I found these Italian fashion sketches on ebay, and they hang in my daughter’s room. According to the seller, Paolo, also known as ebay seller ranger335, his aunt owned a fashion house in the 1960s.  Eva’s Fashion House employed six agents, who traveled throughout Italy and the south of France showing sketches of his aunt’s collections to dressmakers.  The dressmakers would order designs, and Eva’s Fashion House would provide them with whatever was necessary to make each garment.

Each sketch is a handmade original, using watercolors and airbrushing.  Paolo inherited his aunt’s design sketches, and I believe he must have thousands of drawings.  You can still find them on ebay from time to time.  The colors are bright, and the drawings are detailed and whimsical.  If you’re looking for something fun for a young girl’s room or a powder room, these are perfect.


A stunning outfit to wear to the next PTO meeting

I confess, I am not a fashionista.  When it comes to my wardrobe, “Italian style” means a blouse with spaghetti sauce splattered on it.  And if you’re a woman who wears anything larger than an A-cup bra, you know exactly where those spaghetti sauce splatters are.  Yep, sitting right there on the old Continental Shelf.

Even though I lack Italian fashion sense, I have a great appreciation for Italian food.  I grew up in New York, in a town that had a lot of Italian families.  My friends’ moms were incredible Italian home cooks.  I used to love walking into their homes and smelling gravy simmering on the stove.  If we were lucky, we’d be invited to roll meatballs to add to the gravy.

There was one Italian mom I remember particularly well, not for her style or cooking, but for her vocal chords.  This was back in the days before cell phones (back before pretty much everything, now that I think about it), when it was much more challenging to pin down your kid’s whereabouts.  When dinnertime rolled around, if her son hadn’t made it home, instead of phoning all over the neighborhood, she’d just fling the door open, and at the top of her lungs would yell, “ANT-NY, DINNER!”  To this day, every Anthony I meet is secretly an Ant-ny to me.

One of my family’s current favorite Italian foods is carpaccio, a dish from the Piedmont region of Italy, invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice.  The original dish was comprised of thin slices of raw beef with a dijon mustard sauce.  Today, carpaccio is used more generically, to mean thinly sliced raw meat, fish, or even vegetables.  It took me a long time to come around to carpaccio, as I’m not a fan of raw beef.  I think I can trace it back to my time working in New York.  The law firm I worked at in Manhattan was in the Pan Am (now the MetLife) Building.  We occasionally had receptions at the Sky Club at the top of the building, and steak tartare was one of the club’s signature dishes.  It was my running joke — a waiter would stick the tray in front of me and ask, “Steak tartare?” and I’d ask him if he wouldn’t mind running it under the broiler for a minute or two.  Yeah, I know, the waiters hated me.

Inspired by the vintage Italian fashion sketches, I tried my hand at making carpaccio, using rare roast beef from the deli counter, instead of raw beef.  Maybe it wasn’t authentic, but there wasn’t a caper, arugula stem, or sliver of parmesan cheese left on the plate when my family got through with it.  The next day, I still had carpaccio “fixins,” so I surprised my daughter with a carpaccio sandwich on pretzel bread for her school lunch.  I got a text from her in the middle of the day — “My sandwich was awesome!!!”  My husband and I laughed that she was probably the only kid in her school, in Houston, maybe even in the U.S., that brought a carpaccio sandwich to school for lunch that day.  Lucky girl!

Serves: 2
  • 2 pretzel rolls, split horizontally
  • 6 ounces thinly-sliced rare deli roast beef
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • ½ ounce shaved parmesan cheese
  1. For each sandwich, arrange roast beef slices on cut side of pretzel roll bottom. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Add arugula and toss to combine. Season arugula with salt and pepper, to taste. Mound arugula on top of roast beef, and top with capers and parmesan shavings. Add pretzel roll top, slice in half, and serve.


 A plate of carpaccio, using rare deli roast beef.

“Awesome” carpaccio sandwich in the making.