Next weekend (July 19), Sophia Loren and 400 of her closest friends, including her son Carlo Ponti and actor Robert Redford, will be celebrating the iconic actor's 80th birthday. With Michael Ciarello, LA restauranteur Piero Selvaggio, owner of Valentino in Santa Monica, is in charge of the food.
I asked Selvaggio, "Who was your ideal of beauty when you were growing up?"
Dumb question when you're talking to a guy who grew up in Italy.
"For any Italian of my generation, there is only one name: Sophia Loren."
(Publicity still of Sophia Loren, c. 1959)
Loren's party is part of Festival del Sole, held at Far Niente vineyards in Napa. It's sold out, so instead, cook up some pasta and enjoy one of Loren's classic films.
Polpo Con Patate e Intingolo di Prezzemolo e Capperi
(Octopus And Potato Salad With Parsley And Caper)
Inspired by the Menu for Sophia Loren’s Bella Italia! Tribute at Far Niente, by Chef Nico Chessa, Valentino Santa Monica
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 large (tenderized frozen octopus) defrosted
2 lemons (1 for garnish)
1 celery stalk
1 bay leaf
1 cup vino bianco (white wine)
6 cherry tomatos (for garnish)
In a large stockpot with two gallons of water, add half of the orange and the lemon plus the rest of the above ingredients except the octopus. You will add that after the water is been boiling for 15 minutes.
Cook the polpo for 1 hour and then turn off the power and let it chill down in the liquid. Now gently peel the gelatin-like skin leaving the suction attached to the meat (tentacles) cut it to a one-inch pieces and place it in a mixing bowl.
1 large Yukon potato boiled and cut into half-inch cubes
½ bunch of Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tblspoon of caper finely chopped
2 tblspoon of extra virgin olive oil (yes, Italian!)
Mix the polpo, the potato, and the condiment adding only pepper (no salt), add garnishes of lemon slices and halved cherry tomatoes around the edge of the dish for a beautiful presentation. Serve at once and enjoy it with a good glass of white wine and, of course, good company.