For half of the year, cookbook author and entertaining expert Annette Joseph lives in Italy and welcomes guests for creative workshops and retreats.
That leaves the other half of the year for entertaining expert, stylist and cookbook author Joseph to call Atlanta home.
Since most are not currently traveling abroad, reading “Italy is My Boyfriend” is a spirited (now armchair) look at one of the most desirous bucket list items as seen through Joseph’s eyes. With rollicking chapters such as “Considering a Monastery” and “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” it’s easy to see why she has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and The Huffington Post.
Inhale the countryside with Annette’s unabashed admiration and immersion in the fifth most visited country in the world.
AJT: At what point in your life did you develop a fascination for Italy?
Joseph: It started when I was about 19. My first trip alone to Italy sold me on its beauty, food, light and culture. It was love at first sight.
AJT: How does this book compare to your previous ones?
Joseph: This is a memoir, my last two books were cookbooks, although “Cocktail Italiano: The Definitive Guide to Aperitivo: Drinks, Nibbles, and Tales of the Italian Riviera” has a few anecdotal stories of our life on the Riviera, but it is really a lifestyle cookbook.
“Italy is My Boyfriend” is a memoir, the story of how we [she and husband Dr. Frank Joseph] ended up living in Italy part of the year, and how we found our dream home, La Fortezza in northern Tuscany. It’s a funny romp over 25 years, adventures, heartbreak and ultimately true love.
AJT: What are some fun highlights you can share about the renovation of your villa? What went right? What went wrong?
Joseph: Renovating in Italy is always a challenge. But we hired the right people, so the process, although sometimes painful, was worthwhile.
AJT: What are some qualities you cherish in the Italian people?
Joseph: I adore so many things, but top of my list would be their love of life, family and friends, the deep connection to their country and the land. We live in the countryside and the people we interact with are very giving, and helpful. We feel very fortunate.
AJT: As an author, how do you relate the analogy of a “boyfriend” to a country?
Joseph: People always asked me “Why Italy?” and I always answered jokingly that Italy was like a boyfriend. It’s a great way to think about a place. Frances Mayes, who wrote “Under the Tuscan Sun,” asked me why I did not name it “Italy is my Lover,” which I thought was funny; she gets it.
AJT: What’s next for you to accomplish?
Joseph: I am currently working on my next cookbook, “La Fortezza Cookbook.” It will feature all the recipes from the region we live in, the Lunigiana, (northern Tuscany). It is a unique place flanked by Emilia Romagna (Italy’s breadbasket) and Liguria, where we lived for 12 years, the Italian Riviera, and it is influenced by Tuscany as well. We live in an area where we eat “local,” and all of our purveyors are around the corner: the dairy makes homemade yogurt and ricotta, our butcher, bread maker, the flour mill, and olive oil mill. We own a vineyard, so I have many things to cover in this next cookbook. I go in August to start photographing. I am excited to work with “genius” photographer David Loftus, who also shoots for Jamie Oliver [famous British chef, author and restaurateur].
We have an Italian crew working with us. I am excited to work with Rizzoli again, as they published my first cookbook “Picture Perfect Parties.”
We are also busy preparing to welcome guests to our creative workshops and retreats at La Fortezza. We welcome small groups to study styling and photography, painting and slow food culture in our region, www.annettejosephstyleworkshops.squarespace.com/
AJT: Fill in the blank, “My ideal Italian meal would be …”
Joseph: Tortellini in brood [broth], from my favorite trattoria in Modena. Modena is one of my favorite towns in Italy, the best of everything food, style and balsamic vinegar.
AJT: How has COVID-19 affected your life?
Joseph: I am an optimist; I think this will pass. Italy handled it very well. ì ì
“Italy is my Boyfriend” is available on Amazon.