Dinner party guests say ‘grazie’ for worldly culinary experience

RAY VAN DUSEN/BUY AT PHOTOS.MONROECOUNTYJOURNAL.COM Chef Edoardo Cecotto of Florence, Italy serves plates of lasagnettes to guests of Tom and Emily Seymer during a recent dinner party. He and Vary Cappelletti served guests a four-course Italian meal.

RAY VAN DUSEN/BUY AT PHOTOS.MONROECOUNTYJOURNAL.COM
Chef Edoardo Cecotto of Florence, Italy serves plates of lasagnettes to guests of Tom and Emily Seymer during a recent dinner party. He and Vary Cappelletti served guests a four-course Italian meal.

ABERDEEN – Through the years, Emily and Tom Seymer have hosted unique social gatherings at their home, Holliday Haven. Recently, more than a dozen guests were treated to the tastes and aromas of an authentic four-course Italian meal by a couple of chefs from Florence, Italy.
“Forget everything you know about Italian food because in Italy, we don’t have it. Spaghetti and meatballs? That’s American,” said Varinia Cappelletti to dinner guests. “Everything is made from scratch, and we try to find ingredients similar to what we have back home. We hope you like it and if you don’t like….pizza…..we call.”
Cappelletti and Edoardo Cecotto live in a 600-year-old home, and their first trip to Mississippi was made possible by sparking a friendship with Terrie Lynn Brown during her recent New Year’s trip to Italy.

Cappelletti adds carmelized onions on top of filet minion with baked carrots for the main dish of the meal.

Cappelletti adds caramelized onions on top of filet minion with baked carrots for the main dish of the meal.

“We became fast friends, and she said they’d never been to Mississippi. She said they’d like to cook and work some while they’re here,” Brown said of how the dinner party came to be.

Since 2009, Cecotto and Cappelletti have spent a couple of months out of the year traveling through North America. This trip began in late January in San Francisco, followed by stops in Los Angeles; Malibu, California; Las Vegas; and New Orleans before a week spent in Aberdeen and Columbus. From there, the two traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York.
Through their service, Italian Chef Around the World, they offer food education events, gourmet dinners and food consulting.
“In the south, people have good manners. I remember hearing ‘ma’am’ for the first time. In Italy, ma’am is old lady,” Cecotto said. “When you travel around the world, in the big city, the rhythm of life is different.”

Cappelletti drizzles dressing on top of barley salad, which includes chick peas, mozzarella and Black Sea salt, among other ingredients.

Cappelletti drizzles dressing on top of barley salad, which includes chick peas, mozzarella and Black Sea salt, among other ingredients.

The four-course meal, appropriately paired with different wines, started with a barley salad before individual-portion lasagnettes were served leading up to the main course of filet mignon with baked carrots and caramelized onions and the dessert of chocolate mousse with caramelized orange.
* Although these dishes weren’t served with the meal, here are a few Italian options

Italian Sausage Ravioli Alfredo with Asparagus and Breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
One 10-ounce package Giovanni Rana Italian Sausage Ravioli*
One 10 -ounce container Giovanni Rana Alfredo Sauce
3 tablespoons coarse breadcrumbs
Kosher salt
12 asparagus spears, trimmed, and cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring, until golden and fragrant, 3–4 minutes. Season the crumbs with salt and transfer to a plate to cool. Add the Alfredo Sauce to the same skillet, bring to a simmer, cover and keep warm over medium-low heat.
Meanwhile, cook the Ravioli according to the package directions, adding the asparagus to the water at the same time as the Ravioli. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Uncover the skillet, add the Ravioli and asparagus and toss to incorporate with the alfredo sauce, adding the pasta cooking water to the pan a little at a time to achieve a sauce-like consistency if needed.
Divide the Ravioli among plates and finish with the toasted breadcrumbs.

Mid-Summer Italian Bread Salad
1 clove garlic
1 (1 pound) loaf Italian bread
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup cucumber – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped fresh basil
1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Add all ingredients to list. Rub a peeled clove of garlic around a wooden salad bowl. Pull apart or chop the bread into bite-size pieces. In the prepared salad bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, garlic, basil and thyme. Add enough olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat, toss and serve.

Baked Tomatoes Oregano
4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/8 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Place tomato slices close together in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is lightly toasted.

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.