Italian at Heart is a celebration of Italian food and wine. Any Italian dining experience isn’t complete without good conversation and good company. That’s why I started a series called Aperitivo Chats awhile back. Originally, my aperitivo chats were my deep thoughts, but I wanted to bring others into these chats to create more of a conversation.
I am so pleased to have Gina Zarcadoolas, author of the cookbook “Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures: A Treasury of Recipes, Wine Pairings, and Travel Lifestyles” as my very first aperitivo chat guest. I first met Gina, @foodieandwinelover, on Instagram and her culinary passion and warmth drew me to her. Gina has a way of connecting with people and making each person feel special. I am so honored to have played a very, very tiny role in her cookbook by using my nerdy grammar expertise here and there.
Gina’s collection of recipes & stories is truly a treasure. Her multicultural background is fascinating, influenced by a beautiful blend of Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek & Caribbean cultures and world travels.
Gina’s cookbook is full of passion and personal anecdotes, but it also has practical resources like conversion charts, information on ingredients and kitchen tips, making it the whole package. I can’t wait to cook my way through her treasury of recipes and send my taste buds on an international journey!
I feel like I have a good sense of your fun, vivacious personality, heart of gold, and passion for food & wine from Instagram. What are 3 fun & interesting facts about you so that we can get to know you beyond the gram?
- I am multilingual. I speak, French, Creole, English, advanced Spanish and beginner Italian. I do understand Italian, especially when I read it, because of my knowledge of French and Spanish.
- The idea of writing a cookbook came up in 2006, and in 2014, I decided to create a blog to document my recipes. In 2018, my dream became a reality when my cookbook came to fruition.
- I am ambidextrous and took after my mom. I use my left hand most of the time, but I write with my right hand.
I bet being ambidextrous totally comes in handy while cooking!
I know that you also have a passion for Italy that comes from your roots. Tell us a little about your Italian heritage and how it has influenced you personally (as well as your cooking!).
My paternal side of the family was from a small village in Naples, Italy. I grew up in the Caribbean and my parents always made pasta with tomato sauce on Sundays. My dad loved everything that was “made in Italy”, and because of that, I became an Italophile. After all, how can you resist a Gucci bag? Or a red Ferrari?
I can totally relate! My affinity for Italy also started as a child because of my mom’s pride in her Italian heritage and love of all things Italian!
We all love to drink a glass of wine, but adding it during cooking can also really make the flavors pop. What is your favorite way to cook with wine?
I like to deglaze some of my dishes with wine and braise them afterward in the oven. I use this method in the Veal Ossobuco and the Coq au Vin recipes that are included in my cookbook.
It’s very helpful that you’ve also included chef’s notes with non-alcoholic alternatives for those who don’t drink in your recipes that call for red/white wine or beer.
I love all of the chef’s notes that you’ve included in your cookbook about wine pairings. In my experience, a good pairing always enhances the flavor of both the wine & the food. What is one of the most memorable food & wine pairings you’ve ever had?
I’ve had many, but one of them is having lunch at a farm in Tuscany with new-found Instagram friends. The cheese, food, and wine paired harmoniously with the magical view. It was a memorable moment that will be etched in my heart.
Italy is a culinary delight, and it’s impossible to choose one favorite dish or wine. I’m still curious though, when you think of the best dishes and wines you’ve had in Italy, what comes to mind?
I’ve had the best pork dish, called maialino all spiedo, at a trattoria in Pienza, a small village in Tuscany. It was moist and flavorful with a deliciously crispy skin.
I’ve had so many great wines including some delicious Brunellos. However, while visiting Positano last summer, I fell in love with Falanghina, a refreshing white grape from Southern Italy.
Where can others connect with you?
- Gina’s Cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodieWineLover/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodieWineLover
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Gina!
Today, October 26, also happens to be Gina’s birthday! Please join me in wishing her a very Happy Birthday!
And one last surprise, here’s a video of me making Gina’s “Deluxe Rosemary-Mustard Crusted Pork Tenderloin” recipe (page 134 of her cookbook). Watch to learn some Italian cooking verbs! Who knew that there’s no verb for “drizzle” in Italian and you have to say “aggiungere un filo di qualcosa!”