Peaches in Wine

Peaches in wine is a simple snack or dessert that we Italians serve during summer when peaches are in season. It’s very easy to do. I take organic peaches, washed and sliced (pits thrown away). I use a food-safe glass container to soak my peaches in wine, but you can use a pitcher or bowl too. You can also slice only one peach if it’s just for you, but we do a bunch and let them soak. I prefer to use Chianti or another red wine, but you can use any wine you’d like. I keep the container in the refrigerator and eat them as a snack until they are gone.

Peaches in Wine

8 small organic peaches or 6 larger organic peaches

1- 1 1/2 bottles Chianti or red wine, enough to cover peaches

food-safe glass storage container or pitcher

Wash and slice peaches, throwing pits away. Put peaches in clean glass jar and cover with wine. Cover container. Refrigerate–usually for a few hours to a day and then enjoy!

–Dina Di Maio

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The Italian Pantry: Anchovies

Anchovies are little fish that you find in tin cans or small glass jars in the grocery store either in the Italian section or the canned fish section. They are packed in olive oil (or should be). Usually they come from somewhere in the Mediterranean.

What is it used for? Our most popular and frequent use of anchovies is as a base for a pasta sauce. You put them whole from the can into the pan with olive oil and garlic and they will dissolve (even the little bones). And this is the sauce you use for a macaroni like spaghetti. It’s similar to an aglio e olio sauce with the addition of the anchovies.

–Dina Di Maio

Two Different Breads Baked in Old World Style Ovens in North Carolina

I should preface this post by saying I love bread from the “old country,” that is, bread made from good ingredients in a traditional manner. It’s very hard to find bread like this, at least Italian bread, anymore, as the neighborhood bakeries closed. In New York City, the bakeries still exist in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue. Italian bread is traditionally crusty. Some places like Whole Foods replicate Italian breads, but they just don’t hit the mark. Luckily, I got to have bread from some great bread bakeries around the NYC area before they closed. So I’m always on the lookout for good bread, and I have great respect for the tradition of bread baking.

In my North Carolina travels, I found two bread ovens, one constructed a long time ago and one constructed recently, but that both make traditional breads.

Le Phare des Alpes is a men’s club in Valdese, North Carolina, that was started as a mutual aid society by the Italian Waldensians who founded the town in 1893. A few years ago, I wrote an article about a traditional Waldensian sausage called soutisso for Primo magazine (scroll down the link for the recipe). I met some of the men at the men’s club during one of the bocce tournaments they host there. I was privy to a special treat that happens only once or twice a year, the baking of bread in the old oven. I feel honored to have gotten to try this bread since it is a traditional food done on rare occasions. The oven was made by Waldensians out of the local field rock. It is a gorgeous sight to see.

The bread is hard and crusty and was used in the way Italians use bread–for dipping in coffee, wine and soup.

Now, being Italian, I am familiar with Italian breads. I am not, however, familiar with Middle Eastern breads, and was introduced to the diamond-shaped samoon by a trip to Baghdad Bakery in Cary, North Carolina. The shop sells other types of bread as well and is open all week except Monday.

When I walked in and saw the oven a few years ago, I knew I had found something special.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Bay Leaves

What is it used for? Bay leaves are hard, dry leaves that are used to flavor soups and tomato sauce/gravy. You can add one or two to the soup or sauce and let it cook. Remove before serving because no one likes to get the hard leaf in their bowl.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Onions

Onions are a staple in the Italian pantry. We use any and all onions.

What is it used for? We slice them and add them to salads like summer tomato salad or orange and onion salad. (For this, we’d use red onion.) We stuff large onions. Some Italians add sliced or chopped onions to their tomato sauce/gravy. My grandma used to like to chop green onion (the white part) and add it to her salad. We pickle small onions called cipollini. I like to eat the cipollini in a sweet sauce like Antonio Carluccio recommends, but this is not how my family traditionally ate them.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Olives

Of course,  olives are the staple of Italian food. Not only do we use olive oil for everything, we also eat olives.


What is it used for? We always have cans of black olives to put on our salads. For Sunday or holiday dinners, we get an array of olives for our antipasto. On Christmas Eve, we make a baccala salad that includes olives.

–Dina Di Maio

Valdese, A North Carolina Mountain Town Settled by Italian Immigrants, Celebrates 125 Years This Year

Valdese, North Carolina, is a town in the western part of North Carolina with green valley pastures and rolling hills. In 1893, 125 years ago, it was settled by a group of Italians from the Alps in the region of Italy known as the Piedmont.

They were called Waldensians because they practiced the Waldensian faith. Persecuted for their religion for centuries, in the late 19th century, they saw a population boom and branched out to live elsewhere. A group founded Valdese and created a lasting legacy. Valdese is a good day trip from most of North Carolina’s major cities. On August 10-11, 2018, the city celebrates its 125th anniversary with the Waldensian Festival. Here are some sights to see in Valdese:

  1. Village Park Mural–A beautifully painted mural in an outdoor park on Main Street detailing the history of the Waldensians from their start to their founding of Valdese.  
  2. Waldensian Heritage Museum on Rodoret Street–The museum is a must-stop to learn more of the day-to-day life of the Waldensian people with examples of their traditional dress as well as a replica of a Waldensian home. The museum also has a really nice gift shop with books and gifts from and about Italy and the Waldensians. 
  3. Waldensian Presbyterian Church–In 1895, the Waldensian Church became part of the Presbyterian Church. During the festival, the church sponsors a traditional Waldensian meal. 
  4. Waldensian Trail of Faith–Here, you can tour the replica of a Waldensian village in the Alps. 
  5. From This Day Forward–an outdoor drama from the Old Colony Players about the Waldensians of Valdese. It celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 
  6. Waldensian Heritage Winery–The winery was founded in 1930 by Waldensians where they use traditional methods to make wine.

    me at a wedding at the winery

  7. Bocce courts–Bocce is a favorite pastime of the locals, as is evidenced by the bocce courts off Main Street. 
  8. Le Phare des Alpes–The Valdese Men’s Club started as a mutual aid society created by the Waldensians. Today, it hosts the North Carolina Bocce Tournament. During the festival, you can check out the bocce tournament and also sample some handmade soutisso, the local Waldensian sausage that I wrote about for Primo magazine. (Scroll down the page for the recipe.) 
  9. 100 Main–A restaurant on Main Street that serves soutisso a few different ways, but also the traditional way with green beans and potatoes. 
  10. Local street signs, architecture and cemetery–Waldensian culture is evident in the names of local streets, in architecture of older buildings and houses, and in the names of those buried in the local cemetery. 

–Dina Di Maio