If it weren’t for my sister-in-law, Olivanna — Zia O to my girls — I’d starve to death. Well, almost.

Sunday with Zia O | ©Tom Palladio ImagesShe’s wined and dined me for years. Normally, I find myself at la tavola on any given Sunday for pranzo (lunch) sampling her delicious, mouth-watering dishes typical of the Vicenza province — part of the Veneto region of northeastern Italy — and, on occasion, beyond the “county line.”

A walking, breathing culinary encyclopedia, Zia O is the “queen of the kitchen” for our extended family tree.

Whether on the cooktop, the oven, the cutting board, etc., Zia O’s always conjuring up something new and exciting to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. And, this Sunday was no exception.

Sunday with Zia O | ©Tom Palladio ImagesShe called: Let’s do lunch. So, I drove right up.

Olivanna did all the heavy lifting, and I just sat there feasting like a king. No, way better!

Here’s what Zia O prepped:

First course: Homemade parsley ravioli filled with potato and mortadella, bathed in melted butter and pistachio nuts.

Second course: Roasted chicken wrapped in pancetta (bacon); new potatoes; baby spring peas sautéed in onions and parsley; and, cooked catalogna (chicory) and verze (savory cabbage) winter greens.

Dessert: Forest berry mousse semifreddo (semi-frozen) cake, market-fresh Clementine Mandarin oranges and Bartlett pears, and caffè doppio macchiato (frothy double shot of espresso coffee).

Wine pairing: Pinot Nero, a superb DOC grape from Cantina Maculan in Breganze.

If anyone was meant to be totally at home in the kitchen, it is, without a doubt, Zia O. And, if anyone was meant to go around with a knife and fork in hand, it’s me.


©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images



Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him in and out of 49 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway somewhere in the Veneto. You can also follow his dispatches from the cobblestone at TravelingBoy.com and ItalianNotebook.com.


  1. Tom, Olivanna has always amazed me with her easy style and delicious recipes. She inspired me many years ago when they still lived in Ottawa to get into fresh pasta making and so I bought a machine and the rest is history. I’ll have to call her today and get some recipes from her, my mouth is watering. Happy eating and Happy New Year. It will be a wonderful one for you and your little (growing) family.

  2. I’d love to know more about the butter/pistachio “sauce” for the ravioli. Does she toast the nuts, etc? Would she share the recipe…or the general idea, if she doesn’t have a recipe? It would be a great addition to the walnut sauce recipe I use for mine, one that came from the Italian grandmother of Loretta Paganini, who runs a wonderful cooking school and culinary institute in the Cleveland area. (If any of your readers are interested in Loretta’s sauce, which always gets repeat requests, it’s here: http://sustainabilitea.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/after-youve-made-ravioli-make-the-ravioli/.)


  3. I am late in reading this – like by a week. But eat your heart out, sweetheart, we are having hot dogs, deli cole slaw and beer in front of the TV as we watch the Packer fans freeze their buns off.

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