Bruno’s parents came to Ireland when they were very young around 18 I think. His mom says she cried for a year when she got here, she hated it so much, these were the days of buying olive oil in a chemist, but she wouldn’t leave for the world now. They actually met in Limerick believe it or not as his dad is from the south and his mom is from the north. It was fate though as her brother Bruno Arcari had actually been born in Atina where Bru’s dad is from which is a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. He is actually a world champion boxer(light welterweight) , he fought 73 fights and won 70, lost 2 and drew 1 , Bru is actually named after him.

He is a big celeb in Atina and his home town and is always featured in the papers and on TV. A few years back he went to Mexico for a big convention for all the retired world champions and they have a photo in the Piccola of him with Mohammad Ali and the likes. He is great for telling stories about past fights and places he went etc and has all the scars to prove it. They have a fabulous house up on a hill about 5 mins from the beach in a small town called Deva Marina near Genova. They have a big terrace overlooking the town where we always have dinner in the evening after coming from the beach , his wife is an amazing cook and she has the tiniest kitchen you have ever seen, they have an outside pizza oven too. She force feeds you, her favourite words are Mangia Mangia – eat, eat. She speaks absolutely no English and insists on speaking in Italian to anyone who visits even though they don’t understand what she’s saying!

We don’t visit them as much as the cousins in the south, mainly due to a lack of flights from Ireland to Genova. We can fly direct from Shannon to Rome but have to go through London to go to the north. We have driven a couple of times and got the train but it’s a long journey from South to North, about 6-8 hours.

I always associate mussels with summer, dining al fresco after a tough day at the beach. We haven’t had them in ages so we decided to pretend it was summer and have a big plate of mussels done with white wine and tomatoes. Everyone else must have had the same idea as they only had a handful left in Superquinn on a Saturday morning so we had to change our plan and decided to have a pasta dish instead. This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s book and is really light and refreshing on a summer’s day even though it didn’t stop raining for the whole day but we still enjoyed it:)

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1.5kg mussels cleaned and debearded
  • 2 large bunches fresh basil
  • 4 good quality anchovies in oil. We have really good white anchovies in La Cucina at the moment.
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • large wineglass white wine.
  • 2 red chillies deseeded and finely chopped.
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil 

WHAT TO DO:

 – pick all the leaves off your basil.

 – put most of the leaves into a pestle and mortar with the anchovy fillets and a good pinch of salt and pound into a green paste. add the juice of a lemon and about 8 tbsp of olive oil. You should end up with a lovely basil flavoured oil.

 – pick through your mussels and if any are open tap them sharply on a hard work surface. If they don’t close straight away discard them.

 – bring a pot of water to the boil, add salt and your spaghetti and cook until al dente.

 – while your spaghetti is cooking heat a large saucepan or pan. When it is hot throw in your mussels and white wine and cover with a lid. Give a good shake and cook for a couple of mins until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that remain closed. Toss in your cooked spaghetti and basil oil and mix together.

– serve and sprinkle over chopped chilli and fresh basil leaves.

BUON APPETITO!!

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