I have a favorite restaurant– the kind where I go for my birthday, my friends’ birthdays, my mother’s birthday, the birth of a child, or just as a treat to celebrate whatever is making me happy. Il Violino in Winchester, VA is owned and operated by Marcella and Franco Stocco with their son and daughter. I don’t willingly go anywhere else within a 100 mile radius to eat pasta unless I am related to the cook, or know the region in Italy from which the cook came. The Ravioli della Nonna Emilia, Insalata il Violino, Vegetarian lasagna, and Marcella’s Panna Cotta are not only authentic (as the website says), but are the sort of dishes that make you want to slow down to savor each bite, or simply break out in opera– as Franco has been known to do. A week ago I had the pleasure of celebrating at Il Violino for lunch.
As always, I am very happy to see Marcella and her staff. I give her the update on my mother, and our travels to Italy. We kiss and hug, and then I order. Last week, I wanted my favorite summer meal– a fresh salad of radicchio and baby greens topped with four kinds of fruit, goat cheese, and balsamic dressing. As we waited for our meal to come, our server brought us a treat from the kitchen. Cold (practically frozen) peach soup. It was presented skeptically as a lark from the chef and a boon for regular customers. It was delicious. Light and sweet, but savory–with a hint of cooked onion and wine of some kind. When asked what I thought, I said, “It’s unexpectedly delightful and just what I wanted. Thank you!”
When I was lucky enough to get a crate of peaches from Toigo Orchards this week, what did I do? I stole Il Violino’s peach soup. I couldn’t bring myself to call for the recipe. I had to figure this one out on my own. My parents had a favorite cook book on their shelf called Frate d’Indovino, which loosely translates to The Guessing Monk. They would consult the yellowed and torn pages when they didn’t quite know what to make for a lazy Sunday dinner. As my loyal customers know, summer is the time when I like to experiment with cold soups. In the spirit of the Guessing Monk I set to work on my devious plan.
I knew onions, some kind of wine and the peaches (of course) would be involved. A search on Google brought me pieces of the puzzle, but no one recipe was quite right. I didn’t want fruity gazpacho, or a creamy, sweet excuse for dessert at the beginning of a meal. As I pealed my 18 lbs of peaches, I worried about my lack of Champagne vinegar and crème fraîche. I gazed upward in frustration and saw a bottle of port. I wanted the peaches to keep their color and perky taste, but I wanted the depth of caramelized onions. As the Vidalia onion cooked slowly in butter, it occurred to me that 1 part port and 3 parts white wine with a little white vinegar might just be better than Champagne vinegar. It all came together with a pinch of salt.