La Campagna - Restaurant, Catering & Gourmet Gifts

27337 Detroit Rd - Westlake, OH
Reservations, Catering, Gourmet Gifts
Call - 440-871-1771
Hours:Tues. - Sat. 5/9 pm
Menu changes daily, pending market availability.


Food Is...

Family, Tradition, Memories, Flavors, Gatherings, Laughter, Life, Vitality, Comfort...Love.

Oct 1, 2020

Seasonal Pasta for October, 2020

This was a recipe that many of us had when on our tours in Puglia with Peppe Zullo.  This meal is a very simple, plant based, entree for those who are looking for alternatives.  It is a wonderful old world peasant meal. 

Orecchiette di grano arso con cime di zucchini

“Burnt Wheat” Orecchiette Pasta with Courgetti Tops

Take the small leaves from the zucchini plant, choosing the most tender parts and the smallest leaves (the filaments should be removed from the larger leaves)

Serves 4

 200 grams orecchiette (di grano arso or regular orecchiette)

500 grams tender courgetti leaves and shoots

2 garlic cloves

Aged sheep’s milk ricotta cheese (ricotta salata)

Extra virgin olive oil

A touch of chili pepper to taste


Cook the vegetables in ample salted water.

When cooked, add the orecchiette pasta to the same pot.

In a pan, fry the garlic in oil until soft.

When the orecchiette are almost done, drain everything and saute well in a pan with the garlic and oil to the point that almost a cream forms.

Serve with grated aged ricotta or cubed.


Nov 7, 2018

Remembering Traditions...and the Dead.

During the colder months of less and less sunshine, it seem that winter pulls us downward.  The earth dies back aand the seeds hide underground, while they must wait for spring and rebirth.  Some say this is a time when the dead feel an attraction to the living and hope to return for a visit, as they are said to do in Orsara di Puglia.  Families set the table for ancestors returning from their graves.  

Long before a calendar told us when the new year would begin, many would celebrate this time as the new year.  This is the end of the harvest when people would gather and prepare for the long winter. "The wheat has been sown and the fruit all crated."  It wasn't until the 9th century that the Church in Italy drew a veil of religion over the festival, and renamed it Ognissanti, All Saints Day.  The festival of death as birth into the church and eternity, commemorates the death of saints and souls by celebrating traditions in Italy on November 1st and 2nd.   These nights provided the opportunity to honor, reconnect and pay respect to the spirits of loved ones. 
It is said that the night is a magical, spiritual experience for everyone to experience.  The Orsaresi who live in other parts of Italy and Europe come home for the festa, and visitors come from all over Puglia.  Since it is a holiday, many families are able to take an extra long weekend known as il Ponte dei Morti.

Many believe that the night between November 1 and 2, the souls of the recently departed return among the living to visit their relatives and their former homes before moving onto Paradise.  The  entire city of Orsara is lit with Bonfires of wood and branches of (ginestra) or broom.  The light of the fires, the crackling and sparks from the brooms reach out for the sky attracting the spirits so they may reunite with the living. 
The pumpkin lanterns are carved to look like heads or carved with crosses to light their way so the spirits can find their former home.   The preparation involves gathering of firewood, preparing food for family and friends and picking hundreds of locally grown pumpkin or zucca which are carved and placed all over Orsara. This is the busiest night of the year for restaurants and bars.  The town hosts a pumpkin carving workshop and there is even a contest for the best decorated pumpkin.

Now when the campanile, the church bell tower, strikes 1900 hours, Orsara di Puglia  "catches fire."  Bonfires are simultaneously lit in every street and piazza. where they remain lit through the night.  The fires, illuminated pumpkins, music and people in the streets create a magical enchanted atmosphere.  There are three large squares in the city and every quarter neighborhood, and many families also light their own.

Now the food in honor of the dead, is simple but symbolic, seasonal foods.  They are cooked on the open fires and also served as we would call street food.  Potatoes, onions and sausages, roasted chestnuts and pane cotto-bread cooked with garlic, potatoes and greens are some of the favorites.

The one I remember my grandmother Maria Antoinette Dedda-Fragassi always making was Muscitaglia a traditional dish she served on November 1st.  This dates back to the ancient Greeks and Byzantines.    The ingredients are symbolic of fertility and abundance, but also of honor and respect for the dead. Muscitaglia is made up of the Greek and Latin words mosto (wine must) and talia (grain).

While in Orsara, a few weeks ago, we were serve Muscitaglia for dessert and it reminded me of Grandma the only difference is that she made hers for breakfast and ate it with milk and honey.  So that brings me to  MOSTO COTTO- A thick, molasses like syrup made by boiling down fresh grape must.  Mosto cotto is served as a kind of poor man's honey.  Now when my grandma was here in American she couldn't find mosto cotto, so that explains the honey and the milk.  Or maybe she felt America was the land of milk and honey for her. 

Oct 26, 2018

Travel Inspirations...

It was a long journey home, but we all made it, safe and sound.  The flight westward isn't as bad as the one going east.  Jet lag is easier to manage somehow.  

After a good night's sleep, we start the unpacking process.  Luckily, all of our goodies made the trip back in one piece.  Take a look at what one of our travel companions brought back in her luggage!
Take about some creative packing!  

The following days, we will retell our stories to friends and family.   Our excitement will be hard to contain for all the places we went to, the food we ate and the sites we saw.  This is what we do as people, we share our journeys with those around us.  Maybe it will inspire those who long to go, or satisfy curiosity in those who do not.  

The pictures shared here are only a small selection of what we took.  There will be many more pictures we will want to share with those we talk to.  But no matter how many pictures we take, none will compare to actually being there.  There is something about the air and the land that is just different.   The people, their kindness, their way of life is just something we are unable to capture in a photo.  It is a feeling that resides in the heart.  It is the one souvenir that is priceless and unbreakable.  

We hope our trip has inspired you to travel and explore.  Going to Italy was a dream for us as children.  We grew up listening to the stories of the old country, eating traditional foods from our grandparents' childhood and would often visit with relatives that recently arrived or came for a visit to America.  We would sit and listen to the broken English or Italian and knew there was more to learn about who we were as second generation Italian Americans. 

Traveling back to where your ancestors came from, is a humbling experience for Americans.  We are able to put the pieces together about our blended cultures and make sense of our customs.  It helps us realize what it means to be an immigrant and why those brave relatives took that journey across the ocean.  

If you would like to join us on our next trip to Italy, please contact the restaurant and let us know.  We will start our planning process shortly after the winter holidays.  Our trips focus on the origins of Italian cuisine, so be prepared to cook and eat!  We certainly hope you will join us on our next adventure. 

Oct 25, 2018

Last Day of Italy

Silvana, our wonderful morning cook and host.

Our last day and night in Orsara was a little bit chilly but not raining as the day before.  We enjoyed a wonderful  breakfast.  Afterwards, Mike, Rocco, Bianca and I were picked up by Rocco Cocco and Maria Grazie Del Priore, so that we could say hello to her mother and brother Carmen.  What a lovely visit with family.  Thank goodness for Google translate when in a pickle!  We spent the time looking at old family photos and remembering previous visits in years past.
Our cousins in Italy, Maria, Carmen and Mama!

As it almost lunch time, we return to Peppe's and make a stop along the way to say hello to Filomena at her Alimentari.  The rest of the group enjoyed some local shopping with Silvana in Orsara.

Back at Paradiso, we get to make all sorts of things with Pasqualina, biscotti, pupetelli and wine biscuits. She makes sure we have something to take home with us, such as grisini, biscotti, pupetelli and crackers. She is a wonderful teacher! 



After our cooking lesson, a few of the group go to the cathedral in Troia and tour around there stopping by a bakery and florist shop.  Others of us try to organize and pack for the trip home.  How we will fit all of our goodies in our luggage?  

For our final dinner, we have a pasta inforno which is Lasagna with a lite meat sauce.  It was funny when Bianca had a second serving and Antonio started to joke with her.  When she told him she was eating for two, he got all excited!   He got excited and with a big grin said Auguri!  Then he wanted to know how to say it in English and congratulated her again.

We continued with savoy cabbage stuffed with rice and meat poached in olive oil topped with hot chili peppers.  A peasant favorite of the region, is to take the day old bread and make a dumpling out of them, like a meatball.  These are cooked in sauce.  If you closed your eyes, the ingredients and flavor almost tastes like meatball!  Of course true Italian style is to not waste anything, which is why this was made with old bread.  Also worth noting is that this is not commercial bread in a plastic bag that has been sitting on a grocery shelf for days.. this is fresh made breads with clean ingredients.

Breadballs in sauce.
Sacher tort
The meal finished with us revisiting the tasting of all the Parmeseano Reggiano cheeses from 26 to 144 months. Not to be outdone, a rich sacher tort, rich and delicious.  At the end of our meal, our most gracious host gave everyone a bottle of wine as a gift.  Peppe also gave each one of us a box of the Felice gluten free pasta made from legumes. Quite impressive for gluten free,and on the back of each package a recipe from Peppe Zullo in English and Italian.  To close the night we made a small video for Felice Pasta.

A wonderful Chef, Antonio
This was an amazing journey, as always Peppe is an amazing man with an amazing mind, with heart and soul. I am proud to call my friend.  His staff is extraordinary, with each visit they become more like family then Peppe's staff. They love to teach and share their knowledge.

Explaining the Meal.
Thank you Orsara di Puglia for my roots and ancestry.  Truly this culture has made me the Person that I am.  My parents and grandparents were always proud to say they were from Orsara di Puglia. My siblings and I are blessed to have both parents from the same small hill town here in Italy.
Two Fragassis!

We will miss you!

And to our gracious hosts in Roma, Adriana, Renato, Martina, Paola, and Mimmo we are grateful!  You took time out of your days to help us explore Rome as a Roman.  We were able to see some of the cities highlights and to experience the traditional foods of Rome.  You opened your hearts and your home for all to enjoy. From the bottom of our American Hearts Grazie and Thank You!

Ciao from Italy!   See you stateside!

Tomorrow will be a new day as we arrive in Ohio.

Olives and Grapes, Oil and Wine

Monday morning greeted us with fog and rain.  Peppe and I decide what better way to salvage the day then to take a tour of the Borgo Turrito Winery, Cericoa Olive Oil and the Madonna of Incornata.

On the drive down the mountain, Peppe directs me to a piece of property filled with olive trees that he and Antonio purchased.  He talks about how the ground that is turned over will be planted in wheat early part of November and in another field the asparagus is coming up.  He continues to point out the field with fennel, broccoli and artichokes stating that Puglia is the largest producer of artichokes in Italy.  Puglia is so rich in Agriculture.  
Peppe with Mauricio
As we approach the winery we notice it is a much larger operation then Peppe's, however, Luca the wine maker here is the same one for Peppe Zullo Wines.  We start by tasting a couple of the Rose wines that have won medals.  We taste the Falinghina a nice white from Puglia, a Nero di Troia a wine typical of the region and then a special treat, a reserve wine they keep in the basement of the cathedral.  As it was the wine maker's birthday, he cracked open a bottle for he and his girlfriend to try.   We were lucky to have a sip, it was smooth for almost being ready.

Luca the Wine Maker with Peppe

Outside Operations at the Winery

After our tour of the winery we head over to the Olive Oil Factory. Peppe tells us that the owner is married to a woman from Orsara.  As we arrive the smell in the factory was amazing.  It was like you wanted to start cooking!  Stacked outside were large crates filled with different types of olives.  There was a giant machine that washed the olives, then spit out all the stems, leaves and pits which were ground up and used for fuel.  Truly sustainable and making use of the entire plant.

Olive Oil Storage

The olives are then put into an auger and crushed and churned making the first cold press olive oil.  It is like watching liquid gold come out of a spigot into a large vat.  In the basement are large stainless steel tanks where the olive oil is kept.  This producer also presses olives for other people and each bin is marked with their name on them.  
Now time to taste the oil, on a piece of Pugliese bread drizzled olive oil.  What an amazing taste!

After the tour we drive to the Madonna of Incornata.  I haven't been there since 1974, when my sister cousin and I visited with my dad's mother.  We went there because she wanted to pay homage to the Madonna for answering her prayers for her to immigrate to the United States.  When we realize our roots are immigrant roots, today's plight of many immigrants make more sense. The cathedral was still as beautiful as I remember.  
Back in Orsara, our dinner was aged beef, potatoes with a large green salad of herbs, mixed greens and tomatoes. There was a little pasta pomodoro.  We finished with a shot of Marabella made with the leaves of the wild cherries and a few luscious little desserts.
We finally were able to see some more cousins after dinner and made arrangements to visit with more family tomorrow. Bouna Notte! 

Sunday and a trip to the Old Town Oven

Sunday started with Mass.  It was a beautiful service with a young priest who engaged the children. 

  After mass I saw the professor who gave us our tour of St. Michael's Grotto.  We talked for a little bit and then a lady came up and asked for my name.  It is fascinating on just how curious people are when they know the Americans are in Town.

Two Roccos.

Add caption

People of Orsara

Back to Peppe's place, we prepare for our "Sunday Meal".  We start with a little Prosecco and some light appetizers.  The the courses begin to flow.   We have some more orrechiette with fresh tomato sauce.  Lamb was fabulous on a bed of greens. The meal takes us 3 hours to savor.  Eating is a pleasure and a blessing.  Italians certainly know how to enjoy both! 

Entrance to the Old Oven
Explaining how this oven has been used over time. 

Later in the evening,  we head over to see Angelo Di Biccari the owner of Pane Salute.  This is the old town oven that has been working since 1526.  A gentleman approaches and asks if I am Carmella Fragassi.  We discuss family, relatives and then he invites us to his cafe and gelateria later on.  Small towns such as these create community through their food and families.  It is such a great reminder of how simple and pleasant life can be. 

Storing the Bread
After the tour of the old oven, we head over to the modern side of the Pane Salute.   Here the ovens are hot and ready for a nice pizza treat!  Pizza cooked in less than 5 minutes.  Talk about fast food. 

Then we stroll back through town.  It was a quiet Sunday night and our bellies were full.
Look at these herbs!

Good Night Orsara

Oct 24, 2018

Flour... Endless Possibilities.

Hands on Lesson
Flour is a staple to many cultures.  It is versatile and diverse and fairly easy to come by these days. This day is dedicated to flour and is always an interesting day from start to finish.  We explore the many ways in which flour is used in cooking.  We look at how flour is used in pasta, breads, pizza and pastry.
Master at Work

Careful hands, made with Love! 
We learn about many types of pasta and it may seem like a lot, but truly each shape and form has a purpose.  Pasqualina is our teacher and she is a master at her craft.   She teaches us how to make cicetelli, a family favorite in our home, and hand made orrechiette.

Grano Arson Orrechiette with Chick Peas and Greens

Gluten Free Lentil Pasta with Eggplant and Mint

Grano Arson Cicetelli in Fresh Tomato with Cacio Ricotta

Our Grandma's favorite with Cannellini Beans 

Making Pastry
Wine Taralli

This year we visited an Artisan Pasta factory called Pasta Del Camporeale .  It is 100% grano delle Notre azienda agricola.  The owner is Antonio Caccese and has been a wheat farmer his entire life.  Now he makes pasta from the wheat he grows on his farm.  The factory is temperature controlled and monitored.  What a beautiful family operation I even found the long ziti we had at Grandma Disieno's as a child.  Brought a few packages home to try.
Pasta Factory

Bought a couple to take home.