Café Assisi, Wrentham MA – Restaurant Review

Now that life is getting back to normal (Crossing my fingers here, that we keep on a positive trend) it is time to start to returning to our favorite restaurants. As a recent cancer patient, I think we have held out a little longer than most. But we are active take-out customers. One of our favorite haunts, that was our regular Friday night destination before Covid hit, is this cute little, local, Italian restaurant in Wrentham, MA called Café Assisi. It is so important to support our local businesses, they have struggled so much and for the ones that made and survived we need to make sure they thrive. These are our friends and neighbors, the ones that make donations for school fundraisers and pour their heart and soul into their business and make this our community. For a couple that loves nothing more than going into the North End of Boston for dinner, this hidden gem in Wrentham, MA is a godsend and most likely responsible for some extra pounds I have been trying to get rid of.

When you support a small business, you support a dream.

-Unknown

Café Assisi is a little Italian bistro hidden in a corner of Wrentham, Ma, right around the corner from the Wrentham Outlet Malls. It could be very easy to drive by unless you knew it was there. The owners have committed themselves to doing it right and it is working! I have never had a bad meal there. Café Assisi does a vibrant take out business and the pizza is fantastic.

A few years ago, we had them cater our daughters’ Confirmation and everyone raved about the food. We called last minute and had multiple food allergies to deal with. They pulled it all together, it was reasonably priced and a lot more food than we anticipated. People are still talking about how good it was. I am very loyal to restaurants that are open to helping with food allergies and they have always been very respectful and upfront about what they could and could not do and I completely respect that.

It’s important to support people who put their heart, soul, and last dollar into something they believe in.

-Unknown

On the spur of the moment we decided to try and get a table and completely forgot that they recommended reservations. Luck was on our side and we got a parking spot right in front and they were crowded but said they could seat us outside. Over COVID, they built a beautiful outdoor seating area with heaters, lights and plants. It is very beautiful and romantic.

We got the shrimp and pasta in a red sauce special, which my husband adored and could barely finish because there was so much food. There was lots of shrimp and it was fresh and cooked perfectly. I got the Cod in spicy, tomato sauce over sauteed spinach which was fantastic.

I am not one to get dessert, but the craving for anything lemon lately has been overwhelming. Walking in to get a table I spied the dessert case and that limoncello cake was calling to me and it did not disappoint. It was out of this world!

I cannot recommend Café Assisi any more highly. So much so that I am afraid to post this as it may get busier and I will never get a table…..but they deserve all the business they can get.

Simple Mango Salsa

Spring is here …. despite the 40 degree weather. And it is time to break out all the spring and summer recipes. This Simple Mango Salsa is the first one that I thought of. It is so wonderful and versatile. I first made this salsa years ago and it has been on regular rotation ever since. It is simple to make and elevates anything you put it on …. grilled chicken or fish, tacos, salad, chips or in any bowl now a days.

Chop all the ingredients and combine in a bowl. Good luck cutting the mango. I think mangos are my least favorite thing to deal with. I make a huge mess trying to cut them, but it is worth it. Well worth it.

My advice is to let the salsa sit in the fridge for a few hours, but if you don’t the time, feel free to eat immediately.

Life without Mexican food is like no life at all.

-Unknown

Simple Mango Salsa

This mango salsa is great as an appetizer, condiment, side dish. Great on fish or chicken. Perfect to bring to a party as chips and dip also. So easy and fun to eat.
Course Appetizer, condiment, dinner, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Fresh Mango Peel, sliced and diced
  • 1 cup Black Beans Rinsed
  • 1/2 Red onion Diced
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Fresh cilantro Chopped fine
  • Salt To taste
  • 1 Jalapeno De-seeded and diced fine. This is optional and you can add as little or as much as you want to.

Instructions
 

  • Peel and dice the mango into small pieces.
  • Chopped the red onion fine and add to mangoes.
  • Rinse the black beans and add.
  • Chopped the Cilantro fine.
  • Combine all the ingredients along with cumin and orange juice.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Notes

This mango salsa is the perfect addition to any meal. It goes great as an appetizer or snack combined with tortilla chips as a chip and dip recipe. You can also serve on top of grilled chicken or fish or a side dish. 
This fruity salsa is healthy and kid friendly. Mango salsa is also allergy friendly. 
Allergens: Contains black beans which are a legume. DAIRY FREE, TREE NUT FREE, PEANUT FREE, EGG FREE, GLUTEN FREE, SOY FREE
Keyword appetizers, black beans, chips and dip, condiment, fish tacos, fruit salsa, grilling, healthy salsa, mango salsa, mangoes, salsa, side dish

GREAT GLUTEN FREE PANCAKES

I am the only gluten free person in our house (intolerance not allergy), so it can get complicated sometimes. On the rare occasion that something is so good my family likes to eat it even though it is gluten free is a true miracle. This recipe is one of those rare instances. I have tweaked this recipe a few times over the years, but I think I have found the sweet spot. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour is a game changer and I recommend everyone give it a try. This is an unsolicited recommendation. I made Irish Bread the other day (another recipe to come) and it was fantastic. Now I am going to get fat eating all this stuff I had to avoid before!

We are a big breakfast family and we are always making pancakes. Undoubtedly, I will try them and end up feeling horrible for a few days, so I am always on the lookout for a good gluten free pancake. There are multiple food allergies in our family and this one helps with a lot of them. It is peanut free, tree nut free, gluten free and can be dairy free if you substitute the dairy milk for almond or oat milk. I am always on the lookout for recipes that are family friendly and easily adaptable to be allergy friendly.

I have also used this in a waffle maker to make gluten free waffles and it came out wonderful also. I do recommend making these on the smaller side. I have found that when making gluten free pancakes they can be a bit grainy and mushy in the middle. Cooking them slowly and on the smaller side helps with this a lot. Also, for leftovers, I find they work best when toasted.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you have tips on how to make them even better, I would love to hear them.

What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?

Anthony Bourdain

Great Gluten Free Pancakes

With the invention of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour, making pancakes is now a regular occurrence in our house. So good even my non-gluten free family will eat them for breakfast. These gluten free pancakes are easy to make and very easily adaptable. A very kid friendly recipe your whole family will love.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Griddle or skillet Waffle Iron if you decide to make waffles instead

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cup Gluten Free Flour I recommend Bob's Red Mill 1-to1 Baking Flour
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2 tbsp. Melted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk I only had the light buttermilk on hand and it worked fine. I bet you could substitute Almond or Oat Milk in this for those with Dairy Allergies.
  • 1/4 cup Fat Free Milk This is all I had but I think any would be fine.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla (Optional) I have left this out and might almost like it better without.
  • Chocolate Chips, blueberries, bananas Optional ideas

Instructions
 

  • In a large mixing bowl mix all your dry ingredients. (Flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • Put the butter into a microwave dish and cover with a paper towel to avoid messing up your microwave. Melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  • Combine the milks with the vanilla and the butter.
  • Add the egg to the milk mixture and whisk together.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the flour ingredients and mix until just combined. Will be a little lumpy. Feel free to add a little more milk here if needed.
  • Warm up your griddle to medium heat. When a splash of water bounces on the griddle it is ready. After the grill is warm enough grease with a bit of butter or cooking spray. You should not have to do this between every pancake. Usually only once but if you are making a lot you may need to add more down the line.
  • I like to make these on the smaller side because they can be a bit mushy if large and cooked to quickly. So I stick with the 1/4 cup size.
  • This is where I add some additions, like chocolate chips or bananas. (You can add to the mixture if you want also. When the edges start getting bubbly check to see if they are browning. If they are, give them a flip.
  • These are best if eaten right away.
  • Leftovers: I freeze them if I will be eating a lot later or a Ziploc bag in the fridge.
  • Because Gluten Free pancakes can get a bit mushy inside, I find that toasting them to reheat works best.

Notes

These are the best Gluten Free Pancakes I have ever had. Give them a try and let me know how you like them. Also, this recipe could easily be used in a waffle maker too!
Allergens: Dairy, Egg
Keyword Allergy Friendly recipe, Breakfast, cajun recipe, Family Friendly Gluten Free, Gluten Free Breakfast, Gluten Free Pancakes, gluten free recipe, Gluten Free Waffles, Pancakes

Spaghetti & Meatballs with Sausages

I do not claim to be Italian but this Irish/Scottish Mom makes a pretty good Sunday Gravy or Sauce, however you would like to call it. It will never be as good as my childhood neighbor, Mrs. DiScipio’s Gravy. Anything she made was amazing. Once a year she would make a homemade tomato sauce from tomatoes from her garden. On Friday nights she would make pizza with that sauce. I dream about that pizza. But the whole point of this blog is to share our family recipes with my children. Because food is love.

It has taken many years but I have finally figured out the meatballs. Adding the pork mixture from the sausages to the ground beef mixture was a game changer. Whenever I made the meatballs before, you never knew how they would come out.

My kids love this recipe and it is a good staple recipe for a great Sunday Dinner.

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.

-Julia Child

Spaghetti & Meatlballs with Sausages

Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 4 hrs
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs. 80/20 Ground Beef Can add pork or veal too
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Bread crumbs homemade, italian style or even Gluten Free
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese or romano Or any combination of the two
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped parsley
  • 1 15 oz Can of Tomato Paste
  • 3 Cans of warm water
  • 2-3 32 oz Ground Peeled Tomatoes I use Pastene
  • 2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Wine I use white, but red is great too
  • 1 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1.2 tbsp dried parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Instructions
 

Meatballs

  • In a large bowl, break up the ground beef.
  • Take one or two of the sausages that you are planning to put in to the sauce and slice the casing off. Break apart the sausage meat and add it to the ground beef mixture.
  • Add the eggs, bread crumbs, cheese and parsley. Gently mix. DO NOT OVERMIX.
  • I use a cookie scoop so all the meatballs are the same size, but you don't have to.
  • Get a bowl of warm water to keep your hands and the scoop wet. Gently form the balls and put on a greased cookie sheet with a rack.
  • Poke holes in the remaining sausage and add them to the rack also. Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes.
  • ALTERNATIVE: My mother just put the meatballs and sausage directly into the sauce to cook there completely. They were always very good. It will just take longer too cook. I have also cooked the meatballs and sausages in a cast iron skillet, this works well too.

Tomato Sauce

  • In a large, heavy pot, over medium heat, saute' the garlic in the olive oil.
  • When the garlic becomes translucent add the wine and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and three cans of warm water. I like to use a whisk here as it helps to mix the paste. When the mixture is smooth, bring to a boil, add the bay leaf and the cans of Ground Peeled Tomatoes. Add the rest of the spices and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce mixture to a simmer.
  • When the meatballs and sausages are done, add them to the sauce and simmer for at least two hours.
  • This is always better the next day.
  • Serve with your favorite crusty bread and a salad.

Notes

Allergy Information:  Nut Free, Tree Nut Free. This recipe is easily adaptable to suit your allergy needs. I use Gluten Free breadcrumbs. You could leave the cheese out of the meatball mixture. 
Keyword italian recipe, sunday gravy, spaghetti sauce,, sunday dinner, spaghetti and meatballs, pasta, meatballs, spaghetti and meatballs

Stuffed peppers

This recipe is one that I tried to re-create from a wonderful meal we had dining al fresco at Gillette Stadium, where they have a wonderful plaza of restaurants and shops. We decided to try Tavolino’s Pizzeria and it was great.  I had the Chicken Caesar Salad Gluten Free Pizza and I would highly recommend it. My husband ordered the stuffed pepper appetizer and they were amazing.  I just had to figure out how to cook them. To be clear, I currently have a stuffed pepper recipe that I love, but since I went gluten free it is on the “NO” list. But these stuffed peppers are gluten free and amazing. They are an updated version of the stuffed peppers that mom would make when I was a kid.  You remember those….minute rice and tomato soup!  These are much better and pretty easy to make.

“A home cooked meal is a labor of love”

Unknown

Stuffed Peppers

A traditional stuffed pepper recipe with rice and beef. They were warm and filling and wonderful.
Course dinner
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 7 Bell Peppers Any color you like
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb Ground Beef 80/20 (You could use ground turkey or chicken also)
  • 1 lb. Hot or Sweet Italian Sausage I used sweet and then spiced up the sauce
  • 1 Small, white onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 28 oz. cans Ground Peeled Tomatoes I used Pastene No Salt Version (unsolicited)
  • 1 15 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 tsp Dried Basil I tend to use more
  • 2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes Can use less if you not into spicy
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Salt & Pepper To taste
  • 2 tbsp. Fresh Basil chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Fresh Parsley chopped
  • 2 cups Cooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups Shredded Mozzarella

Instructions
 

  • Add Olive oil to hot frying pan.  Brown sausage and ground beef.  Drain off liquid. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent. Add the wine and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Cook down a bit and then add the tomatoes, dried spices and sugar.  Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.   Add the fresh basil and parsley and now it is ready.
  • Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  • While the sauce is cooking cut the tops of the peppers and clean them out.  Put the cooked rice into the a mixing bowl and add a few cups of the sauce as well as the ground beef mixture.  Don’t make it too wet or you will have “soupy” peppers.
    Stuff the peppers with the rice/meat mixture and add them to a baking pan. Try to have them fit snuggly into the pan, so they do not tip over.
  • These take longer to cook than you might think.  I would cook them for at least 40 minutes.
  • After the 40 minutes, take them out add a generous amount of mozzarella to the top of each pepper and put them back into the oven for at least another 20 minutes.
  • Everything inside has been cooked but you want the peppers to soften and this takes a while.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with the extra sauce and a glass of wine! Be prepared one of these is a hearty meal. Enjoy!

Allergens: Dairy

Simple Suppers – Chicken Tortellini Soup

This soup is a staple in our house and now that my college student daughter has her own apartment, it is time she had some simple dinners for college students that are easy and cheap. We need to get her going, so she and her friends can join the Sunday Chefs Club and not starve in college. Soups and Stews are always a great go to when you are looking for a simple and hearty meal. This meal is both impressive and simple.

Nothing brings people together like good food…. Unknown

  • Two 32 oz. cartons of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 8 -16 oz package of tortellini (depending on how many you are feeding)
  • diced chicken (Optional)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (Optional)

Boil water and cook the tortellini separately. Cook it a little al dente. If it says 7 minutes cook it for 5, so it doesn’t get mushy when you add it to the soup.

In another big pot add the chicken broth, chicken (if you don’t have leftover chicken for the soup, you can leave it out or add a raw boneless chicken breast and poach it in the broth until its done, then remove it, shred it and then add it back) and spices. Bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes and then add the spinach. It will seem like too much but it wilts down to nothing. Simmer for a few more minutes. Put the tortellini in a bowl and spoon the soup over the tortellini. Top with a little Parmesan cheese and serve with some crusty bread.

Allergens: Gluten

Baking Tip – How to cut the perfect brownie.

I know this sounds silly, but ever since someone told me about this trick, I use it every time. As a parent of a child with food allergies, I always bring the snacks….so I make a lot of brownies. I tend to cook brownies a bit underdone on purpose, which is our family’s preference. The trick is to use a plastic spoon when cutting them. The edges come out perfect and clean and the brownies do not stick to the knife. It is miraculous. Give it a try next time you are making brownies or blondies, you will be amazed.

 

It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life – J.R.R. Tolkein

 

Trattoria Il Lucano – Rome Restaurant and Food Allergy Review

As we were walking back from the Pantheon one night on our recent life-changing trip to Rome, the kids were starving and I didn’t have any idea where we could eat. Before our trip I studied and searched for restaurants that would accommodate our family and their food allergies (Peanuts, tree nuts, carrots, cucumbers, soy, gluten, legumes, eggplant and zucchini). Italy is known for being very food allergy friendly but information on specific restaurants is hard to find, so I tried to find blog information and there was a few, but it was outdated and limited. So I looked for restaurants that were recommended by friends or had good reviews and reached out to them. Then I made a master list of the places that I wanted to visit and nearby restaurants that were food allergy friendly. (We made the food allergy cards and they were great but only used them once). It was good old fashioned leg work that got the job done. I will share my hard work with you all to save you some time.

I did a lot of prep work, but on this day I had run out of ideas. It was raining and we took a risk and stopped in at Trattoria Il Lucano and asked if they could accommodate us. We lucked out and it was a fabulous meal.

Our waiter was named Mimo and he was so much fun. He suggested that my husband try the steak which they cook at the table. We got the caprese salad, cacio e pepe, pizza and lots of house wine! Always get the house wine. We sat outside under the awning and had a fabulous meal despite the uncertainty at the beginning. My husband is still dreaming of the steak!

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook. – Julia Child

Miscellanea Pub – Food Allergies in Rome

I did a lot of research on restaurants before going to Rome, especially ones that catered to food allergies. I have to say it was difficult. The general consensus was that Rome was very allergy friendly and we did find this to be true. But information on specific restaurants was tough to find. I knew the places that we wanted to visit (i.e. Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon, etc.) So I wanted to discover restaurant choices near our destinations, so I wouldn’t be wandering with a “Hangry” family trying to find a place to eat. We were not looking for fancy…. inexpensive, great food, great atmosphere and food allergy friendly.

One restaurant that kept popping up near The Pantheon was the Miscellanea Pub. They call themselves the “International Students Pub”, so we knew it would be inexpensive and casual. After a beautiful visit to the Pantheon at night, I told my family I had a restaurant for them.  It is a bit hidden, but the CityMaps2Go App was so helpful, because we didn’t have service most of the time.

Franco was our waiter and he was fabulous. He was very friendly and told us the food allergies were not a problem, they would make it work (I made the food allergy cards, but honestly never had to use them..the one place we tried, seemed confused by them. But I am still glad that I had them, just in case).

We got the Caprese salad, Bruschetta, Pette di pollo al limone (lemon chicken) Penna all’ arrabbietta (penne with spicy tomato sauce), Spaghetti alla carbonara (pasta carbonara) and Margherita pizza and a lot of wine (house wine). Always get the house wine in Italy! The food was amazing.

Please note: Miscellanea Pub is cash only!

I forgot this and we had no cash. Franco was so wonderful and felt so bad he walked my husband to the nearest ATM and then brought us free desserts and “sexy wine”. The “sexy wine” is something you have to discover for yourself. When he brought it and I gleefully cried “Is this the sexy wine?” he was thrilled I knew what it was. (I do my research.. haha). It was wonderful!

As we were leaving, Mickey (the owner) was sitting outside and thanked us for coming. We are from Boston and he is great friends with the former mayor of Boston and former Vatican ambassador, Ray Flynn. We had a wonderful conversation about Rome and Boston. Miscellanea Pub is a must see on your next trip to Rome!

 

 

Good food is very often, even most often, simple food – Anthony Bourdain

La Canonica – Food Allergies in Rome

We recently had the opportunity to visit Rome and what an experience it was. My eldest has been studying in Europe for the last five months and we agreed to meet her in Rome. We were all so excited to see her and experience this magnificent city. When we arrived, we headed out to explore and get something to eat. We were right across the Ponte Sisto bridge from the charming neighborhood of Trastevere. Numerous people told us that Trastevere was a win for dining and character and they were so correct. It remains my favorite neighborhood in all of Rome.

We wandered, enjoying the sites and trying to pick which restaurant to go to. They all looked so wonderful, but we have a lot of food allergies to deal with in our family, so we were a bit apprehensive. Then it started to rain…it started to pour! So we just ran into the closest one we could find and we were very happy with our decision. The restaurant was La Canonica. It was the perfect first restaurant for us. It was cute, cozy with a fabulous waiter and chef who both warmly welcomed us and made us feel like family.

The waiter handled the food allergies like it was nothing…not a big deal.  (nuts, tree nuts, legumes, soy, eggplant, zucchini, gluten and carrots, cucumbers). This was the beginning of a wonderful meal and my daughter got to eat anything she wanted. They made it work and we were thrilled. That first glass of wine after a long day of traveling was wonderful. (Italy Tip: always order the house wine… cheap and wonderful) We had the pizza, carbonara, raviolis and a seafood over risotto thing my husband got that looked amazing! I would highly recommend this restaurant on its own but for someone with a food allergy they were fabulous!

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you are hungry again…. George Miller

This is so true, but we managed to do it. Thank god for the 22,000 steps on the Fitbit we were tracking.