It was a good day in Tuscany
You think you have time, and then you don’t. There is so much to say, and your voice is silent. When you don’t have your best day, and moments slip away. And then, you lose a friend and their vibrance shines even in the vacuum of their earthly presence, because they lived life fully.
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away
Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, Today – Randy Sparks
What was to be a light hearted recap of my adventures at Le Casacce has become bittersweet with the news that our host, Enrico Casini has died this last weekend. It is reported that that night the restaurant and patio were brimming with patrons, alive with energy; Enrico in his element as he headed off to sleep, a smile on his lips. It was a good day in Tuscany.
Tall, with a wild shock of curly hair, a bit bohemian with the flair of that artistic type, when daily dressing decisions included which brightly colored glass frames would suit his mood. He was a man with a generous smile as he presided over the kitchen and dining rooms, full of life. Equally passionate and humble, he was somewhat of a contradiction in terms. With an amazing culinary pedigree, Enrico was not only accomplished as a chef — owning several wine bars and restaurants in Rome before settling in Tuscany, he was equally talented as a writer.
“In 1985, Enrico was awarded as one of the seven “Best Chefs of Italy under 35“. For six years Enrico authored Guide to the Restaurants of Italy and Guide to the Wines of Italy.” – Tuscan Muse
“Casini in Rome was one of the innovators of the kitchen that came from the long sleep of the ’50s and ’60s… ” – Stefano Bonilli
As a mover and shaker, with rock star like status in the eighties he brought new life to the Roman food scene. Knowing this made it all the more rich when the strains of Barry White or Sade greeted us on the way to dinner, perhaps he was waxing a bit nostalgic about those wild times. Oh the stories that could be told.
For ten days, Le Casacce was my home as I participated in a writing and photography workshop offered by Linda Bass, my Tuscan Muse — Plated Stories with Jamie Schler and Ilva Beretta.
For ten days we were wined and dined, enjoying the fresh local bounty, estate wines, olive oils, and the magic that came from Enrico’s kitchen.
Our morning ritual on the patio, with dark coffee, fluffy ricotta drizzled with honey or other delights laid out on a long table; an apple for Socrates, the resident donkey. His braying, like a sad alarm, “I’m lonely, sigh, shudder… I’m lonely.” Much like Eeyore, missing his friend. He melted the hearts of my companions, each of us in turn trying to capture his image or song and possibly brighten his demeanor with a quick jog or pat on the head.
Cooking with Enrico
A highlight of my stay was spent cooking with Enrico and Lucia (our pasta and pastry chef) as we we made spinach pasta for tortellone stuffed with four cheeses, ricotta gnocchi, a crostata, bruschetta, and two sauces. No strangers to the kitchen; we are food bloggers. Between chopping tomatoes, mashing garlic, and kneading there were photos to be taken. This is the best possible tribute I can make, this slice of life, forever captured.
Mixing sweet cherry tomatoes with large varieties gives a balance flavor, add garlic, basil, and drizzle with olive oil “From this land.” and let sit for 30 minutes or so. Do not add salt until just before serving. — Enrico
Change up your soffritto (like a mireproix) ingredients to compliment your sauce. — Enrico. We used garlic, onion, and peppers in this chard and spinach sauce. Bright, earthy green to cushion the lighter than air, tender gnocchi.
Enrico harvested summer basil and covered it with his olive oil (did the same for peppers) which he then used the rest of the year. He was also enamored with the emersion blender for quick blending. The tomatoes were barely sweated and retained an extraordinary fresh, just picked flavor.
These are happy memories, shared by my dear companions, each of us holding our experiences deep in our hearts. And, that is as it should be. While saddened and shocked, I am buffered by the joy Enrico and Linda brought to Le Casacce. The richness of their generosity of spirit, friendship and hospitality. I will light a candle for you Enrico. Is okay.
Enrico Casini, Cook, Journalist and Much More – Stefano Bonilli
Tuscan Landscapes and a Small Goodbye – Paola Thomas
Farewell Enrico, You will be missed – Cathy Warner
L’ Expresso – info from Wikipedia
Tuscan Muse – Linda Bass
Plated Stories – The Blog