When I lived in Italy I was both very lucky to know a few Italians who treated me like family, and very naive. I think back now on my 6 months living in Italy and I can’t help but realize how much I missed. What I really needed was a friend like Viola to help me navigate and find the good stuff. 
Viola Buitoni is a San Francisco cooking instructor and kind of impresario–organizing Italian themed events. She’s also tremendously down-to-earth, relaxed and utterly charming. I took a cooking class with her a few years ago and loved every minute of it. Her classes sell out so quickly I rarely have time to write about them in advance. To travel with her to Italy? That sounds like heaven to me. 
Where did you grow up and can you tell me about your family’s food connections? 
VB: I grew up in Perugia, the main city of Umbria and was born into one of Italy’s first pasta families. I am the 6th generation of the Buitoni family. Our pasta fortune originates in Sansepolcro, a province of Arezzo. Shortly after moving to Perugia to mind one of the pastifici, my great grandfather Francesco founded Perugina with Luisa Spagnoli. Though my family no longer has a stake, Buitoni and Perugina are both worldwide food brands to this day. 
What made you decide to run tours to Italy?
VB:I’ve been in the Italian food business for more than 25 years, I’ve run kitchens and dining rooms catered to the NY elite and even owned a store. After a short maternity break, I started teaching and found enormous joy in sharing the knowledge I had accumulated. My deep love and understanding of Italian food was clearly infectious. I’ve grown a following of students who often told me I’ve changed the way they think about food. Guiding a cooking experience in Italy seemed a natural extension of the “Viola experience”, so to say, a way to continue to inspire passionate home cooks even further in embracing not only the technique but the deeper meaning of food and kitchen culture in Italy. 
What kinds of recipes do you to teach? 
VB: I teach recipes that can live and change in home kitchens and that are suited for school nights; the kind that that can work for generations and create lasting memories while changing with time. My food is very market driven, it is a celebration of where and when I am in different places in the world. Always, of course, with an Italian sensibility. 
Why are your trips to Lucca and Maremma instead of to the more well-known cities like Florence or Perugia? 
VB:The simple answer is I have access to unique and well suited facilities, but there is more. My maternal family has summered in Maremma for 6 decades, so I know and love it intimately. Lucca came on the coat tails of Maremma when a local foundation noticed the work I was doing and proposed that I do something similar in the lucchesia. 
There is also the desire to share Italy as I know it and love it, with all its fables, and  all its foibles. An Italy that is for locals, that runs on the timetable of nature and its seasons. Teaching about food is also generating emotions, opening a door into an upbringing and adulthood that have always been deeply connected to the pathways of producing, purveying, cooking and enjoying good food. I can think of no better place to do this than the less known territories of Italy. 
What are some of the highlights of your tours to Italy? 
VB:In Maremma a private dinner on top of a mountain from which you can see forever, a visit to the winery of a family. A friend who watched me grow up. In Lucca cooking classes straight from markets, a private tour of a villa guided by the princess who owns it, followed by a reception in her private loggia. 

To learn more about Viola’s tours to Italy visit: Viola’s Italy


DISCLAIMER: This image is provided only for personal use. If you found any images copyrighted to yours, please contact us and we will remove it. We don't intend to display any copyright protected images.

Leave a Reply

Walnut Crusted Chicken Breast – It’s all About the Nut Glue

I almost never order a nut-crusted entrée in a restaurant, since they usually use a sugary glaze to hold them on, and/or feature a too sweet nut, like pecan, or macadamia. That’s not an issue here; since we’re going with buttery, subtly bitter walnuts, held on with a very savory […]

Cheddar, Potato & SPAM® Soup

Cheddar, Potato & SPAM® Soup A hearty, comforting and autumnal warming soup!  Perfect soup for all the family!  SPAM® Chopped Pork and Ham is the perfect quick and easy meat for a soup.  Serves 4-6 Prep time:  5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Ingredients 450g potatoes, peeled & diced 150g carrots, […]

5-Minute Fisherman’s Stew – Give or Take

Of course this Fisherman’s Stew takes more than five minutes to make, and I’m actually referring to the approximate cooking time once the seafood hits the pan, but as they say, it’s only false advertising if someone else does it. Besides, one taste and I’m sure you’ll forgive any temporal […]

Pear Clafoutis – Almost as Good as it Looks

It sounds odd to say that a recipe’s biggest problem is that it looks too good, but that’s sort of the case with this pear clafoutis. Through no fault of its own, this crust-less, custard fruit tart looks a lot sweeter, and richer than it actually is. So, please be […]

Bloody Mary Burrata – An Experiment in Liquefying Salads

I don’t think there’s actually a difference between a liquid salad, and a cold vegetable soup, but if there is, I’d like this Bloody Mary Burrata recipe to be considered the former. Especially since I already posted a gazpacho this summer. But regardless of what you call this strange hybrid, […]

Crispy Butcher’s Nuggets – Parts is Parts

While our homemade butcher’s nuggets won’t feature the same diversity of meat parts as the butcher shop, at least they won’t feature the same diversity of meat parts. Seriously, those folks will put anything into a sausage or meatball. All kidding aside, these crispy fried meatballs will have you wondering […]

Skippy® Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes

Skippy® Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes These light and fluffy peanut butter pancakes drizzled with peanut butter and jelly taste absolutely delicious.  The favourite, classic sandwich turned into the tastiest breakfast treat! Serves 4 Prep time:  10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Ingredients For the pancakes 200g plain flour 30g caster […]

All About Walnut Oil from La Tourangelle

La Tourangelle is a family-owned company that produces outstanding nut and seed oils, with heritage in the Loire Valley of France, an area known for nut oils. Their toasted sesame, roasted walnut, roasted peanut and roasted pistachio oils are all award winners. The company began in 2002 in Woodland, California […]

Chef John is On Vacation and More

That’s right! I’m on vacation for the rest of the week, and the beginning of the next, which usually means a lot of rest and relaxation, but not this time. That’s because Michele and I are going to be working harder than ever on a major, top secret personal project. […]

Chorizo, Red Pepper & Stilton Quiche

Chorizo, Red Pepper & Stilton Quiche This quiche is so easy to make and always goes down well, delicious served hot or cold. If blue cheese doesn’t take your fancy then you can use cheddar or any other hard cheese. Serves 8 Prep time:  10 minutes, Cooking time: 45-50 minutes Ingredients 225g […]