A Musical Menu, Valentine Edition

Photo of Marcella Hazen
Marcella Hazan (1924 – 2013), the doyenne
of Italian cooking in America

I started cooking in grad school when I procured a copy of Marcella Hazan’s “Classic Italian Cookbook.” Like many other aspiring chefs, it soon became my bible, the pages covered with careful notes in pencil between splats of olive oil. Diligently following the directions, I was dangerous enough to consider myself a decent cook until I started eating regularly at my Neapolitan in-laws’ house and the realization dawned on me that I had a lot to learn.

David's daughter eating carbonara in Rome 2019
Alessandra hard at work on a plate of carbonara
at Trattoria “Er Buco” in Rome (2019)

I’ve been fortunate to travel often to Italy for work and family, and at some point I began to talk to cooks in restaurants and learn from friends who were happy to let me observe in the kitchen. It was a proud day when I graduated from my mother-in-law politely pushing the food around the plate to her actually looking forward to a dinner I prepared.

I’ve always been an italofilo: studied the language in university, lived and worked there, have two daughters with Italian passports. Part of the appeal is in the simplicity of Italian food: a handful of fresh ingredients assembled lovingly - at its best it is good, hardy peasant fare.


David's daughter, Eliana, eating pizza in Naples
Eliana at Pizzeria Vesi near the
conservatory in Naples (2006)

When cooking, I listen to music or Richard, Lionel, and Daniel at the Cycling Podcast (https://thecyclingpodcast.com). For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d propose six courses of easy-to-prepare Italian regional cuisine with a string quartet curated to match each dish. As a bonus, Phil Kass – violist, master instrument appraiser, oenologist extraordinaire – has paired wine with each course.

Buon appetito!

David Yang, Artistic Director

Link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldeqRxaWTHs
ANTIPASTO: Prosciutto e melone
Two ingredients! Sweet cantaloupe with salty prosciutto di parma

WINE: Malvasia dei Colli Piacentini (Emilia-Romagna)

MUSIC: Leoš Janáček
String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata,”I. Con moto

Link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8_rzwRvqg8
PRIMO: Spaghetti alla carbonara
Pancetta, garlic, oil, eggs….the classic Roman dish,
perfect after a concert in Rome.

WINE: Colli Lanuvini (Lazio)

MUSIC: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
String Quartet in F Major, K 590, IV. Allegro

Link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6aRbivGvIA
SECONDO: Arrosto di agnello al ginepro
Roast lamb with juniper berries from Tuscany.
An honest and sublime rustic lamb stew.

WINE: Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata)

MUSIC: Johannes Brahms
String quartet in A Minor, Opus 51, No. 2, I. Allegro romanze

Link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oUB_k7WTgs
FORMAGGIO: Mozzarella di bufala campana
Fresh mozzeralla from Campagna. Quite possibly my favorite single thing to eat in the entire world, I first had fresh mozzarella made from water buffalo milk in 1992 and it blew my mind. Buffalo milk gives it a gamey aspect compared to the more mild cow’s milk mozzarella
(called “fior di latte” in Italy).

WINE: Greco di Tufo (Campagna)

MUSIC: Dmitri Shostakovich
String Quartet No. 6 in G  Major, Op. 101: I. Allegretto

Link to Franz SchubertQuartetsatz, D.703
DOLCE: Torta tenerina
Flourless chocolate cake from Ferrara.
A delicious torte, strong but not too heavy.

WINE: Grappa di Malvasia (Sicilia)

MUSIC: Franz Schubert
Quartetsatz, D.703

Link to Beethoven String Quartet in  E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2: II. Molto adagio
Bitter yet sweet, this dark elixir from the island of Ischia made from arugula is ideal for lingering with friends after dinner.

MUSIC: Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2: II. Molto adagio

Photo of David Yang, the author, after a concert in Naples, 2008
The author after a concert in Naples, 2008

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