I will become a broken record about this in my posts but, I love Italy. I think their love affair with food culture closely mirrors my own so maybe that is why I always want to feel so closely linked.
I attended an interesting Italian dinner event last week that I wanted to share with everyone. I recently connected with Laura Orlando, one of the founders of the company Lingua e Sapori (translates to Speak and Cook). She is originally from a small Northern Italian town and has now moved to Morris County, NJ. Laura, along with her partner Jenifer, has developed a company that is focused on spreading Italian food culture.
She informed me that Lingua e Sapori often pairs up with restaurants in the New Jersey/NYC area to provide unique dining events. As I asked more about these programs I found out that they included a 4 course meal, an introductory Italian language lesson (which I am told by a frequent attendee that this changes with each event), and a cooking demonstration. If this description didn’t already hook me into trying one of these out (and believe me it did), Laura offered to share a special bottle of wine from her hometown in Italy with me that has yet to be introduced to the US market. (It will soon be available at Cambridge Wines in Morristown, NJ; whom I just did a write up on last week: http://bit.ly/1qwazYR ). I signed up for the next event available!
The dinner was scheduled at Trattoria Rustico on Bloomfield Ave in Montclair, NJ. I walked into the event entirely not knowing what to expect. The tables were set in a big “U” shape and overlooked a demonstration area that the ladies of Lingua e Sapori had set up. There were packets with recipes and some of the Italian vocabulary we would be reviewing at each place setting. This is when I realized it would definitely be an interactive program. The restaurant kicked off the event with our appetizer course, eggplant caponata, brussel sprouts, and large chunks of focaccia bread. Laura and Jenifer also came around with imported olive oils for us to taste. I learned that they also import gourmet Italian specialties and this was one of the products.
Next came our introductory language lesson. We went around the room exchanging hellos, in Italian, to our dining neighbors. Some general dining expressions were also explained. The cooking demonstration started shortly after our short language lesson. We first learned a brief background on egg pasta versus semolina and then the ladies launched into making egg pasta dough. They asked for participants to help roll and cut the pasta dough with their machines. Of course I joined in!
Our first pasta course was a scialatielli pasta with broccoli rabe leaves, peas, a simple olive oil coating and topped off with parmesan cheese. The pasta was clearly homemade and it was my favorite course of the night. One thing to note is that the restaurants who host the events are the ones who provide and cook the meals. So my enjoyment of my first 2 courses were enough to make me think I needed to come back and try Trattoria Rustico another time from their regular menu.
We also played some musical saguro (aka pass the pasta sauce) during a break between courses and we won one of the jars (I love to win…especially when it involves food!!). Gnocchi making was another cooking demonstration that Laura and Jenifer detailed. We then enjoyed gnocchi as our next dinner course, which was also delightful.
Before we finished off the evening with our dessert we reviewed some commonly used hand gestures (You know Italians love to use those hands while talking!). There was also a grand raffle for more Saguro and for one of their imported olive oils.
Chocolate cake and cannoli cream topped off a fun filled evening.
I sat next to a woman who had attended almost all of the local events that Lingua e Sapori has hosted. She shed some light to me about why she keeps coming back. She said it wasn’t to learn fluent Italian, because this type of dinner program wouldn’t provide that. It was to get out and meet people, try new restaurants and eat great food. I think she hit the nail on the head. Our dining companion also shared that she has developed a sort of friendship with Laura and Jenifer in her frequent visits. I can say from first hand experience that these two ladies are not only knowledgeable, they are complete sweethearts. I loved hearing about their journey to start this business and their connections with Italian culture. Lingua e Sapori is an outlet to share their love affair with Italian food as well as uphold the integrity and pride for the local Italian ingredients they represent.
These dinner events would be the perfect outing for anyone looking to make friends or meet new people, become more culturally rounded, and of course indulge in some great culinary experiences! Make it a solo night, family affair, girls outing or even a unique date (as long as you are willing to share your alone time).
Lingua e Sapori has ongoing dinner program events as well as the option to set up private language and cooking lessons. You can also look into their gourmet food imports for authentic Italian fare for purchase.
You can find more information on their website: www.speakandcookitalian.com
“Like” them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/speakandcookitalian
Follow on Twitter: @Cook_Italian
Or check them out on Instagram: @linguaesapori
…tutto per amore del piatto