Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cucina Isabella

As many of you know I like food. One of my favorite places to mangiar (eat) in Camarillo is a small Italian restaurant officially called Cucina Isabella which we call "Winchello's". It's been open for about 3 or 4 years in the spot that used to house Winchell's Doughnuts for many, many years hence our nickname. The food is good but so is the food at several other places, what makes this a special place is the owners who work in the restaurant daily. They make you feel like you are one of their oldest and dearest friends who they haven't seen in months but it may still be only your first visit ever to the Cucina. When Laurie planned the surprise going away party for me, it was their place that she picked for the event.

Cucina Isabella is located at 455 Carmen Drive in Camarillo open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This is a shameless plug I know but what the heck they can always use more business.

Gino and Connie Milano are these special people. Gino was born and raised in Sicily while Connie is Scottish by birth. Gino's energy level is high while Connie's is INCREDIBLE and probably contagious!

Yesterday I drove about one hour inland to visit them. They are in Sicily in the town of Enna, elevation 3,054 feet, in the center of the island of Sicily visiting Gino's mother Gaetana (82) and father Mario (84). Gino and Connie plan on retiring to Enna next August to work on a Bed and Breakfast place set to open in August of 2009. The have already purchased a six bedroom villa for this project. All the bedrooms are upstairs while the downstairs is basically one very large open room. There are plans for swimming pool, cobblestones to pave the dirt areas around the villa and both major and cosmetic renovations to the villa. Connie's energy level went to hyper-speed as she showed me the place and expressed her ideas about improvements. They have a beautiful unobstructed view of Mt. Etna out the front of the villa where they are seen standing in today's pictures. I am not sure if this is true because as you can tell it was very foggy in Enna. I think that the place has great potential and after they finish the upgrades it will be yet another success for them.

After touring the villa and the town of Enna, we returned to Gino's parents' apartment for lunch. Gino's mother Gaetana is a prototypical Italian mother, I can't believe they didn't give her a role in the movie "Moonstruck", she would have been perfect. She made us a great lunch and every time I stopped she just kept saying to me "Mangia, Mangia!". I had to be polite so I kept eating, it was so good! Is their a bad place to eat in Italy? We were alone in the kitchen for about five minutes and Gaetana, who speaks no English, and I had an actual Italian conversation. She went slowly for me but it worked, we communicated successfully.

The pictures in Gaetana's kitchen also include their friend Tanino. From what I gathered he is Sicily's answer to my old friend Mark "Mad Dog" Johnson...knows everyone, has connections and gets things done.

The final kitchen photo is of Gino and their ten year old daughter Isabella who the restaurant is named after.

Garmin did put me into a street in Enna that tapered to a street so narrow that Sargent Preston of the Yukon and his dog King could not not have maneuvered their sled through it. I had to back out about one block since their was no room to turn around. Of course an illegally parked car made it even harder but in the end it may have been one of my greatest moments in driving.

I took some back roads through the Sicilian countryside on the way home for about ten miles. It was all very beautiful and peaceful, like the postcards you send home.

In the evening it was back to the University for the team's last "Athletics" workout before we start football practice Saturday. Again about 20+ players showed up, some old some new. It was good to meet so many of them before the first practice. We are going to be alright.

If you need to send me anything, my address is:
Via dei Malavoglia 20
95021 Aci Castello
Catania, Italy

Finally, today I've included a close-up picture of a Norman castle built out of black lava on top of a basalt rock in 1076. It is located about 600 yards from my apartment. This is the reason the town is named Aci Castello.


connie said...

Hey Coach.......we are back home in Camarillo.....thanks for your kind words...we really enjoyed having you for lunch and giving you a tour of the " under construction" Villa Isabella....

FYI..... George did great driving from Catania to Enna after only arriving in Sicily a few days before...really......the way those Sicilians drive....He really was brave. I am sure by now you are a pro George?

Ciao for now...The Milano's

Anita said...

I found your blog because my husband and I are planning a trip to Sicily for three weeks starting March 24th. We are thinking about driving from Catania to Enna and having never been in Sicily we have no idea what the drive might be like. Could you give me some guidance? Thank you, Anita Bingaman
To introduce myself I have provided a link to my recently created blog.