousse dessert. All simply irresistible. I helped where I was needed, bringing ingredients, cleaning as we cooked, and plating each course.

Tonight really felt like a team in the kitchen, all of us coming together to make an incredible meal. We ended the night with a glass of sgroppino and lots of laughs. I'd say it was a success.

These are a few of my favorite things

Now that I seem to be slightly settled in Italy, I have started to completely immerse myself in their culture. I’ve learned several new words, picked up some mannerisms, and found things I don’t think I will ever be able to live without. So, I have decided to have an ongoing list of all the things I know I’ll want when I return.

· Cappucino Spoons

o These tiny little stirrers are perfect for almost any occasion. Whether it be in the morning caffe, the after dinner cocktail, or for decoration, they are simply delightful.

· Nutella

o I know this is cliché, but honestly the stuff is addicting. I had it on my bread while Marzia had peanut butter on hers. I guess the pasture is just always greener on the other side. But, today I added bananas to the nutella toast, no way I can go back now.

· Sgroppino

o This refreshing cocktail is perfect anytime, but they prefer after dinner. It is a simple concoction

1 scoop lemon gelato, ½ cup Prosecco, ¼ cup vodka

Combine, Stir, Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

And so it begins...

On my second day in Italy...

I woke up at a decent hour 9:30 (still working on that body clock) and began a very adventurous and long day. My day began with Roberto, the father of the family I am staying with. He speaks the least English of the family, but has a great sense of humor through the language barrier.

We began our day with a traditional Italian breakfast at the nearby caffe. Honestly, the best cappuccino and pastry I have ever had. He was kind enough to even buy my breakfast, such a sweet man. After we finished eating and drinking at the bar we headed on to the market.

The market was similar to our Kroger, but Italian style of course. The produce was a rainbow of colors, I especially enjoyed taking in the purple artichokes and bright red tomatoes. Interestingly, they weigh the produce and get a price sticker in the produce section as opposed to our entering the PLU code once we are in the check out line. We went through the family's grocery list, helping one another find a variety of items. The cheese section was amazing as well as the bakery where smells took over your ability to resist impulse purchases. It was all quite amusing though as I stood in the Italian grocery listening to Aerosmith's "I don't want to close my eyes". All in all it was a great experience seeing how they function on day to day basis, and it is just like us, but in a different language and with better food.

Living with the family has definitely giving me more of an opportunity to discover Italian culture. Once we arrived home and unloaded the groceries. Marzia began to prepare (never cook) something to eat. I stood watching in the kitchen and then handed over what seemed to be her liquid gold, peanut butter. She rejoiced and completely changed the menu to bread and fruit with peanut butter. Apparently I should have brought a case, not just one jar.

Nino and Irina came to pick me up for my first day of work. Terrie, the other intern was kind enough to show me around and give me several pointers. It was a lot to take in the first day. Then we began prep. We made dough for small quiches that were filled with a spinach and ricotta mixture. Then we prepped vegetables that would later be used in other quiches. We cut peppers, onions, carrots, zucchini, and eggplant into small cubes that Nino sauteed. Then I helped Marzia with the pasta. She said that in Italy you make it thin enough so you can read a newspaper through it. We helped set out things and clean up as Nino needed. I also helped with the caramel sauce and scalloped potatoes. Although the restaurant is not really busy, there is a lot f prep work that goes into each dish. They are also preparing for a 40 person party in 2 days.

I know I have a ways to go in feeling comfortable in the kitchen, but I think I am off to a pretty good start. Let's just hope I survive day #2.

Taking it all in

Il Bottaccio was kind enough to make my first assignment get rested, get settled, and get to know your surroundings. After my long journey and attempt at adjusting to the 6 hour time difference I was happy to follow orders.

I slept until 12:30, clearly I am not on their schedule yet. I assumed rest was best and eventually I would be caught up. The family, who is vegetarian, made an elegant lunch full of all kinds of fresh vegetables. I had a yummy tomato salad with fresh basil and sweet onions. Simply enough it was only seasoned with olive oil and salt. They had freshly cut avocados and carrots. Fresh pasta and cheese bread also made it to the table. Everything was simple and delicious.

After lunch I decided to tour around the small city of Massa. We explored a little before when I came with Lauren and Jenn, but it was a whole new experience on my own. I went into the center of town where the orange square is. There are several government buildings and their duomo, a beautiful church adorned with mosaics. I kept walking around through shops and restaurants. I saw the beautiful castle on the hill and tried to get a good picture, but it does not do it justice. Everywhere you look is something amazing. Whether it's the mountains in the background, the fresh flowers, or the old buildings I am constantly in amazement.

Once I was done with my tour of Massa, I came back to the apartment for a little nap. Getting adjusted to time change is no easy task! Marco, their son came back and we watched Finding Nemo in Italian and then The Hangover and Avatar in English. His English is very good which is comforting. Marco made us a simple dinner of fennel, zucchini, and pasta with tomatoes. I never knew I would enjoy being a vegetarian this much!

Today I begin my first day of work, I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The First Supper

After surviving my 6 hour layover with a grilled cheese and spontaneous naps, I finally made my way to Pisa with a 2 hour plane ride. As we flew over the Alps, I tried to wrap my head around the amazing summer I am about to experience. It still seems so surreal, I cannot believe I am actually in Italy again.

Once I arrived I found my overweight bag, and headed to the taxis. I lucked out with an English speaking Italian who kindly drove me to Il Bottaccio. Although it was a mighty long and expensive ride, it was pleasant being able to immediately converse with a Pisa native.

As I entered the beautiful hotel, I knew I was in the right place. It was more exquisite than I remembered, and the people were just as friendly. They sat me down at the kitchen table and began to prepare a welcome meal. As I sipped the bubbly Prosecco, I couldn't help but enjoy watching them gracefully combine ingredients. The smells overwhelmed me and my stomach began to grumble. Still on American time I forget when I am most hungry.

First they ladled large portions of asparagus soup with tomatoes and crispy pancetta on top. If the first meal came with fried bacon, I can't imagine what else is in store for me. Then they served sauteed artichokes and potatoes in olive oil. Absolutely delicious! The artichokes were perfectly prepared. Accompanied by their famous cheese bread. I was a happy camper.

Now in the spare bedroom of the pastry chef's apartment. I am about to enjoy a light pasta lunch with her family. They are too kind and warm, and their apartment is precious right in the heart of Massa. I could not be happier to be here, just ready for the jet lag to end!

Halfway There

As I apprehensively ate the cheese lasagna out of the plastic container, I only hoped for my 24-hour journey to Montignoso to go by a bit more quickly. A 7-½ hour flight has landed me in London, England. With the flight full of medicated sleep and mass-produced food, I am thrilled to finally be settled in the rotunda of the Gatwick airport. My next flight is in 5 hours.

I began the trip yesterday a with a farewell lunch with the mom, sister, and boyfriend and then endured a small shopping spree around Atlanta, picking up the last few items I knew I just had to have. Once at the airport I was finally on my way. Amazingly enough, I ran in to several people I know. The UGA study abroad trip to Verona was on my flight as well as two friends from Auburn doing internships in London. It is amazing what a small world it is! I automatically felt more comfortable traveling since I had friends on my flight that were just as nervous about crossing the pond.

Honestly, the flight was not bad at all. I took two sleeping pills that knocked me right out, well that is after I force-fed myself flavorless cheese lasagna. Seriously, Italy has no competition! It did help that I washed it down with a glass of wine. I slept most of the trip until I was awoken to a breakfast in a box placed on my tray. Considering it was 4:00 a.m. my time I didn’t eat much. I nibbled the banana nut “and fruit” muffin, but decided to just stick with the coffee. We landed in Heathrow Airport of London at 10:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. Macon, Ga. time).

The airport made it simple to go through customs, collect our bags, and then unfortunately go our separate ways. I left the girls interning in London to hop aboard a “coach” aka bus to the Gatwick airport. Yes, I had to change airports, which was slightly terrifying, but apparently is the norm here. I have already checked my bag and gone through security twice. First time I went through I forgot to empty my refillable water, rookie mistake. In my defense I have slept only a few hours in an airplane chair. Needless to say I am not exactly on my a-game.

So now, I sit in the Gatwick airport. Trying to pass the next 5 hours as quickly as possible so I can be in Italy in my new home.

A Southern Semester

Full of pimiento cheese, fried chicken and pickled okra, working as Rebecca Lang’s intern this past semester has been a Southern girl’s dream come true. She has opened her kitchen to me sharing recipe secrets and all sorts of “Quick-Fix” tips in the kitchen. There is truly something special about working with Rebecca.

As soon as she describes her grandmother’s fried chicken, mouths begin to water. When cooking class participants inhale wafts of the sizzling grease, their stomachs grumble with anticipation. Rebecca’s success as a cooking instructor comes from her talent to eloquently articulate recipes and culinary knowledge. Not only is she a successful chef and cooking instructor, Lang is also a cookbook author, contributing editor for Southern Living, and mother of two young children. In addition to all of that, she flies to Tampa every couple of months to shoot cooking segments for the nationally syndicated show Daytime.

I still am in awe of how she does it all. She is an inspiration and role model like no other. If people asked me years ago, or even today, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would say “Rebecca Lang”. She balances life between home and work, and always makes herself available to me, a student aspiring to make it in the competitive world of culinary journalism. She has invited me to listen to webinars with the founder of Saveur magazine, shared countless articles and food journals, and personally shared struggles and successes with her own career. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank her enough for everything she has done for me.

As her intern I was assigned various jobs, since her schedule changes week to week. One of my main jobs was managing all of Lang’s new media outlets. I was in charge of the upkeep of and the Facebook page for Quick-Fix Southern. I also helped prepare for events; including picking appropriate recipes, grocery shopping, and prep work. I was often given tasks of running errands for the company. Mailing books, making copies of recipes, and picking up promotional posters were a few of these responsibilities. I formatted recipes for cooking classes and helped with photography to use on her blog. Keeping up with a multitude of tasks made the internship a constant learning experience.

After such a fabulous semester working together, I was sad to leave Rebecca last week. It never felt like work, just good ole’ Southern fun in the kitchen. Although I will miss hearing about her summer adventures through Texas and Daytime shoots with Southern Living, I am thrilled to return in the fall and help her once again. I love each second here in Italy, but I can’t help craving her White Pimiento Cheese. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I highly recommend Quick-Fix Southern, not because I worked for Rebecca, and not because each recipe is delicious and timesaving. I recommend it because it is the epitome of modern Southern cuisine. It’s good food, fast with all the Southern sophistication and charm found in grandma’s cooking.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Il Bottaccio

I cannot believe that it has been almost two months since we were in Italy. What is even more amazing is that I will be back in 9 days! Knowing that I am about to have an amazing summer cooking in one of the most beautiful places on earth is making studying nearly impossible. Getting ready for two and a half months in a different country is no easy task, but could not complain. It is still surreal how this has all worked out.

A few months ago, Mom met Sara Merchanthouse, my ticket to Il Bottaccio, at a dinner party. Soon enough Mom shared my passion for food which is when Sara mentioned the internship. She had participated for two years, cooking in the Italian kitchen and living in the provided apartment. Before I knew it I was sending my resume and interest letter and getting emails from someone on the other side of the world! I never thought I would actually get the internship, all along it seemed like a far fetched dream- cooking in Italy all summer- one I never thought would come true.

While we were in Florence over spring break, Dad found that it was less than two hours by train to get to Montignoso, the tiny town where Il Bottaccio resides. Nino and Irina, who work at Il Bottaccio were kind enough to help us plan our journey and pick us up from the train station in Massa. With my two best friends, Lauren and Jenn, to travel with me I was anxious to find out more about the opportunity.

We had slept most of the ride to Massa, and once we arrived we looked anxiously for them to pick us up. Without a cell phone for communication it was difficult to locate one another. But just as we thought we might be stranded, Nino called my name. It was so nice to finally meet the faces behind the emails. They had a few things to do in Massa and then we would head to Il Bottaccio. We made several stops including them having a 30 minute meeting which allowed us to look around at a few shops and cafes. The town completely shuts down from 1-4, a sophisticated lifestyle.

Then they took us on a tour of Massa, showing us government buildings, the orange square, and the Duomo. The church was absolutely amazing. It had two side chapels and a basement where many famous people were buried. It was kind of eerie, but emaculate. The church also was adorned in tons of mosaics. After as last stop at the dry cleaners, they took us to Il Bottaccio, my new paradise.

Everything about it was unbelievable. From the pool dining room, to the rooms with enormous bathtubs, the spa, gardens, and stunning view of the coast and mountains made me instantly fall in love. Not to mention how kind they were to us. After being shown the entire property, they sat us at a chef's table in the kitchen. We watched in awe as they prepared a late lunch for us.

Marzia, the pastry chef, prepared a pizza according to Nino's request. It was by far the best we had on the trip. With four different types- margherita, seafood, bacon, and curry- each bite was divine. The pancetta was my favorite. They used a smoky cheese on the pizza that made it to die for. Next they brought out real Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. Nino said this is the best cheese you will find in Italy. To make it even better he paired it with 100 year old aged balsamic. Possibly the best thing I've ever eaten. Being in the kitchen eating with the staff was the most amazing moment, but then things got even better.

They offered me the internship.Just a casual nonchalant, "When you come in May...". It was completely unreal. Learning to cook in Italy while they provide an apartment and meals is too good to true. We chatted for a while and then decided to email about logistics and plan until they see me again in two months. Well those two months have flown by and now I am preparing for the summer of a lifetime. I plan to blog each day on my adventures while abroad, I can't wait!