Ciao, Bucket List Community Café! As pandemic concerns subside, millions of Americans are looking to travel overseas. Before deciding on your next destination, meet Denver’s Kathy McCabe – an Italian travel expert who has made a career by making you dream of Italy.
McCabe’s passion for Italy began in 1995 when she and her mother traveled to the Campania region of southern Italy in search of their family’s ancestral hometown of Castelvetere sul Calore.
Previously, in the 1960s, McCabe’s grandfather had attempted to make the journey to Castelvetere sul Calore, but a translation error with a taxi driver prevented him from ever making it there.
“My mother and I sort of rectified the mistake and went and found the town. Then, like 36 hours later, my grandfather, who was ninety-three, died suddenly,” she said.
Following the trip and the emotions that followed, McCabe fell in love with Italy. Since then, McCabe has been to Italy over fifty times, stopping all over the country. She recommends that people see the popular tourist cities but also suggests visiting smaller, lesser-known destinations.
“I love Torino, which is Turin in English,” McCabe said. “It has an Egyptian Museum which has the best collection outside of Egypt. They’re famous for their food and wine, white truffles, and a kind of chocolate called gianduja. It is a beautiful city.”
When McCabe travels to Italy now, she primarily goes to discover new stories and create content for her online magazine and PBS travel series, “Dream of Italy.”
“The subscription website and newsletter I started twenty years ago after working at USA Today,” she said. “Then, in 2014, I turned it into a TV show, which was the inspiration for the PBS series.”
“Dream of Italy” – which you can find on PBS, Amazon Prime, and YouTube – has been a hit, with many people telling her that they have seen episodes multiple times. Kathy will be traveling to Italy in August, and she has a couple of exciting, exclusive interviews planned
“I have a possible celebrity or two,” she said. “I will be going back to Southern Italy to potentially film some really interesting stories.”
When she travels for personal reasons, McCabe enjoys looking for new and exciting experiences, particularly those involving food or art.
“Almost everything in Italy relates to food or to art, so I love to take a cooking lesson. Food tours are popular now, like food tasting tours,” she said. “So each town, almost each region, has different food specialties and you can learn a lot about history through their food.”
Lately, McCabe has been exploring a piece of history called “cucina povera,” which translates to poor cooking in English.
“Most people of Italy were peasants and shepherds. They use every part of the pig, you use day old bread, to pair with a salad or a stew. So, it is this tradition of few ingredients and good ingredients and not wasting anything,” she said. “So I am always looking for food experiences, but I am also looking to meet local people, local guides.”
McCabe grew up in New Jersey and moved to Denver in 2010. Initially, she only planned to stay for six months, but Denver’s vibrant, outdoor-friendly atmosphere persuaded her to stay. In Denver, Kathy recommends Parisi, which crafts delicious food from all over Italy. One of her personal favorite dishes is called Coccoli, which translates to cuddles in English.
“They have something called Coccoli. I have never seen it on another menu in America, and it is amazing. It’s fried dough with Stracchino cheese and prosciutto,” she said. “I love to go to Parisi!”
Another Italian favorite of McCabe’s is the Dolce Sicilia Bakery, located just north of Denver’s Edgewater neighborhood.
“The owner is from Marsala in Sicily. And they make the best cannoli outside of Italy, outside of New York City. They have cannoli, they have pizzelle – which are the flat cookies – they have bread,” she said. “It’s really the most amazing coffee. It’s the real deal.”
If you are looking for a great ragu, McCabe recommends a restaurant called Lo Stella in Capitol Hill. She says that the owners are from Portofino, Italy.
“It’s the best ragu sauce I’ve had outside of Italy,” she said. “It’s phenomenal. It’s an incredible restaurant.”
So, before you finalize any overseas travel plans, consider Kathy McCabe’s expertise in Italian travel. For those who can’t travel right now, you can dream of Italy in the Mile High City.