Back to the Gourmet Mag: I stumbled across a reference to it when I was searching for something about Palermo. I'd never heard of it, though it is a relatively new publication, and each issue is devoted to a particular theme. Palermo was the theme for the Spring 2019 issue and it's a must-have for anyone who is a fan of authentic recipes paired with gorgeous photos and travel tips -- and don't stop with this issue devoted to Palermo: you'll want to buy all the back issues and subscribe to future issues, all of which are available in printed editions and pdf. I haven't been as excited about a magazine, and a culinary project, in a long time. 'For slow living people' is one of the phrases Rinaldi uses to describe what she's doing, which of course appealed to me immediately. She also emphasizes that the magazine is an indie publication totally made in Rome, and she believes "handmade (flaws included) is always better than industrial...Make this world a person's world again."
It was clear to me that I needed to contact Rinaldi, so I sent her an e-mail and we began a chain of messages that led to a Q and A interview:
*What inspired you to start the Gourmet Project?
I was in a really dark place. I had been working as the HR responsible for 9+ years, in the same place... a place I loved. But I got a new boss, who turned the place into hell. Not because of long hours, or impossible tasks, nearly the opposite. There was no more space for creativity, no more challenges... my brain was atrophying, and my soul was numbing. I knew I had to go away. And I also knew it was the time to chose between corporate life and an entrepreneurial one. At some point, the company launched incentives to exit, and without thinking twice, I volunteered. I had no idea what I was going to do with the money or with my life. I only knew I was going to gravitate around food - I've cooked since I'm 10 years old! - so I opened a Facebook page, named it Gourmet Project, and asked my former colleagues, my family, and my friends to like it on spec.
For the first couple of years, I planned, dipped my toes, launched a couple of projects, and failed.
Then I began writing about Italian food, realizing how little I knew and how immense the world of Italian regional cuisine is. The more I dug, the more I found how it was deeply rooted in the culture, the lifestyle, and the traditions. Like many Italians, I took it all for granted, and I sadly realized most of it was disappearing.
I'm a (compulsive, maybe) planner, and I love projects, and I had just found a big one: preserving Italy's heritage and sharing it with the rest of the world - or at least the few that were interested and listening!
*The Gourmet Mag -- there is an obvious similarity to the former (wonderful) Gourmet magazine in the States. Were you familiar with it? Did you consider other names?
I remotely knew Gourmet, I had probably read an issue or two, so I didn't think of it at all.
I already had the blog, Gourmet Project, and I needed a food-related name for the mag. But not a name exclusively related to Italian cuisine, as I wasn't sure it would be about Italy, at least not forever.
It came naturally to name it the Gourmet Mag. Indeed, I was quite embarrassed when, a few months after the first launch, I realized people would think I was trying to benefit from its popularity! That's not my style!
My real concern was to make a new product, a magazine I would love to read, worth my time and my money.
I had stopped buying magazines, they were full of advertising, product reviews, and articles about... more products! It wasn't fun anymore. I only read La Cucina Italiana (Italy's Gourmet equivalent) and indie publications, like Kinfolk, or Cherry Bombe. Still, I wanted to make something different, a little more personal, much more similar to a blog or a travel journal.
*Is there a particular past issue that has been very popular?
The Palermo issue, no doubt!
*Is there an issue of the magazine devoted to Rome?
Rome is my city. Beautiful, dirty, enchanting, chaotic, rich... but most of all, immense. I have included recipes, traditions, and specific neighborhoods in some issues. But it deserves more. Not a single issue, though. My mind is at work: neighborhoods? Historic ages? Great families from the past? Seasons? I need to put it all together and see what comes out of my swirling mind.
*What are some of the magazine's upcoming themes?
I'm working on the Winter & Chianti Classico (Tuscany) issue, so expect a lot of wine and meat. But also introspection, it's my favorite part of Winter! Then the sun will be back with the Cinque Terre issue in Spring. And more sun, a lot of lemons and limoncello in the Summer - Capri issue.
*Is there a part of Italy you haven't yet visited?
A lot of them!!! Talking about regions, I've never been to Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Molise. I want to go back to places that I visited when I was very young - and didn't appreciate as I do now that I am old and wise - like Venice. A couple of years ago, I took the DNA test for ethnic origins and... guess what! I'm almost 15% Sardinian. I must explore that island, very, very deeply! And why stop? There are places that I didn't even know existed, like the Riviera del Conero in the Marche region (google it: it's wonderful), that a friend recently told me about.
*Many visitors to Sicily stop in Rome at the beginning or end of their trip. To give them a few more recommendations, here are a few questions: What are your five favorite places to eat and drink in Rome right now?
- Mamma Angelina (viale Arrigo Boito 65, no website) - a neighborhood restaurant near my home, it's our Sunday lunches and family reunions spot.
- Capoboi, Northern Rome: a delicious, superb, Sardinian fish restaurant. Plus, when you finish eating, you can go for a walk in the beautiful Coppedè neighborhood: the entrance is right in front of the restaurant.
- Taverna Trilussa in Trastevere: creamy carbonara, amatriciana, and other traditional pasta dishes. They serve you the pasta in the same pan where they sauteed it - very cute.
- Felice a Testaccio - historic venue for lovers of traditional Roman cuisine.
- Casa Bleve near the Pantheon - Roman and Puglia cuisine (and ingredients!) mixed in every dish.
Let me add one more, it's worth it:
Roscioli in the historic center: I go for the greasy "pizza bianca", the best in the city, and always come back with some other sinful "pizza al taglio" (street-food Roman pizza squares), a crostata, and a bundt cake.
*What are your five favorite places to go to in Rome?
- Villa Ada, the biggest urban forest in Europe. It's a garden near my house. I go there, at least twice a week for a walk with my dog, to read a book, or for a Pandoro picnic!
- Galleria Borghese inside villa Borghese: Caravaggio's self-portrait, Canova's Paolina Borghese, Bernini's Rape of Proserpina... plus the building, and the gardens, and villa Borghese that surrounds it!
- The National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art: a messy exhibition of modern art. The spaces are huge, it's never crowded... I could spend a whole day there!
- I love the walk from the Trinità dei Monti church to Villa Borghese: it's a magnificent panorama of the roofs of Rome, including amazing terraces, domes, and statuary monuments.
- A good day is a day spent in the Ghetto, the Jewish neighborhood of Rome. You can eat fried artichokes at one of the delicious restaurants (I'm a traditionalist, so I still go to Giggetto's . You can eat "bruscolini" (salted and toasted sunflower seeds - a typical Roman snack) while walking around, admiring the synagogue, the old buildings, and the Ancient Roman ruins. And you can buy tomorrow's breakfast at Forno Boccioni, a tiny, old-world, bakery that makes the traditional ricotta and wild cherry pie, and cookies of the Jewish/Roman cuisine.
*You're buying a gift -- what are your five favorite shops in Rome?
- For a foodie gift, I go to Castroni (in the Prati neighborhood) they have la creme de la creme, specialties from all Italian regions. My favorite gift is putting together a themed basket like a bread spreads kit!
- Most of my friends are wine and spirits connoisseurs (or at least learning to be), so I often visit Enoteca Rocchi (one of the shops is near me): they have gems from every Italian wine-making region and from any part of the world!
- For jewels, I recently fell in love with a Roman artisan, Sancesario that makes vintage style jewelry - I love handmade!
- Some of my friends and family share my passion for vintage, so, a few weeks before Christmas, you'll find me hunting around Ponte Milvio's antique market.
- I love books, especially old books: Libreria Cesaretti, near the Pantheon, is a magical place!
*Are there aspects of your life in Venezuela that you miss in Italy?
My family moved to Italy when I was very young (8 years old), so it's hard to compare the two countries.
But there's something undoubtedly: generally speaking, of course, people in Venezuela are really joyful. A bucket of ice, a bottle of rum, and some good music are all it takes to have a party and dance all night. And I love to dance! Here in Italy, people gather almost exclusively around the table: dinners with friends last at least three hours, savoring food and drinking wine and the end-of-the-meal spirits. I love it, really, but I still miss the dancing...
Claudia also generously shared a few of her Palermo favorites with me, notably Basile-Focacceria del Massimo (via Bara All'Olivella 76), very near the Teatro Massimo, where I had a tour (more about that in the next post). She also recommended Mak Mixology on via Maqueda for cocktails and Osteria Mercede (via Pignatelli Aragona 52, also near the Teatro Massimo) for a seafood dinner but I regret that I was unable to get to these last two.
Get lost in the Gourmet Project while I prepare the Palermo post.