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Just days ago, celebrated Sicilian chef, cooking instructor, and published author, Fabrizia Lanza, set foot on Colorado soil for the very first time. Lanza explained the reason for her trip during a Skype interview preceding her visit: “Many people that come to the school [Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily] are from Texas, Colorado, and Virginia,” says Lanza. “I’ve never known what these places look like, and I’m eager to see where my students come from.”
The cooking school she speaks of was pioneered by and named after her late mother. Housed in Case Vecchie, an estate in rural Sicily owned by the Lanza family since 1830, this culinary destination has been visited by the legendary Julia Child as well as Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver. For that matter, Boulder-based Peggy Markel has been taking guests to the school via Culinary Adventures for 20 years.
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Lanza is quite a legend herself, with more than 20 years experience as an art historian in Florence, two cookbooks including 2012’s Coming Home to Sicily, and a transcontinental tour route of intimate cooking lessons and patron dinners. The guiding principal behind all her endeavors? “Curiosity,” she says. “It’s a way of envisioning beauty and sharing things. I’m interested in human studies. I like to talk with people and see how they have built up their lives, how they’ve created a relationship with food.”
Here are 5 reasons Why Fabrizia Will Fall for Denver:
1. Disheveled charm: something Sicilians refer to as “promisquità.”
In an interview with Afar Magazine, Lanza says, “I don’t like tidy cities.” While Denver is a relatively orderly metropolis, we think Lanza will appreciate the emerging North Larimer neighborhood and RiNo district. Organically sprawling with urban gardens, eateries (the Populist, Hutch & Spoon), wineries (Infinite Monkey Theorem, Mile High Winery), and art galleries (ArtHaus, Plus) alongside empty alleyways and street corners, Lanza is sure to sense that “promisquità” spirit.
2. Our micro-economy scene.
At home, Lanza enjoys frequenting the Ballarò market, where one vendor sells one specific variety of rosemary and basil and another sells strictly garlic and onions. With niche food distributors such as Tender Belly, the Real Dill, MM Local, it’s clear Denver is cognizant of the importance of sourcing and specializing.
3. It’s a walkable city.
Outside of her scheduled engagements (Panzano, Luca D’Italia, Frasca Food and Wine, the Kitchen) throughout the metro area, I asked Lanza how she planned to spend her 10-plus days in Colorado. “I’m hoping to stroll around,” she says. “I love walking and biking.” The Cherry Creek Bike Path is a perfect place for Lanza to traverse on a late afternoon, stopping along the way for city views that include the old railroad bridge adjacent to Coohills and the Denver Millennium Bridge in LoDo. And I’m sure a Denver B-cycle ride will suit her just fine.
4. We feast in the streets.
Very similar to the ritualistic society of Lanza’s native Palermo, Denver residents partake in community gatherings. In Sicily, the most important religious holiday, Il Festino, is celebrated with a feast in the streets. Here, we have a plethora of food festivals (albeit nonreligious) to choose from, such as the upcoming Taste of Colorado and Chipotle’s Cultivate Festival. Of course, there’s also the Boulder farmers’ market and the weekly Civic Center Eats food truck bonanza.
5. We understand Slow Food.
The concept originated in Italy and has made the long journey all the way to the eco-conscious population of Denver. Slow Food Denver is a nonprofit that fosters slow food principles and implements various community projects year-round, such as urban gardens, inner-city farmers’ markets, and even farm tours. And, don’t forget the plethora of locally minded restaurants we have such as the Kitchen, Potager, and Z Cuisine.
Snag one of the last spots in Fabrizia Lanza’s hands-on cooking class and lunch at Luca d’Italia on Saturday, July 20. A signed copy of Coming Home to Sicily is included in the $75 ticket. Noon. Call 303-832-6600 for reservations.