“No Thank You” to a Cappuccino? What Italian’s Know….

Italian Dining

Think of anything Italian and thoughts of style, class, structure and elegant eating all come to mind!  The world’s love affair with Italy stems from its history of conquerors, navigators, scientists, poets, designers, artists and fast cars. One thing citizens of the world know for sure,  is not to offend the Italian Family Table.

The Italian meal preparation is a piece of art!  The best daily serving of various foods are honorably pursued at the store, prepared at the stove and properly presented upon serving. For 18 years I have observed, participated and taught the Mediterranean Lifestyle.Their meals are planned, purposeful and plentiful. Vegetables are an adventurous delight and fruit in abundance; every plate accentuated by herbs, fresh bread, olive oil and a sip of wine. The Italian dining is a much sought after desire.

Cappuccino for Breakfast

While the etiquette for eating meals are similar between countries, two common questions that leaves one scratching their head are, “You know how Italians don’t drink cappuccino in the afternoon? Culturally, it almost seems taboo, but I was wondering if you knew any scientific or medical reasoning behind it?”

Yes, there is both a cultural and biochemical response to these questions. What is being addressed goes to the structure of the Daily Italian Meal Preparation.

DAIRY intake at Breakfast is a Cafe Latte or cappuccino, (if they’re lucky enough to have a machine).
DAIRY intake at Lunch; 1-2 oz of cheese.
Dinner may or may not have dairy.

Italians do a very good job in cooking with a purpose or eating with intent. If they have already consumed the food in one of their meals why repeat it. Accept for 4 fruits and 5 vegetables daily which assists in digestion…fiber!

From the adorning of the table you are invited to sit down with friends and family to eat a structured Italian Lunch consisting of: Appetizers (bread, cheese, olives, salami, marinated vegetables), Pasta, Entree` (vegetable’s with meat), Fruit, and Desert.

The biochemical perspective makes the meal seem even more cumbersome for the stomach. After a meal a cappuccino physically seems impossible, as it is made with whipped whole milk. The major nutrients of whole milk consist of:

….making your digestive system and liver work harder to break down fat and distribute more calories in addition to the ones already eaten at lunch.
Since any UNUSED ENERGY (calories) is stored as fat in the body within 24 hours, the stomach may already be saying, “STOP”.
So yes, in addition to an Italian lunch, the extra 23% fat becomes a bigger struggle to digest.

Cafe Macchiato

In conclusion, when in Italy enjoy the food and the drinks, but after lunch consider your choices carefully: Cafe Macchiato (a mini cappuccino), or eat a Salad and have a Cappuccino too. Buon Appetito

Written by:
Kimberly Crocker-Scardicchio
DTR Dietitian

All the MORNING FUN for the Italian Lifestyle

Lemon Tuna Pasta Delight

Reminiscent to a Southern Italian eating experience, enjoy this pasta dish that is palpably light, thanks to the lemon zest that accents this easy to make meal. A spring and summer time favorite!

Lemon Tuna Delight









Serves 4
Ingredients for Sauce

  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 medium size garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (washed and cut in half)
  • 1 Tablespoon Capers
  • 3-6 ounces of tuna (May use canned or pieces cut from a tuna steak.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley torn into smaller pieces
  • Lemon Zest of 1/2 lemon. avoid cutting white pith. (Lemon should appear freshly picked with a bright yellow appearance and thick skin.)
  • Juice of half lemon
  • 4 Lemon Rounds (for presentation)
  • 4 Parsley sprigs (for presentation)
  • 250 g of Barilla Pasta

13 minutes
Fill a pasta pot with 8 cups of water, cover with lid, place on stove top on high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2 Tablespoons salt when the water boils, stir with wooden spoon. Add pasta. Pasta should par boil for 8 minutes. Immediately, placing a colander into a clean sink, take the pasta pot using pot holders or oven mitt, pour boiling water and pasta into colander. Add drained pasta to sauce.

10 minutes
Utilizing a large skillet pan, place on stove top on low heat. Add 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil,1 garlic clove cut in half and red pepper flakes; allow to saute for 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. (Carefully, take a fork and remove cooked garlic, discard.) Add tomatoes to skillet cover with lid and place onto low heat once again. After 5 minutes remove lid from skillet and with a wooden spoon gently push down on each tomato to release its juice. Add Salt, Capers, Tuna, 1 Garlic Clove Minced (clove cut into small pieces), Parsley. Cover skillet and allow to continue to simmer for another 3 minutes. Add 2 ladles, (about 1/2 cup), of pasta water (using the pasta starch in the water will serve to better adhere sauce to the pasta.). Using a wooden spoon stir the water and the sauce together. Add cooked and drained pasta to sauce, toss so that pasta is coated by sauce. Add lemon zest, the juice of 1/2 the lemon, 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil gently toss pasta to combine flavors.

Plating Pasta for Presentation
Evenly distribute pasta on each plate. Place a thinly sliced lemon round in the center of each pasta mound along with a sprig of Parsley.

Utensils Needed:
Pasta Pot or tall pan for boiling water with lid.
Skillet with lid.
Tablespoon for measuring
Teaspoon for measuring
Cutting Board
Steak Knife
Wooden Spoon
Zester and Mincer
Large Ladle
Potholder or Oven Mitt

Pastiera Napoletana Ricotta Grain Pie

Pastiera is traditionally made on Good Thursday or Good Friday and is to be eaten as a dessert on Easter Sunday!  Each family hands down a ‘secret’ recipe from one generation to the next. I extend my family recipe from Naples to the many of friends who have enjoyed this dessert that I personally have made for you! ~Francesca

Time Saving Tips: 

By following these tips the time spent on this recipe can be reduced to 30 minutes for total preparation time from 3 hours.  Buy already pre-cooked grain.    Additionally, Pasta Frolla / Pie Crust is commonly sold as a pre-made item in the stores, use the pre-made crust.  Following these 2 tips will help you to put this wonderful dessert together in no time at all!

Grain Tip for Ol’ Fashion Recipe!

If you decide to cook your own wheat, go for the soft wheat, which you can usually find in health food stores and some grocery stores.

You can process the ricotta smooth in a food processor first if you know that your crowd isn’t into the distinctive texture that ricotta brings to the dessert.


A few more caveats: I used a 9 x 2-inch layer cake pan for this recipe, or even a springform pan if you don’t mind working the dough further down the higher sides of the pan.

You can use any pasta frolla (pie crust) sweet, short pastry dough recipe you prefer. Mine is generous to allow for a bit of freedom in deciding your pan size, plus I like having a little extra dough in case of a flub, or just to have on hand for miniature crostate or to roll out as cookies.



Preheat the oven to 325°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
10 to 12 servings

Crust can be homemade or store bought.

Homemade Crust:

  • 250 g Flour
  • 100 g Sugar
  • 100 g Butter
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Lemon Zest of half  Lemon
  • Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and work together with your hands until ingredients form into a smooth dough ball. Place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes until cold 0r 10 minutes in the freezer while making the filling.
On a floured board, roll 2/3 of the pasta dough into an 11-inch circle, 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer the dough to a deep, 9-inch pie plate, or a 9 x 2-inch layer cake pan by rolling the dough around the pin like a carpet and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim the dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang.  Roll out the remaining pasta frolla into a rectangle at least 11 inches long and 6 inches wide. Using a pastry cutter, make 6 or 7 long strips of dough, 3/4-inch wide.  Set aside the strips, they will be added as the last part of the cake lattice work on top of the filling.


  • 250 grams Sugar
  • 3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 300 grams Ricotta (cow’s milk only or unsalted goat’s milk)
  • 10 ounces of precooked  whole grain (may substitute with barley) Should be creamy in texture without losing integrity of grain.
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4  tsp of Orange Flower Water (Preferred:  PANEANGELI Aroma Fior d’Arancio per Pastiera Napoletana)
  • 1/4 cup candied fruit (optional)
The Filling may use ready made grain sold in can or glass jar!

For uncooked grain, place  224 grams (8 ounces) grain in a sauce pan over low heat in 1 1/2 cups milk with 1 tsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon for 2 hours, stirring often with a wooden spoon until the mixture is creamy—the grains will retain their shape, but the rest of the mixture should be soft and smooth and there should be no huge clumps of grain; it should resemble creamy oatmeal. Transfer the grain mixture to a shallow bowl and allow it to cool completely.

  1. Place  in a large bowl eggs and sugar whisk until doubled in size.  Add Ricotta ,Precooked Grain, Vanilla,  Lemon Zest, Orange Flower Water and Candied Fruit, making sure all the ingredients are completely combined. Consistency of batter will be similar to thick pancake batter.

  2. Pour the filling into and carefully arrange  the 6-7 inch length dough strips on top to form a lattice pattern and pinching the edges together with the overhang. Trim all the pastry so that is is even to the top of the pan.

  3.  Bake the pastiera on the middle rack of the oven for 55 to 60 minutes, (rotating it 180° after 20 minutes to ensure even browning). If necessary, you can protect the edges from overbrowning with some strips of aluminum foil.

  4. The pastiera is done when the filling is set but jiggly and the pastry is golden brown. A knife inserted in the center will come out clean. Remove it from the oven and set it to cool on a rack. Allow the pastiera to cool completely, or chill it overnight before cutting it into wedges to serve.

Gatto` di Patate (Potato Pie)

500 g potatoes
50 g soft butter
2 eggs
1 / 2 cup milk
70 g ham ( 3-5 slices)
150 g provolone (8slices)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 tsp salt

Boil the potatoes in their skins (or cook in microwave).
While still warm, peel them and pass them to the crushing potatoes. Place them in a bowl.

Add butter and mix until ‘is completely dissolved, then add the eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese and coarsely chopped or slices of  ham. Add salt.

Grease a baking dish (20-22 cm in diameter) and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Make a layer with the mixture of potatoes.
Then one of provolone slices and ham slices
Cover with remaining potatoes.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs, a small amount of parmesan and a few slices of provolone and drizzle olive oil on top.

Bake already ‘hot about 190 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until’ the surface is golden brown.

Remove from oven and wait a half hour before serving.

Tuscan Cacciucco Fish Stew

A variety of fish, tomatoes, and onions makes for a delicious meal.

Cacciucco is a fish stew commonly made in the Northern Tuscany seaport of Livorno. At the end of a day at sea and after auctioning off the fish to both locals and fish markets, the fisherman takes his fresh fish and puts it into a pot with onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes topped off with a dash or two of red pepper! This flavorful dish takes your imagination directly to a beach restaurant where you sit outside on a deck, feeling the breeze gently on your face and saltwater fish in every tasty bite.

Serves 6

Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (1/2 to 1 kilo) of mixed fish (see list below)
  • A half a medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A bunch of parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound sliced fresh or canned plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Salt to taste
  • Crumbled or minced hot red pepper (about a half teaspoon, or to taste)
  • Toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic


Ingredients for Cacciucco or Fish Stew

Fish: Go with what’s in season, keep it cheap! Example: sole, mullet, catfish, dogfish, goby, squid, octopus, fresh shellfish and shrimp. Chop the large fish, but leave the small ones whole.

Direction: Sauté in olive oil the onion, parsley, and garlic in the oil in a deep bottomed pot (5 minutes). Once the onion has turned translucent, add fish and turn with other ingredients in pan, (3 minutes).  Add wine, when the wine vapors are released (1 minute), stir in the chopped tomatoes and salt the mixture to taste. This is one of the few spicy Northern Italian dishes, add in red pepper.

Simmer the Cacciucco until the fish is done, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast several slices of bread and rub them with a crushed clove of garlic.  Once the fish is done, line the bottoms of your bowls with the toasted bread, ladle the Cacciucco over them, and serve.