(Pictured: Saturday morning market in Asti. They might be closer to Switzerland than Salerno, but the Piemontese merchants still love sundried tomatoes and some of the big, bold flavors of the South.)

I love my life. I love my life even more when it’s flown across the ocean, plopped down in the middle of Italian wine country (or Piazza Navona) and fed luscious nibbles of savory food– morning, noon and night.

Bound and determined to bring the luscious life back home, I sat down and wrote out a list of all the Italian flavors and food rituals that I would miss as a West Village hausfrau.

It went something like:

  1. White truffles
  2. White truffles
  3. Morning coffee with carbs
  4. Two hour lunches with wine
  5. Aperitivo hour with wine
  6. White truffles
  7. Three hour dinners with wine
  8. Planning next meal with wine
  9. Nebbiolo
  10. Nebbiolo

I quickly tossed the list when I scanned the ten items and realized that I was fantasizing about eating and drinking us in to the poor house (or to the check-in desk at Chattahoochee, the insane asylum on the banks of its namesake river. My mother loved invoking Chattahoochee when she was particularly upset with me and my sisters. She threatened to check in for a long weekend, forcing us to cook and actually do our own laundry. That straightened us out.)

There had to be a less expensive, more realistic way to bring Italy home. Okay, I couldn’t manage a 6-course white truffle feast every Saturday night, but I could make fresh mushroom fettuccine and finish it off with white truffle oil. I might not be able to afford bottle of Angelo Gaja Barolo, but I could swing a young Barbaresco and I could definitely sip several bottles of Dolcetto. And so my more affordable, more practical Luscious Life list began…

For the next week or so, Jamie and I will cook up and pour our newest favorite flavors from Italy, foods and wines we enjoyed this time around in Rome, Alba, Asti and Parma. We have the perfect charcuterie platter, the freshest fall salad, rich & earthy pastas and a list of lovely nebbiolo wines that will make you slam downt that bottle of Australian shiraz once and for all. First up, my favorite Italian ritual–the aperitivo hour and all it’s yummy accompaniments.

Aperitivo Hour: Crostini & Bubbly
(aka It’s Not Yet Dinnertime But I Want A Nibble and a Little Buzz )
We loved our apertivo hour, somewhere between 5:00 and 7:00, that featured a flute of something bubbly (prosecco or moscato d’asti) and savory bites of roasted veggies, cured meats and unctious cheeses. Our sundried tomato crostini are quick and easy. The rich and tangy oil-packed sundried tomatoes are tossed with fresh thyme and then layered on crostini of creamy ricotta.
Perfect with prosecco (we love Zardetto). 

Serves 8

12 sundried tomatoes, in oil, roughly chopped
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 TBSP+ 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (finest quality)
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped (equals 1 heaping teaspoon)
6 oz ricotta or goat cheese
1 baguette, cut into ¼ in slices, toasted with olive oil
In a small bowl, combine first six ingredients. Taste and season accordingly with more pepper and thyme.

Spread baguette rounds with cheese, top with sundried tomato mixture. Serve.