Raising the Bar

Chef Bill stumbles across Italy


No one does bars like the Italians. Bars are literally everywhere in Italy, each unique yet each the same. Does that make sense? Of course not. It’s Italy!

A bar in Italy is nothing like a NEFla bar. Italian bars are not places to drink copious amounts of alcohol; they’re really more like snack bars, but they serve alcohol, and lots of coffee.

Here’s the deal on Italian bars: First, there's at least one on every corner in every town. Second, there's a bar at every single place one might pause, literally anywhere. For example, while in Taormina, Sicily, my youngest son and I scaled the longest outdoor stairway I’ve climbed since the Grand Canyon. It was straight up the side of a cliff leading to a small, 15th-century church. After 45 minutes of steep climbing, we reached the top, and what was right beside the ancient church? A bar, of course.

And “when in Rome,” climbing St. Peter's duomo is a must. The first of several stages involves an awful number of stairs to the roof where the dome is. Even this is quite a climb and the views are fantastic. More important, there's a bar. Really, how long can one be expected to go without an espresso?

The typical fare at these bars is amazingly consistent, yet each is individually owned and operated. Some have indoor space with tables; others are outdoor spots along the street. They sell coffee, pastries, pizza slices, candy (I’m addicted to chuppa chups), and the best espressos and cappuccinos imaginable. Many offer gelato and all have a full selection of sodas, beer and booze—basically any Italian snack craving is covered. All are open from early morning until late evening.

Is it easy to be totally in love with these little emporiums of goodness? YOU KNOW IT! Boy, do I miss them … all I want is to be able to walk down the street after dinner for a gelato and limoncello. Is that too much to ask?

You can’t go to an Italian bar here, but you can enjoy this crostata while peaches are at their peak.

Chef Bill’s Peach Crostata

Dough Ingredients

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tsp. salt
• 6 oz. butter, 1/2” squares
• 1/4 cup ice water

Filling Ingredients

• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 4 tbsp. butter
• 2 lb. peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced in
• 3/4” wedges
• 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 tsp. heavy cream
• 1 tbsp. granulated sugar

Dough Directions

1. Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor, pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse to form small peas. With machine running, add ice water and process for 10 seconds.
2. Turn out onto parchment. Makes two 11-inch disks. Divide accordingly, roll into disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate.

Filling Directions

1. Combine flour and sugar in a small bowl, cut in butter to a course meal.
2. Place peaches in center of a disk, top with butter sugar mixture.
3. Drape edges up forming at least three pleats. Press down, crimp.
4. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar.
5. Bake at 450°F for 25 minutes.


Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!

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