In 2006, when Italy defeated France in the World Cup Soccer finals, Tony’s passion for Team Italia created a spectacle that neither I, nor our puzzled neighbors, will ever forget. When Italy made the winning goal during the penalty shootout phase, Tony grabbed our Italian flag, raced outside and proceeded to run up and down our street, screaming “Forza Azzurri!” at the top of his lungs as he waved the flag behind him.
It’s hard to believe how fast a four-year cycle comes around, and tomorrow the craziness that is World Cup Soccer will commence again for the next month, this time in the host country of Brazil, one of Team Italy’s greatest rivals.
Sicilians can be very superstitious, and Tony insisted that if our World Cup column was going to even mention Brazil, then Italy also had to be a player. So, this week we’re celebrating with caipirinha cocktails and a traditional antipasto platter.
Back in our Clipper Cruise Line days, Tony and I spent a fair amount of time in Brazil when we were operating 10-day Amazon itineraries out of Manaus, a city in northern Brazil. These cruises could be challenging as we had to contend with extremely high temperatures, resulting in very early morning river tours, air-conditioning failures, potable water issues, and swarms of giant insects the likes of which we had never before experienced.
Nevertheless, my mind is filled with memories of the spectacular and colorful birdlife, vibrant and friendly peoples, diverse wildlife and incredible ecosystem that make this part of the world so special. Mighty and impressive, the Amazon has a rhythm and pulse so strong that even this redhead would brave the heat to go back again.
During these cruises, we featured a drink called the caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil (pronounced kai-pee-REEN-ya). Cool and bracing, the caipirinha was the perfect antidote to the sweltering heat we experienced as we traveled upriver, especially on the two occasions when our ship’s air-conditioning stopped working.
A traditional caipirinha is made with fresh lime, sugar, plenty of ice and cachaça (pronounced ke-SHAH-sa), a distilled spirit made from the juice of sugarcanes (found locally at Happy Harry’s in south Fargo). The caipirinha is strong, but you can temper that by adding more fresh lime or sweet-and-sour mix, or reducing the amount of liquor.
Tony’s favorite food to enjoy during World Cup events is a platter of traditional antipasto, which means “before the meal,” and typically features a variety of simple specialties intended to excite the palate for the main course. We also find it to be a terrific meal in and of itself, especially on hot summer days.
Tony likes to keep his antipasti (plural) simple with a selection of two to three meats and cheeses, marinated olives, a loaf of good bread, jars of pickled or marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and Italian giardiniera. Most of these items are regularly available at our local grocery stores, so that within 30 minutes of arriving home you can assemble your antipasto platter and be on your way to food-grazing heaven.
Who will triumph over these next 30 days – Team Italy or Team Brazil? Will it be caipirinhas and antipasti at the finals, or will they be ousted earlier by another country?
Have I jinxed it all by mentioning Italy and Brazil in the same sentence today (not once, but four times)? Maybe I’ll just avoid the drama altogether, settle down with a cheeseburger and cold beer, and root for Team USA.
1 lime, cut in half – slice one half into quarters and the other half into quarters or rounds
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 ounces cachaça liquor
Begin with half a lime cut into quarters and place them in the bottom of a cocktail glass with 2 teaspoons sugar (we prefer to use brown sugar for its richer flavor).
Use a muddler to gently mash the sugar into the limes until it is dissolved. Fill the glass with ice and finish with two ounces of cachaça, adding more lime quarters or slices if desired. Garnish top of glass with a round slice of lime.
Tony’s Antipasto Platter
cured Italian meats: Prosciutto, Capocollo and Soppressata
cheese: Asiago, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano
marinated olives (recipe available on our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com)
1 jar roasted red peppers (or make your own – recipe available on our blog)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 jar Italian giardiniera (a medley of marinated vegetables)
1 loaf rustic bread – Tony’s choice is Breadsmith’s French bread
Arrange the items on one or two platters, grouping similar items together, such as meat and cheese on one side, olives and veggies on the other. Slice bread into half-inch pieces and display around edge of platter or on a separate dish.
- Feel free to use whatever meat and cheeses you prefer – these are Tony’s favorites.
- Be creative and add other items like nuts, dried fruit, grape, cherry or sun-dried tomatoes, sardines, smoked oysters, etc.
- Store leftovers separately in plastic containers, refrigerate and continue to enjoy until gone.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.