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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Soup and Salad


Heat the oil and bacon fat in an 8- quart, heavy duty sauce pot over high heat. Sprinkle the meat…

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Frisee and Warm Mushroom Salad

Place the shitake mushrooms in a mixing bowl and toss them with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, half of…

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Aunt Tina’s Salad

Dressing Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend thoroughly with a wire whisk. This may be made a…

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Pesto Potato Salad

Place potatoes and salt in water and simmer on low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and allow them to…

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Sicilian Tuna Salad

My friend David Trigiani ate a version of this on a trip to Sicily and prepared it for lunch one day in his home. I fell in love with it and adapted my version for use on a regional Italian menu at Tabella. It’s perfect for hot summer days. I use fresh, seared yellowfin tuna here (it can be grilled, too), but high quality imported Italian canned tuna works as well. Many don’t’ mix cheese and seafood. If that offends you then just omit the cheese and carry on.

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Rocket Salad

One of my favorite Tuscan dishes is as basic and uncomplicated as any dish could be. Rocket Salad is nothing more than arugula, a meager amount of aged balsamic vinegar, and even less extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. This, in my mind, is the ideal salad. The peppery greens and the light adornment of dressing is a perfect foil for uncomplicated pastas.

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Calamari Salad

It’s no great shock that the restaurants in western Sicily specialize in seafood. The fresh catch is typically displayed in the dining room. The local fish varieties that were caught that day are displayed as whole fish on a platter, cart, or small buffet table. One chooses the fish he would like to eat and the preparation by which it will be cooked, and a server takes it to the kitchen where the chef cleans it, cooks it, and sends it to the table. Beautiful. Most of the restaurants in this area have dozens of antipasto trays displayed in the dining room. Marinated eggplant, squid salad, artichokes, mushrooms, cous cous, rustic savory pies and tarts, olives, pickled vegetables, anchovies prepared several ways, and a dozen other antipasti are available. One could make a meal out of antipasto, but one never does.

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White Bean Stufato

Travel journal entry October 8, 2011: It’s nice to know that every day I drive down a road that has over 2,000 years of history on it’s surface. Via Roma connects Barbarino Val D’Elsa to the larger town of Tavernelle Val Di Pesa. Yesterday we ate the second best meal we’ve eaten during this six-week journey. There is a little joint on the Via Roma that winds through the town square of Tavarnelle. It’s a coffee shop in the morning, a café in the afternoon, and a pool hall at night. Perfect. The Viola Club (named for the lavender color of the Florence “football” team) is the local hangout for a few dozen 50-80 year old men who might not be practicing Catholics, but are surely practicing card players. They are there in the morning. They are there at noon, and they are there in the evening. They are a jolly bunch who drink coffee, joke, tease, argue, and play cards. The first time I went in there, I watched from a corner table as they gave one of the men in their ranks a continual hard time. He endured a few hours of ribbing about his hair treatment. I got the feeling that he had used some type of over-the-counter hair dye recently (very obvious seeing that he was in his late 70s, and his hair was a solid blanket of jet black), and had probably stayed away from his friends at the Viola Club for a few days. I happened to be there on the day of his return and the ribbing was relentless. His friends kept calling him “Berlusconi” because of the hair dye— a reference to the current Italian Prime Minister. I wanted to film the scene, to try and remember, and they— in a very jovial manner— brought me over and said I should film the Prime minister. The Viola Club isn’t much to look at, but the food is very good and cheap. Paolo is the sole server. His mother, Giuliana, is the cook, and his father works the bar and the cash register— a true family operated business. The food is excellent and I have gotten several ideas for “An Italian Palate” there.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

Perfect on a cold day with a soft-cheese Panini.

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