I’m a big fan of my city, and our food experiences are some of the most versatile and unique! I was so excited about our recent experience with Cucina Migarante for the Little Italy Mercato and Cooking Experience, and wanted to tell you all about it!
San Diego has so much to offer. You’re just a drive away from the desert, or the snow. We have tons of bustling neighborhoods boasting hundreds of cuisines, artists, performers, and professionals…there is something for everyone!
Since my mom moved back from Connecticut in February, we’ve been trying to make sure we reacquaint her with all the city has to offer! For the month of June, we looked to an old favorite of mine, Little Italy Food Tours for a fun Saturday at the Farmers Market and in the kitchen!
Little Italy is one of the best areas (just my biased opinion), because there’s an excellent balance of Old World tradition/Italian history as well as really cool and contemporary new concept restaurants, cafes, and lovely little boutiques and salons!
We were hosted by Francesco at Cucina Migrante, and it was an amazing experience! Although I had been the the Little Italy Mercato several times, it was so cool to roam from stall to stall with Francesco, who founds his food philosophy on organic, farm-fresh produce of only the highest quality. He made sure to take us to all of his favorite farmers and vendors and we sampled some of the best produce you can find!
We had a really lovely group, and it just so happened no men signed up for this particular date, so poor Francesco was outnumbered (he didn’t seem to mind)! One of the other women prefers a gluten-free and vegan diet, so we had some options tailored to that. I initially was a little disappointed because while I don’t associate Italian food as being heavy, I definitely figured a 3-course meal would involve some type of protein!
I was pleasantly surprised with the amazing menu and food we were able to create with the fresh ingredients we got from the mercato! One of the best parts of this experience was that Francesco creates the menu “on the fly” as we shop, to ensure we can create something wonderful with seasonal produce based on whats available on that day.
We left the mercato and headed to Francesco’s lovely home, where we were greeted with a gorgeous spread of marinated olives, prosciutto, an amazing balsamic-soaked cheese, homemade vegan/gluten-free bread, and traditional Italian spritz cocktails.
We found some beautiful zucchini to make zucchini “noodles,” and lots of fresh greens to make a fresh pesto to serve with them. Our pesto was made from arugula, celery leaves and amaranth and of course some EVOO, a clove of garlic, lemon, and salt. It was served raw and topped with chia seeds and raw sesame seeds and it was one of the most refreshing dishes I’ve ever had!
Next, we started on a frittata! We shelled some fresh snap peas, and added some spring onions and Japanese water spinach, and a bit of fresh parmiggiano reggiano to some ridiculously fresh eggs from 3 Sons Farm, and let it do its thing in some cast iron pans. I’m not one for egg dishes, because runny eggs sorta freak me out (I can’t explain it, I just know that it makes me feel sick). The fritatta was perfectly cooked, and yet so fluffy and delicate. We added a little more fresh parm before eating and it was perfection!
Our main course, so to speak, was an amazing spaghetti with a “creamy” kale sauce. And the beautiful thing is, when I say creamy, there was no added cream or butter! We made the sauce from chopped kale sautéed in EVOO, and after boiling the kale stems and pureeing them, we added those for more texture in our sauce. We sautéed the kale with a little more of those spring onions, and when we boiled the kale stems, we used the same water for the pasta and used the “stock” to add to the pan for moisture while cooking the kale, and again after adding the pasta to the kale so that the pasta water could thicken our sauce. I am NOT generally a big kale fan, but I’m officially a believer. I have a new recipe in my arsenal (also, Francesco doesn’t cook with recipes, because well, we Italians just generally don’t unless its Nonnas recipe), and a way to serve an excellent meal to vegan or vegetarian friends! If I used zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti, this would even be Whole30 approved.
Actually, ALL of the food would be Whole30 approved if we omit the cheese (ahem, and the wine, and the panna cotta, and the aperol spritz…)! Impressive!
Francesco had pre-made the panna cotta with fresh milk, coconut sugar, and he used agar (a seaweed) instead of gelatin to thicken. It was topped with a drizzle of caramel and some fresh blueberries from the mercato. I’m mildly allergic to coconut but I had to try just a bite…and I didn’t get a photo due to the excitement. I usually find panna cotta to be a disappointment outside of Italy, but this reaffirmed its place as the staple Italian dessert for me…and I’ll be finding ways to get it again!
I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, because it felt like a day spent with friends and good food, and I can think of few ways to better spend a Saturday.
I highly recommend Cucina Migrante, and their partners at Little Italy Food Tours. Cucina Migrante not only offers this one-of-a-kind experience, but they also offer pasta making classes, private chef services, and exclusive pop-up dinners!
If you haven’t, you should definitely check out the Little Italy Mercato on Saturdays from 8 am to 2 pm. You can find so much fresh, organic produce and tons of vendors with unique offerings (like a “clean” sriracha from Baby Clydesdale Small Batch Hot Sauce…who also makes an amazing pesto, lemongrass BBQ sauce, and spicy carrot habanero ginger sauce)!
If you’re interested in booking this experience, you can find the information here.
What is the best culinary experience you’ve had? Tell me all about it in the comments!