Neapolitan street-side shrines.

These shrines I found nestled into windowsills, under bridges, and on walls between shops and houses. They reminded me very much of the small informal shrines I saw scattered around both the cities and villages of India and Nepal. Nighttime was the best time to see them as many are illuminated by Christmas light or electric candles. St. Francis, St. Anthony, Padre Pio and The Virgin Mary all make regular appearances. Most shrines have been created or dedicated by a family or a business, in the name of a deceased person, and this family will take on maintaining the shrine over the years.

The death notices were all around too, with the same one sometimes posted in different spots around the city, and also in small towns like the ones I visited in Abruzzo.


A crypt/mausoleum in Nocciano; this one includes several Di Meco’s.


St. Anthony is almost always pictured holding a child, and sometimes some lilies also.


Check out the crumbling wall it’s posted on.


St. Anthony
More St. Anthony!
From Nocciano. “in Di Meco”= maiden name.
A close up from the shrine for St. Anthony above.

Street art of Napoli.



There could be something about living in the shadow of a volcano, the very same one that so famously wiped out the surrounding area 2,000 years ago, that lends a certain urgency to the present moment in Naples.

Not only  are the Neapolitans acutely aware of the history of what happened at Pompeii and Herculaneum, but it’s possible to just hop on a subway and go see up close just what exactly happened on that day long ago.  You’re just not able to avoid the reality of the huddled bodies, petrified together with their dogs, children and kitchen ware, in the midst of their mundane daily activities.

The first and most notable aspect of Naples that was apparent to me on my 5 day visit here was the ubiquity and variety of street art, death notices, political pamphlets and religious shrines in the older neighborhoods in the city center.   I will I could offer a high minded analysis of all of these scribbles, figures, slogans and statues but I just enjoyed them and translate them the best as I can. I’ve photographed what I thought were the most well done or interesting of what I saw. Enjoy.


Naughty, very naughty.


“I hate fascists”. The Italians have some experience with fascism, so they know what that word means and isn’t just a convenient political insult like it it in the US.


“It’s not true that there is no money”-disputing the idea that Italy is financially bankrupt.
I just like this one.






A very necessary pizza.

This is the kind of pizza that the world really does need. My world, anyway. I say this once in awhile, but this time I really mean it, this really was one of those perfect, all-the-conditions-come-together moments where I don’t really think about anything else while I’m eating except for how damn good this is and I wish i had like 6 of them.

It started with my usual Roberta’s Pizza pizza dough recipe, topped with homemade, homegrown sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and salt.

Topped as such:


Shredded Robinson Farm cheese

Shredded Smith’s Country Cheese Gouda (Winchendon, Ma., they have cheese there)

Crumbled Christian Hill Farm sweet italian sausage-the best local sausage and pork.

Carmalized red onions

Sliced, sauteed mildly hot italian peppers from some farmstand down the road.

Kosher salt, oregano, olive oil – from some store, I dunno who cares.

I par-baked the crust on the stone for about 2 minutes, took it out to top, put it back on the stone until mostly done, then finished ‘er off on the oven rack for about 1 minute for an extra bit of crisp.




A totally unnecessary pizza.

A friend give me a small crop of Delicata squash. A chunk of cranberry wensleydale cheese sits in the fridge. I’m not eating those walnuts lately and I meant to reach for the bag of spinach at the farmstand but it seems they put kale in its place.

This is how this “Autumn” pizza came together.

I stretched the crust and par-cooked it for about a minute; pulled it out and kept it on a cooling rack while I topped it in this order:

  • shredded Robinson Farm cheese
  • roasted squash
  • carmelized red onions
  • crushed walnuts
  • blanched kale
  • cranberry Wensleydale, crumbled
  • kosher salt
  • slathering of olive oil

Back into the oven we go to cook on the stone for about 5-8 minutes. I could’ve kept it in there longer but the toppings were starting to brown already.

The taste was good, but it wasn’t exceptional. It could have used a little more salt, or maybe some kind of sausage or ham or some more cheese. All in all a fun experiment and a good lunch! I’m writing this post from the basement, behind a stack of boxes, because if there is such a thing as the pizza police I’m sure they are on their way to my house right now.

Good Bread.

In Worcester today, knowing that my kitchen is out of bread for breakfast, and also knowing that I’m not in the mood to make any, I decided to pick up a couple of good loaves from Birchtree Bread Company.  Pictured in the top two photos is their Country Loaf.  I also picked up a square of Rosemary and Olive Oil Focaccia which is in the bottom photo. They make only naturally-leavened breads, in about a dozen varieties throughout the week.  They also have a small  selection of very good (and huge) pastries and cookies, a lunch menu, a toast menu and a nice selection of coffees.  I also just read they have a pizza night on Wednesday and Friday which I haven’t been too. Yet. The County Loaf is 6.99; considering it’s size, taste and likely nutritional content it’s well worth it! The chalkboard with the names of maybe 2 dozen regional farms that they source from made me feel good about spending money there as well. The place itself is spacious and there’s live music a couple of nights a week.


The Country Loaf is a light-wheat loaf. It just looks like 2 different colors because of the lighting in my kitchen…


New regular feature on Elemental Pizza that’s not about pizza: an exploration of small farms in Central Massachusetts!

(But it always leads back to pizza eventually anyway because I’m putting these local cheeses, vegetables and Italian sausages on my pies so if you’re just here for the pizza, stick around for a while).

It’s ironic that after five years of being vegetarian, and finally getting a job in a vegetarian kitchen, I had decided to start eating meat again one year after beginning that job. I moved out to Barre, Ma. and found myself in much closer proximity to a whole new, up until then for me at least, way of buying food, especially high-quality meat and dairy products. Working in the kitchen of The Insight Meditation Society, my appreciation for wholesome and fresh food deepened as I got to know more intimately the vegetables brought to our kitchen door by Many Hands Farm and other nearby growers. I  learned what “CSA”means, and also how it’s possible to skip the grocery store altogether: just drop some cash into a wooden box by the creaky freezer in the back of the barn and take what you want, via the honor system, just about any time of day. My short journey to omnivore started with a bowl of chicken broth to acclimate my system, and two nights later I was at a picnic table at nearby bbq with hamburger juices running down my chin.

Part of my reason for going vegetarian was revulsion towards the industrial-meat system which produces incredibly cruel and unsanitary conditions for the animals, mounds of environmental pollutants that are unable to be absorbed into the earth or atmosphere and the very mediocre and often unhealthy quality of the meat produced, due in part to the prevalence of antibiotics and growth hormones and the un-natural diet many of these animals are forced to eat.

Coming to Barre and seeing the abundance of quality meat and dairy products, I couldn’t not try them out. And although I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination, if I have the extra money to buy the local stuff, I will and usually do. Here in this feature I’ll write about some of the farms that I buy from or have visited. I’ll update this list as I discover new ones which I’m sure will be ongoing because there’s just so many of them out there once you start looking.  I’ll mostly include here places to buy meats, cheeses,  milk and grains or flours. If you’ve got some good suggestions you’d like to see included here, leave a comment and I’ll check the place out!

I’m starting this series with one farm that’s a no-brainer for me, one of my favorite all-around favorite establishments for summer food, beer, meat and entertainment right here in Barre. I guess I’m getting a little wistful because it’s 20° in March and their farm store will, hopefully, be back open again in just under a month.

Carter and Stevens Farm, Barre, Ma.


(beef, ice cream, raw milk, deli, occasional bakery products or breads, brewery, pumpkins and bbq with live music during July and August!)

Although the farm store is closed from November to mid-April, the brewery is open year-round and they have an annex at a separate location in Barre (between 181 and 281 Old Stage Rd.) where it’s possible to buy raw milk  November through March. The farm store is a great place to buy their frozen beef, pork and raw milk, but I don’t tend to buy many other kinds of goods there because they’re a bit pricey for my budget. The ice cream is the best I’ve ever had and it’s made using milk from their own grass-fed cows, and with dozens of interesting flavors including soft-serve. The bbq, which takes place Friday and Saturday nights in July and August, is a busy yet relaxed place and often has live local  bands, although they’ve started to move them into the brewery lately on the weekend nights. OH YEA. They’ve opened the Stone Cow Brewery there now too, just this past summer, selling beer on tap as well as growlers of different sizes to go.

I think they have begun to brew with their own barley and hops as well. You can buy a beer to go and hang out at the bbq until the sun goes down together with families with children, bikers, farmers, hippies and anybody else from varied walks of life that knows the value of a good local farm!

Also, don’t miss the pumpkin-throwing catapult, always seen in action during the fall Harvest Fest…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.





They’re not weird, they’re “rustic”.

Today I was lucky to have my good friend Sabra Saperstein and her aesthetic sensibilities not only helping make this ravioli but photographing the process!

I’ve posted the ricotta cheese making process and recipe, and the creation of the filling, so now this is the culmination of the process; the dough and and filling of the ravioli.

The pasta dough recipe that I used:

This amount of dough was perfect for filing with one gallon of milk’s worth of ricotta  and one small to medium roasted butternut quash.

  • 10 ounces  all-purpose flour
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 4 yolks from 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound (pre-squeezing) cooked spinach, wrung out very well. Frozen spinach works too.

And now for a photographic journey through ravioli making…

The dough. 
The dough cut up into 8 equal pieces before rolling. 
Being rolled through the pasta rolling machine. 
We got about 12 ravioli per sheet. 
Fold the sheet over, squeeze out the air and press to seal.


Cut apart with a ravioli/pastry cutter. A regular knife works too…
Tomato sauce doesn’t work at all for anything containing something sweet like butternut squash. This one’s best with olive oil, kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper and grated parmesan.