True Artisanship

Almost Perfected My Spaghetti alla Marinara

Daniele perfecting his Marinara sauce
Daniele is peeling the tomatoes one at a time as their skin starts cracking at different times.

Tonight I finally feel like I am at home in my new kitchen. After spending a few months getting to know the stove, I have found my balance and tonight I also made a Marinara sauce that was really delicious.

The Marinara is almost ready.
The Marinara sauce is almost ready. That’s the right time to add the olives and capers, which don’t need to cook.

It started with the selection of the ingredients. Instead of buying my Roma tomatoes (Perini) at Trader Joe’s I bought them at Sprout. I don’t necessarily think that the tomatoes are better, but they are meatier and less watery and 20 tomatoes will yield enough sauce for a pound of spaghetti. The other key pick was the Parmigiano Reggiano. I never use Grana and I always buy imported. I try to select one that has been aged for two years if I can find it. What I got a Trader Joe’s (their most expensive) was good and it paid off. Finally, the olive selection. I have tried just about anything on the shelves at Trader Joe’s and some other stores and the best pick for the Marinara sauce is the can of pitted black olives. I hate buying canned products, and the olives in some of the jars are delicious, but too flavorful. The olives for this sauce need to simply taste like olives–a subtle taste.

This Spaghetti alla Marinara meets the approval of my most critical customer.
Chiara loves my Marinara sauce. The proof is in the fact that she can eat a couple of bites before asking for dessert.

Boiling, peeling, cutting up, mushing the tomatoes takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. This time, instead of salting the water, I added salt and a bit of pepper to the sauce. I think that it made a difference. I also added three cut-up anchovies and the result was a dense red sauce, tastier than usual, but still a subtle, not bold, pleasure to eat.

The only complaint I heard was that I should have cut up the olives. I didn’t because the recipe doesn’t say to cut them up. Next time I will cut them up in half and see.

Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Testing the new RSS feed

We’ve been wanting to display a few of our most recent blog posts on the home page of our website. Today, I finally sat down to take a look at what’s involved. At first, it seemed quite daunting. I am not a WordPress expert by any means, and my knowledge of PHP is pretty much limited to the fact that PHP files have a file extention of “.php”.

Surprisingly, it was quite easy! I just googled “how to add an RSS feed to website”, and found a nifty website that would take the RSS feed URL, accept a few parameters like the color of the blog titles, and voila! It automatically generated the code for me to cut and paste into the website. Then, I realized that the code basically pointed to a third-party website which took my RSS feed and converted it to javascript … which means if that third party website goes down, then no RSS feed. Blah. So I kept on researching how to accomplish what I was set out to do … and eventually came across an online tool that generates an iframe for whatever content you wish. Great! That way I can point the iframe to our feed URL and style the iframe the way I want! Fantastic!

… But no, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

Going this route, no matter what I did, there was a huge “Subscribe to this feed …” box appearing at the top of the frame. Truly annoying. I tried to figure out how to remove that box … read up about how I’d have to customize the functions.php file for the WordPress theme I was using, etc., but in the end … I just couldn’t figure it out. So I gave up. Good news is, I found a clean-looking version that did most of what I was looking to do at I don’t mind giving them credit for the code, I just hope they don’t start spamming our feeds with ads. Until then, I’m fairly happy with our new home page … what do you think??

Three-screw wall hook
A three-screw wall hook by Antartidee. It has noting to do with this blog post, but I just needed a photo to test the feed.
Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

“I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle”

For the past few months, I have been saving for a road bike bit by bit. Well now that I have it, I think I’m in love! Of course, there were extra expenses for the additional gear but I was finally able to go on a nice weekend bicycle ride. I rode along the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View, CA and it was a really fun route overall. At the beginning of the route, I had passed by what seemed like crowd after crowd of pedestrians walking and running. It was a bit of a mess but after that short stretch of nonstop foot traffic, the trail opened up and emptied out for what few cyclists were on the trail that day. I really wish I was able to do this sooner. I think everyone should start cycling instead of driving. It’s so much fun and you barely notice that it’s actually a workout! I am starting to transition to using my bicycle for my work commute as well. Here are some photos that were taken that day!

By the marshlands




12.28 miles! Not bad for a beginner cyclist!







Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Secchi

Emi and I share many preferences: our passion for porcini mushrooms is just one of them. Last week I posted on Facebook a photo of the Risotto ai Porcini that she ordered at A Bellagio in Campbell. It was really good, though a bit salty, and the suspicion is that a lot of butter was used. Someone asked me to post the recipe that I use, so here we go, I just translated it and I hope that you will try it.

  • Submerge 50 grams of dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl full of water and some wine. All the recipes say to use white wine. For some reason I like to use red wine better.
  • Use a strainer to preserve the liquid and remove the impurities.
  • Slice the well drained mushrooms.
  • Finely mince an onion and stir fry in extra-virgin olive oil. Many recipes call for garlic instead of onion, and that is what I prefer to use (3-4 cloves).
  • Add the mushrooms making sure that they do not stick to the pan.
  • In a separate pan, bring the beef broth (1.5 liters–6 cups) to a slow boil (it must be boiling temperature so that when you add it to the rice it does not stop its cooking process).
  • Back to the mushrooms: add a little of the water set aside and add about half a glass of wine.
  • Add the rice (somewhere between 1 and 1.5 cups) and let it toast for a few minutes, mix well to make sure that the rice will not stick to the pan.
  • Add the other half of the glass of wine.
  • When the wine has evaporated start adding the broth and stir frequently to make sure that the rice does not stick to the pan. The rice should always be covered in broth so keep on adding broth as needed.
  • From the time you added the rice, the rice should cook in about 20 minutes, but this can vary depending on the rice used. Turn off the flame.
  • Add finely minced fresh parsley and the imported Parmigiano Reggiano (it is rather important not to use imitation cheeses here). I also usually add some butter.
  • Finally, give the risotto a good stir and let it sit for five minutes. Then it is ready to serve.

This is the recipe that I like the most out of every recipe I am familiar with. It requires paying very close attention to every step as you can’t walk away from the pan for longer than a minute. If you try this recipe I would be very curious to find out how it turned out. Buon appetito!

Be Sociable, Share!
Our Artisans and Their Products

I Won’t Let Summer Slip Past Me

When the days start getting noticeably shorter in August I start thinking of ways to hang onto summer for just a little bit longer. When I get up it is pitch black again, when I go for a walk with my dog it calls for a sweatshirt, it is easy to start thinking that fall is just around the corner.

But the reality is that summer is only half over and in the San Francisco bay area there are plenty of hot, sunny days ahead that call for gelato and dinner in the yard. To get myself back in a summer mindset, all I have to do is think about summer in Gianni’s Sicily. I can picture him in his patio overlooking the sea with paper and pencil sketching new designs. There is a sail boat in the far distance, moving slowly, he picks up some paper, makes a boat origami, and one idea is sparked.

Barchetta sail boat leather key chain


Then I picture Gianni reaching for a slice of Anguria and bam! Another idea is calling for a cute design.

ANGURIA watermelon keyring

By now I am thinking of when we visited Sicily: the most delicious Spaghetti alle Vongole we ever had at Oasi Azzurra, the summer heat, the refreshing clean water, the fun of carefree times with your family and friends.

Now I am ready to enjoy summer again. My motivation to go to work has disappeared–it is time to plan a few days off (maybe during the week-end) :-).

Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Reflections on the past year

Two weeks ago, we celebrated my one year anniversary of working at Marcopoloni! Time sure flies by when you’re having a good time. As you all know, Marcopoloni is a very small company with only a grand total of three employees! Yes, that means it’s just Daniele, Emi and me handling every possible scenario in an online retail business. It can get really busy but it can also be relaxing. Working at Marcopoloni is also an introvert’s dream! I work in my own office in the comfort and silence of my leather-made companions, I am left alone 95% of the time to complete my tasks for the day and handling customer service isn’t bad at all since our customers are extremely nice and understanding. I love that I am encouraged to let my creativity run wild with side projects such as thinking of new ways to show off all the beautiful artisanal products we have! With the added bonus of house made cappuccino at our daily meetings, I don’t think it can get any better. I have learned a lot over the past year and I can only imagine how great the next year will be! Cheers to Daniele and Emi for making my first year at Marcopoloni awesome!


Left: Daniele, Right: Me, Bottom: Emi We went to Color Me Mine to make hand painted works of art on my anniversary!





Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

We Love Modeling for Our Customers

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at Marcopoloni? I know that some customers have commented that they would like to be here to be around all the fabulous products that we carry. We do spend our days surrounded by wonderful Campomaggi bags, fragile Murano glass and Koito pottery, intriguing Antartidee wall clocks, etc. When I am not staring at all that, I try to catch up on accounting, make web site improvements (most of the time they are fixes), and market our products. My favorite part about marketing is helping customers with specific questions, and, in particular, modeling products for them.

Daniele taking photos with Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.
Here is Daniele at the beginning of July taking photos of Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.

The photo above is an example. Daniele and Emi are in front of our office. Our office is to the right of Emi and the big 274 sign. You can see the mannequin through the window, probably featuring a Caterina Lucchi bag, and that is how you can recognize our office if you come and pay us a visit. If I remember correctly, Emi was modeling a Campomaggi bag for a customer who needed to figure out whether the bag would be too big for her.

We know that shopping online is full of uncertainties, so please do not hesitate to ask us for help. Do YOU have any questions for us? We would love to help.

Be Sociable, Share!
Product Reviews

The Fall/Winter 2013 Campomaggi Collection is Arriving

Every time Campomaggi introduces a new collection it is a feast for the eyes and a challenge for the mind. That’s because some bags immediately catch on to your tastes while others make you wonder: “will I ever become a fan of this style?” What I know is that, in my case, most of the latter models eventually do grow on me and a few don’t. That’s not surprising given how unique each model is: it is designed to appeal to different tastes.

DONDI leather sling bag: the first bag from the Fall Winter 2013 Collection by Campomaggi has arrived.
Campomaggi made a beautiful distressed leather sling bag that is both comfortable and practical.

The first member of the Fall/Winter 2013 collection by Campomaggi to go up on was the DONDI Leather Sling Bag. My first impression was: “wow, what is it? A fanny pack?” Then I put it on and realized that, besides looking and feeling good, it was both comfortable and practical. I can see using it around town or travelling. You have heard many times that Campomaggi bags are heavy thanks to the quality of the leather. So, if you stayed away from Campomaggi bags because they are heavy and regret that because you know that Campomaggi leather is the best, give the DONDI some serious thought.

The only other bag that we have received so far is the CAMPAMINI Camouflage Canvas Tote. We decided to name it with a mix of CAMPANI and MINI to indicate that this is essentially a smaller version of the CAMPANI. The bag is the first one to sport the fantastic camouflage canvas cloth by Campomaggi. Although I generally prefer leather, there are times when canvas is the way to go and this camouflage canvas is absolutely attractive because it exudes ruggedness. I want it.

Our first camouflage canvas bag by Campomaggi is the CAMPAMINI
The CAMPAMINI is somewhat smaller than the CAMPANI. The camouflage canvas with the white print give it make it appear both rugged and vintage.

So far, then, the novelties are a new canvas print and a bag style that he had never (or not in a very long time) created. That’s a pretty interesting start. Do you like what you can see so far?

Be Sociable, Share!
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business Product Reviews

Suddenly, Snails Are Back into My World

One of my earliest memories, from when I was five, is about observing and playing with snails. I have to admit that “playing” with snails involved poking their upper tentacles and watching them retract. The thought never crossed my mind until today that I was poking them in the eyes. I think some apologies are in order: “sorry!” And I hope that the whole “what goes around comes around” doesn’t apply to five-year-olds!

Leather Snaily-friend
Tuscan vacchetta leather snail key chain handmade by Gianni and his team. Adorable craftsmanship.

I hadn’t paid that much attention to snails since then and until last Easter. Chiara got invited to an Easter egg hunt in our friends’ backyard. As we were riding home, much to our surprise, we found that the goody bag Chiara had found had a snail in it. It took only two seconds for the snail to become Snaily-friend, our new pet. Luckily, I was able to reason with Chiara that Snaily-friend needed to live in the wild to survive and we setup a ceremonious farewell at the park that involved making sure that Snaily-friend was happy with his new surroundings–a fairly uneventful ceremony that took a long time.

Little leather snail cell phone charm
Its little brother: the snail cell phone charm.

Finally, earlier this week, we got an international order for the snail key chain and snail cell phone charm that got me to spend some time admiring our snail-inspired products. This is one of Gianni‘s most creative designs, which he features briefly in his video, that requires skilled craftsmanship to assemble. When Chiara needs her first key chain, I will make sure to remind her of Snaily-friend.

Be Sociable, Share!
Product Reviews

New Leather Bags from Dionigi

We have just posted two new leather bags from Dionigi: the first one is the MONDANO messenger bag and the second one is the FINANZA briefcase. The leather bags are similar in style as they both use the high-quality vegetable tanned leather that Dionigi is known for. Also the interiors are padded and designed to carry a laptop or tablet in comfort and to provide a good amount of protection for your electronics. What I like about them is their focus on high quality in both materials and craftsmanship.

MONDANO Italian leather messenger bag

My experience with Dionigi products is that they are durable. I did not experience this, but a handful of customers have had to replace the strap a few years down the road. If that happens to you we try to keep replacement straps in stock so that we can help. The nice part about Dionigi nylon strap is that it is comfortable and somewhat casual, thus making the bag better suited for today’s more casual business environment.

FINANZA Italian leather briefcase
The FINANZA Italian leather briefcase is a beautiful marriage between a modern form factor and a classic style.
Be Sociable, Share!