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Growing Up Italian: I left my heart in Senigallia.

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“Home for the holidays” they say, but where is home?

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For some just a dot in a map. For me, one of the greatest places in the world.

“Home is where your heart is” or sometimes home is not where you are physically, but a place you carry IN your heart despite the distance. Just the thought of it, makes you smile and feel happy….or homesick, in my case.

A  big piece of my heart belongs to Cesano, Senigallia.

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Built in 1933, right after a huge earthquake, the Rotonda is the symbol of the town of Senigallia.
Annonario Forum, dated 1834. Daily Fish and herb market. An experience on its own, second only to the Rialto Fish Market in Venice, in my opinion.
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Rocca Roverasca, built on the ruins of a Roman tower from the III century a.c dates 1476. Lots of summers spent listening to concerts inside its moat ūüôā

Senigallia is not the town where I was born, but it is a place I learned to deeply love while spending part of the summers growing up. The other part of the summer, we used to spend at the house on the hills.

(See my other blog  http://eugenedailynews.com/2014/09/growing-italian-home-jewel/)

Just a little over an hour away from my hometown of Perugia, Senigallia is nested on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the Marche region.

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The condominium nicknamed “PALAZZONI” was the biggest in the area. Right on the beach. Here still under construction. Early 70’s.

Uncle Vincenzo was my dad’s brother. An uncle I barely got to know, left us a gift I will never forget. He died in his 40s of a congenital cause. I was in middle school. ¬†I have faded memories of a soft spoken, highly intellectual person. A bachelor with a love for traveling, he owned a renowned CPA firm in town, and at the time of his death I had just started “working” for him during the summer.

As an investment, he purchased a two bedroom apartment located on the second floor of an upcoming large condominium complex on the beach of Cesano, a few minutes south of Senigallia. It was 1974.  Almost 50 years later, the buildings are still Ocean Front withstanding the strong,rambunctious Adriatic sea.

On his deathbed, a few years later, my uncle made my mom promise that all of us-nieces and nephew-would enjoy the house: his legacy. Enjoy we did!!

Little did Zio Vincenzo know how much that place meant to us children and how much it  helped our families build memories so dear, friendships so important to overcome any distance and length of time.

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Visiting mom for an all-Italian-vacay. Talking on the balcony.

 

Our life at the coast was active, but calm.

Mom and I would walk to the beach at dusk to meet with the fishermen coming back from their day at sea. We would buy our dinner, the freshest fish ever. Also, the farmer would pull over in the condo’s parking lot with farm fresh produce and fruit.

Marisa used to run a small grocery store behind the “Palazzoni”. The small store had everything we would need on a daily basis.

A little further inland, we had an incredible Bread and Pastry shop. From Pizzas by the slice to fancy cakes…they had it all. And how tasty!!

At night, our family would go for a walk ending up at the local bar to eat gelato in an¬†over-sized and intricate glass cup, or for a seafood pizza “al fresco”while listening to live music.

One of our favorite spots as teenagers was the Bar Uliassi: playing foosball and choosing music from anold-fashioned-record-player-jukebox…those were the days!

These days, Mauro Uliassi owns one of the most prestigious restaurant in Italy, his namesake.

A must go, if you are in the area.

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Right on the beach, this is the view from “Uliassi” cucina di mare restaurant. Seafood for gourmands.

When my sister and I were in our 20’s we even had “beach slumber parties”. Our usual gang would meet after dinner, we would make a bonfire and talk well into the night. Sunrise would find us still asleep in our sleeping bags, the fire almost out. We were gently awakened by the familiar rhythm of the noise produced by the clams fishing vessels.

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Bonfire almost out, fishing vessels in the background. Another day was born…

 

Every activity, including the lunch “al fresco” on the balcony, was enhanced by the sound of the sea, in the background. Its gentle “swooosh” and voices of children at play were the best soundtrack of the summer.

 

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It wasn’t unusual on clear days to see all the way to Mt. Conero from our balcony.
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The golden years: the 80s and 90s at Cesano Beach (Feeling like a boss)

In the late 80’s after dad sold the last house in the country (see my previous column:http://eugenedailynews.com/2014/09/growing-italian-home-jewel/)¬†we purchases a 5th floor penthouse of our own, with two¬†bedrooms,a bathroom, a large living room with kitchen, and a view to kill. My aunt and cousins kept the original apartment.

Later in life, when both mom and dad retired, they would move to the coast from May to September. I remember driving from Perugia on a Friday afternoon after work to spend the weekend there. No better place to be and  relax.

In Cesano, it didn’t matter what the weather was like. Every day was a good day paced by food, sunbathing, swimming, and napping. Every day, rinse and repeat!

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From the balcony: Sunrise.
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From the balcony: The Adriatic sea and the jetty.
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From the balcony: After a storm

During the 30-plus years of vacationing in Cesano di Senigallia, I made a lot of friends , and lost some of them too,unfortunately, despite their young age.

One could say that there is really nothing fancy or notable about this place that barely appears on a map of Italy.¬†It is magical to me, because of the memories it helped me created. People, faces, and places that made me the happiest I’ve been, even if just for a few days every year.

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Mom (right) and Dad (center) having al fresco dinner with friends. Cesano in the 80’s.

On a funny twist of faith, I no longer own that place. The increasingly high taxation and the dues made it impossible for me to afford my share of the condo, which I gladly donated to my sister. Also, after the passing of the family members that made that place unique, a vacay in Cesano wasn’t just the same anymore.

It is heartwarming though, to know that the little town carries the same exceptional charisma for the new generations. Children of children will come back to Cesano to spend their summer.

I, on the other hand, will forever cherish the sense memories, and will be eternally grateful I got to grow up in such an amazing place under the guidance of such exceptional people.

In conclusion, while everyone is making plans to go “home for the holidays” these days, I encourage you to cherish such memories. My little piece of advice: Whether traveling near or far, to a blood family or a chosen relation, remember to tighten your seat belt because this ride goes really fast and you don’t want to miss anything and ¬†eventually say “I wish I ¬†hadn’t “.

“Life makes no apologies as it changes without warning: embrace the roller coaster ride, and how alive it makes you feel” S. Somers.

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Our family on the first Cesano Vacation, 1975 ¬†Building Memories, in the end, it’s all that counts <3

 

In loving memory of Uncle Vincenzo, Aunt Pompilia,Grandma Gina, Cousin Carlo, Luca, Mom and Dad who made Cesano THE place.

One of my favorite way to spend the morning was to check for low tides, and go “hunting” for Cannolicchi or Razor clams.

Armed with a medium size knitting needle, I would carefully scan the wet sand for the characteristic “eye” and quickly insert the needle. The clam closed up on it, I extracted the tool from the sand and ….voila’.

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Dished up Goodness

[gn_box title=”PACCHERI¬†WITH RAZOR CLAMS AND WHITE ASPARAGUS” color=#271″]

serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C Breadcrumbs, plain.
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 t anchovy paste
  • –for the sauce:
  • 4 T EVOO
  • 1/3 lb cleaned and dry razor clams
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1/2 C chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 lb white asparagus, ends trimmed and cut on the bias
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 lb Paccheri pasta (I used 20 large Paccheri)
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Toasted and flavored bread crumbs. They make a great substitution for cheese!

Directions:

Toast the breadcrumbs by placing them in a pan with the oil, zest and anchovy paste. Stirring constantly, make sure the crumbs turn a golden brown color (not too dark) and all the ingredients get combined.

Start boiling the water for the pasta. Add enough salt so that it tastes like the ocean

In a saucepan warm up the olive oil and the garlic cloves lightly mashed. Let the garlic turn golden, then add the asparagus. Cook on medium-low heat.

When the pasta is almost cooked (check your package for directions) add the chopped razor clams to the sauce, deglaze with wine and toss in the parsley.

Remember, razor clams don’t need to cook for long or they will taste like leather ūüôā

Quickly toss the strained pasta into the sauce, but keep some of the pasta water.

Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Add the breadcrumbs and quickly-but gently- mix. Do not overdo it or you will end up with a mushy-like thing…

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Plated!

Serve with additional chopped parsley, a little drizzle of EVOO and charred whole asparagus.

Grated cheese optional.

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Until next time, Mangia! and Ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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