Italy shuts down around August 15. What’s the occasion? Ferragosto, the mid-August holiday. It’s the best kind of holiday, no gifts required, no obligatory family visits, you don’t even have to go to church.
What most people do is go to the beach and have a very nice lunch.
Candace Scruggs discovered Ferragosto while on holiday in Tuscany.
“We lived in Germany from 2006-2009. One summer we visited Italy, staying at an agriturismo in Caffagio near San Gimignano.
“The owners told us that the restaurants nearby would be closed on August 15, but they were having a ferragosto for their guests. ‘Would we like to come?‘
“They roasted a pig, had pasta, we sat at a big long table under the stars. It was magical. We have never forgotten it.
“A few years later my husband Russ said ‘Why don’t we do a ferragosto? Invite a bunch of people, cook some Italian food.’
“The first year was pretty basic. But last year, Griffin, our oldest son who is also a chef, took it upon himself to make the menu. He recruited our son-in-law Ron Bolanos, also a chef, and started to plan months ahead. They made duck prosciutto, mortadella, rabbit pate, salt-cured fish.
“The primi piatti was homemade pasta stuffed with lobster and ricotta, the most incredible thing; so delicate, it was a highlight.
“Then we had oven-roasted pork belly with sage and rosemary grilled trout, arugula salad. Griffin made the fresh mozzarella; his hands were immersed in water for so many hours.
“We had 18 people. Caitlin and I set up the rooftop deck for aperitivo — prosecco and charcuterie, olives, artichoke hearts, a nice selection of goodies.
“After the last guest leaves, we end up on the roof. One night we sat out until 4 or 5 in the morning wrapped in blankets, and chatted about the evening.
“We’ll miss Griffin this year, he is crewing on a sailboat. Ron and Connor (day sous at Joey’s) will do the honours.”
To get in the spirit of the relaxing holiday, watch Gianni Di Gregorio’s comedy Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch).
Ferragosto doesn’t have to mean weeks of preparation and home-made charcuterie. But in case you would like to follow the Scruggs’ family example, Ron and Griffin have provided the recipes for rabbit pâté and the homemade pasta in lobster broth.