Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Back when I lived in San Diego, before I met The Feared Redhead, I had a favorite Italian Restaurant, a place called All Italiana in La Mesa. It was my favorite for several reasons. It had great food -- the owner, Davide, learned to cook working at his family's restaurant on the adriatic coast of Italy. It served a Lambrusco I favored (my taste in wine in those days ran WAY over to the sweet side). I knew the owner personally (we had mutual friends, and occasionally got together to play cards). Best of all, it was not very well-known or advertised. There is nothing more pleasurable in a good restaurant dining experience than knowing it's a secret. Eventually, Davide's little restaurant became more to me than just a favorite restaurant. It became a place I took friends to let them in on my little secret, an act of gourmand intimacy.

When Davide needed to update his menu, I cut him a deal -- I would do the graphic work on my computer, if he would let me make a special custom version of his menu, which I used to propose to The Feared Redhead on October 19, 2000. Her menu was different from all the other menus in the restaurant that evening in that it listed my love for her as an entree. The head waitress, Davide's sister, snapped pictures of the proposal, and our meal that night was comp'ed.

One of our favorite dishes at All Italiana was not an entree, it was Davide's tomato basil zuppa. It was delicious. Since then, we've tried many, but none have come close. Until last night. Experimenting (ok, putzing around), I came up with a recipe that, while not quite as magical as Davide's, was darned good:

Almost Davide's Tomato Basil Zuppa

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Bunch fresh basil
1/4 Cup red wine
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Can Trader Joe's Whole Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 Can (15 Oz) Tomato Puree
1/4 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tsp salt

For garnish: extra virgin olive oil, dried basil, fresh basil leaves, grated Parmesan cheese

Prep: In a blender on puree (low speed), blend whole tomatoes until only very small chunks are left.

in a soup pot, heat 2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, sautee until onions are transparent. Julienne 4-5 medium or larger fresh basil leaves, add to pot, continue to sautee until the basil is wilted. Deglaze with 1/4 cup red wine. Add the blended whole tomatoes and the can of tomato puree, use the puree can to add 15 oz. of water. stir in 1 tbsp dried basil, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tsp salt, pepper to taste. bring slowly to just below a boil, reduce head, stir in 1 tbsp of grated parmesan, simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Rim soup bowls with extra virgin olive oil, then with dried basil. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf, sprinkle with grated parmesan and chopped fresh basil.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time:15-20 minutes
Serves 4

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