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Los Angeles CA, Jewelry, Fashion

A Day at the Los Angeles Opera with Carmen

My first memories of opera, take me back to grammar school.  My mother had briefly trained to be an opera singer before abandoning it in pursuit of becoming a doctor. Of the two, she found medicine to be the lesser difficult discipline even though she was one of only three women in her USC medical school class. Whenever she picked me up from school I was greeted with Die Zauberflüte or another one of her favorites blasting out of her car, announcing her arrival in the carpool lane.  Despite enjoying opera, I'd actually never been to see one before.  Truth be told I think I was a little intimidated. Going to the opera was for aficionados, people who knew every aria and composer by heart.  Nevertheless, I was excited when my mom asked me to join her to see Carmen at the LA Opera.

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On the left, the original Carmen, Célestine Galli-Marié in Carmen, by Henri Lucien Doucet (1884), musée de Marseille.

Above illustration of Carmen by Luc for Journal Amusant 1875, a french satirical weekly magazine.

 

Before every performance, the conductor, James Conlon, gives an hour long introduction. He is also the music director and has quite an impressive career, conducting at La Scala in Milan and over 270 times at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in addition to serving as the director of the Paris National Opera.  He's a great speaker, very informative and I appreciated the backstory of Carmen that he gave while dropping little fun facts and juicy tidbits about its inception. The orchestra is below the stage so you can't see the musicians during the performance but you can see Conlon with his hair whipping back and forth as he waves his baton energetically.  Mozart in the Jungle was in the back of my mind as I watched him conduct.

Ana Maria Martinez  as Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Ana Maria Martinez as Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

I had always thought of Carmen as a Spanish opera. I was partially right, it takes place in Spain, but is sung in French (Bizet was French). Since I speak French, it was fun trying to decipher some of the arias as they were sung and not solely relying on the subtitle teleprompter that hangs above the stage. It was adapted from the novella by Prosper Mérimée, that came out in 1845.  Georges Bizet adapted the story of Carmen into his opera and died three months after it debuted in march of 1875,  at the age of only 36! Similar to Mozart who died at 35. It's remarkable to think what both of them could have achieved if they had only lived longer.

In the 19th century, Spain seemed like an exotic and distant backdrop for the story of a Roma femme fatale whose magnetic charisma and sultriness captivated every man she encountered. Carmen is on her work break from the local factory when she meets Don José, a naive soldier who is the only man in the square oblivious to her charms. She is intrigued by this challenge and sets her sights on acquiring his affections. After a factory dispute ensues, Don José is ordered to question and imprison her but she escapes with his help, he is then put in jail and reconnects with her upon his release. After a scuffle with his commanding officer, Don José is forced to desert the military and his mother and her wishes for him to marry the girl next door. He joins Carmen's gang of smugglers but becomes jealous that meanwhile Carmen's feelings have shifted to a well known matador named Escamillo. Incensed, Don José kills Carmen in a fit of rage outside the arena.

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With all this melodrama, I was surprised to learn that Carmen is considered Opéra Comique. Essentially that means to separate musical numbers with dialogue. Carmen is a feminist prototype, she is unapologetically in control of her own destiny. She is completely transparent about her motives both to do what she wants and to love freely. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" She does what she wants when she wants, sometimes rather capriciously. The opera's depiction of lawlessness, immorality, and the murder of the main character made for a bold subject matter both at the time of its writing and even today. Carmen has become one of the most popular operas thanks in part to its many well known arias such as Habanera and Toreador.

Flamenco in Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Flamenco in Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Not only are there wonderful singers in Carmen,  there are also talented flamenco dancers. They give a physical expression to Bizet's dialogue and assist in the telling of Carmen's story. They are led by Spanish choreographer Nuria Castejón,  a dancer with the Ballet Nacional de España and choreographer for Pénelope Cruz in Pedro Almadovor's Volver.  Their costumes are magical as they stomp, heels clicking with fringe flying. The toreador's costumes were also fantastic with satisfying detail all the way down to the pink socks!

If I were dressing Carmen, I would pair my Hazel tassel earrings in Onyx and this embroidered tulle dress by Needle and Thread

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Taking a bow at the end of Carmen

Taking a bow at the end of Carmen

Such a revered opera calls for an impressive setting and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center does not disappoint. It's hard to believe that once upon a time, this center did not exist. In fact, it's only 53 years old. Dorothy, the wife of the former LA Times publisher Norman Chandler, spearheaded the fundraising efforts to get the center made. At the time, the Philharmonic was sharing a performance space with a local church since the early 20's, and Dorothy Buffum Chandler thought that Los Angeles deserved something a little more dignified in stature. The center was built by Seattle transplant architect Welton Becket and Associates, responsible for iconic Angeleno buildings such as the Capitol Building, the Beverly Hilton (the home of the Golden Globes), Pan Pacific Auditorium, Cinerama dome and LAX Theme building to name a few. Built from 1964-1967, becoming at the time the nation's second biggest music center after Lincoln Center in New York.

Photos from Top to Bottom, Dorothy Chandler at the opening in 1964.  Zubin Mehta, left, Dorothy Buffum Chandler and architect Welton Becket. Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall with lattice windows. One of many chandeliers in the grand staircase.

Gustavo Dudamel isn't the only young music director that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has had. Bombay, India born Zubin Mehta, was only 28 when he became the music director at the time of the opening! He was known as Zubie Baby and the Swinging Symphonist. The ushers were dressed in raspberry and orange red Nehru collared jackets in tribute to his heritage.

Architectural drawing of the orchestra foyer by Welton Becket and Associates. The foyer today.

The philharmonic played at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion until 2003 when it moved down the street to Disney Hall. The building while not overly impressive from the outside is quite grand on the inside. It houses large lattice like windows and countless chandeliers from the sixties.  Upstairs where the talk is given prior to the opera, there is a bar with a large Frank Stella painting and an adjoining nook with Chinese wood screens that make you want to curl up with a whisky cocktail and a cozy conversation. It's like entering a time warp but in the very best way. All the decor appears to be original, from the pea green carpet and dark paneled walls to the ornate chandeliers. This is an impressive feat in a city like Los Angeles that loves to tear down or remodel anything that is remotely past its prime.

Frank Stella Irregular Polygons, 1966. Champs baby! One must have champers at the Opera. Pictured in front of one of many gold mosaic tiled columns. Gilded swallows swoop around the mezzanine bar, Chinoiserie in the mezzanine.

You can see Carmen this Saturday, September 23rd as it's simulcast live in Santa Monica (for more SM info click here) and Exposition Park. Admission is free, doors open at 5 pm and show starts at 7 with a running time of 3 hours 25 minutes with 2 intermissions. Bring your chairs and blankets and picnic under the stars. Los Angeles magazine is even hosting a Wine Terrace on the pier. Sadly, no alcohol is permitted at Exposition Park. For more info on Exposition Park, click here.

Opera under the stars in Santa Monica . Photo by Craig T. Matthew

Opera under the stars in Santa Monica. Photo by Craig T. Matthew

Travel, Los Angeles CA

how to do the poppy field superbloom with a 5 year old: Warning there may be whining!

I had heard about the super bloom of wildflowers in the California desert over the years but never thought much of it. Most likely because we have been experiencing a serious drought and for years there hasn't been much to see except brown, dry brush. This year though, we finally got some much needed rain, and lots of it (at least for us). Spring came early for Southern California, the wildflowers have been exploding all over the place. I see them allover on my hikes and daily errands in the car along the roadside.

I had heard reports from friends who had visited Anza Borrego and the Poppy Reserve that it was packed with people and traffic with long waits in the car. Neither are ideal if you are traveling with a 5 year old! I was looking for a little less of a commitment than A.B. or Death Valley since it was going to be just me and my son. My husband was off skiing for the day in Big Bear and I had a restless boy to entertain.  I decided to chance it and set off early in the am, by 8 after an initial travel delay. After a 70 mile drive, (5 fwy to the 14 fwy) we arrived a little past 10 am, and already the line of cars was snaking down and out of the Poppy reserve half a mile down. I would recommend setting out by 7 am for a 9 am arrival for less traffic and best light. I had heard that wildflower gazing was best accessed from the side of the road and not actually from the reserve itself. Because the reserve is protected land, visitors need to stick to trails and not wander off into the fields. I decided to pull over and bypass all the people crowding at the road side and wander through into the fields and low and behold Dries and I were alone with the poppies. It was magical, a perfect day with perfect weather. The sky was blue, there was a little crisp chill in the air with a slight breeze and the sun was shining bright. We took care where we walked and were careful not to trample or pick any flowers.

State flower of California: the  Poppy

State flower of California: the Poppy

Dries took this of me, not bad for a 5 year old!

Dries took this of me, not bad for a 5 year old!

Dries watches my husband Raf and I take a lot of pictures, either of jewelry or travel or daily life. We gave Dries one of our old cameras and he likes to practice along with us. This trip seemed like a great opportunity for a beginner photography lesson. We practiced composition, how to hold a camera and how to find your light source.  He was so proud and it helped him learned to look more critically at the scenery.   He took the picture of me above and the one below is his holding the flowers. Love the macro perspective with his little fingers!

Had to take a ring selfie! Shown L-R my  Sidewell  ring,  Diamond Bar  ring, and my  Diamond starburst  ring.

Had to take a ring selfie! Shown L-R my Sidewell ring, Diamond Bar ring, and my Diamond starburst ring.

We found a farmhouse and a ramshackle old trailer that made for some good exploring. For the video, scroll down to the end!

Dries was ready to get on the road at this point so we decided to head back to LA. As we walked back to our car, we saw even more cars had joined the line to get in the reserve and there was a line to head back to LA! I had noticed patches of yellow flowers on the way in so I wanted to make sure to check them out on the way back. I'm so glad I did, they were really stunning with views of the snow covered mountains in the distance.

Snow covered mountains in the distance. The colors of all the wildflowers are just incredible. All the photos published here are all #nofilter and not retouched!

Snow covered mountains in the distance. The colors of all the wildflowers are just incredible. All the photos published here are all #nofilter and not retouched!

Check out the video of our wildflower adventures!

Hope you go out and have your own adventure and of course, remember to treat the wildflowers with care and not leave any garbage. It is a tricky thing to experience being in nature without affecting it at all in any negative capacity. Car exhaust, touching or trampling plants, garbage and human negligence all take their toll on the landscape. Instead of only viewing nature through the lens of a screen it's crucial to go have the physical experience of sight, sound and smell. How else can we teach our kids to care about the environment if they never experience it firsthand? Being a native of California, I love that within one hour, you can be swimming at the beach, skiing in the mountains or walking in the desert. We truly are so lucky to have such a varied landscape. Go out and explore, I'd love to hear what you find!

Travel, Food

A Day in Solvang

Solvang, California

Solvang, California

The   Landsby

My curiosity in the Landsby was piqued by an article in Travel and Leisure. It's located in Solvang, a unique little town that looks like a Danish village in the middle of California.  I visited many years back but was intrigued by the photos of the addition of the new Scandinavian chic boutique hotel.  My great grandfather was from Copenhagen, and I would love to visit there one day.  Traveling with a toddler is tricky, so for now this is a lot closer!

Dining room at  Mad + Vin  (food and wine in Danish)

Dining room at Mad + Vin (food and wine in Danish)

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Charcuterie plate at Succulent Cafe. Hands down the best charcuterie plate I've ever had. Great selection of meats and loved the picked vegetable garnishes. They also have a great wine list, which is always important! We chose to sit outside on the patio and enjoy the nice weather. It's also conveniently located directly across the street from the Landsby.

A trip to the Santa Ynez Valley wouldn't be complete without a little wine tasting! First stop: Lucas and Llewellyn tasting room. We weren't initially familiar with their wine but decided to check it out while waiting for our room to be ready.  It was conveniently located just a block from our hotel and provided the convenience of trying great, new wines without having to make the trek to individual wineries. We had their white wine tasting, and liked their chardonnay and viognier the best. We bought a few bottles to take home and enjoy later. It's always fun to drink a wine that conjures up a memory of a great trip!

The sunlit lobby facing Mission Drive at the Landsby

The sunlit lobby facing Mission Drive at the Landsby

I love the natural wood and neutral color palette with pops of yellow. I also appreciate the unexpected detail of the tiling on the underside of the stairway.  Santa Monica design firm, Studio Collective did a great job of creating a chic yet relaxed, and understated vibe. The Scandinavian chic look is on trend for decor, because it follows not only form but function as well. It's my style of choice for my downtown LA office and personal residence.

Raf standing with  Sherry by Rachel Brown .

Raf standing with Sherry by Rachel Brown.

Tina by Rachel Brown  in the Landsby Lobby.

Tina by Rachel Brown in the Landsby Lobby.

One of my favorite design elements of the Landsby are the paintings by Rachel Brown that are in the lobby and in most rooms. She is a Misssouri native, now calling West Los Angeles home. Rachel comes from a long line of artists, both her mother and grandmother are painters and she picked it up at a young age. Growing up on a farm and being a lover of travel and adventure, one can easily see both of these influences on her work. I personally enjoy the whimsical spirit of her paintings. She even teaches workshops in the LA area,  I may have to take one myself!

    Aebleskivers at Solvang Restaurant.

    Aebleskivers at Solvang Restaurant.

After lunch we walked over to the Solvang restaurant to try Aebleskivers (jam filled pancakes in ball form) Something you have to try while in town, as it is a quintessentially Danish treat.

We had so many recommendations for food in Santa Ynez but decided for dinner to go with one that was a true favorite of local residents. We heard countless recommendations for Industrial Eats in nearby Buellton, and it did not dissappoint. It's a short drive from Solvang, and as the name attests it's located in an industrial area.   Despite it's spare surroundings, it has an inviting interior with large shared tables and the restaurant and butcher shop features food sourced from the Central Coast. We enjoyed the mussels, oysters, zucchini accented pizza and shrimp & pancetta toast. Delicious! They also offer butchering workshops if you are keen to get your hands dirty and fresh preserves, pâtés, cheese and handmade bacon to go.

Winding down after a fun filled day.  Unpacking, never leave home without my Bottega Veneta travel duffle bag or my Valextra travel jewelry pouch to house all my many jewelry options! Also, shown Janna Conner Dome cuff bangle and Arria Amazonite Beaded Necklace. I spy Sherry peeking out behind me on the wall!

 I recently cut my hair and have been using Sachajuan to enhance natural waves. The Sisley Suprema Yeux eye cream is an indulgence, love the gold packaging and that it's a pump and not a pot so keeps product fresher longer. The Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse oil is great for cuticles, body, face and I even use it on my hair. Love multi functional products since I feel like it makes me a tiny bit faster in my constant struggle against the clock.  Love how my jewelry matches the decor! Shown Janna Conner Evita Crystal Point Necklace, mother of pearl tala ring, and 14k gold ear cuff.

The King bedroom with Patio, love the Goodnight on the wall. Such a sweet touch!

The King bedroom with Patio, love the Goodnight on the wall. Such a sweet touch!

Bottega Veneta sandals, Janna Conner dome cuff &  pearl Gilda ring .

Bottega Veneta sandals, Janna Conner dome cuff & pearl Gilda ring.

Time for bed! Janna Conner  diamond ear crawler ,  diamond disc , and  pyramid stud .

Time for bed! Janna Conner diamond ear crawler, diamond disc, and pyramid stud.

What a fun day of food, wine, design and décor! I know we'll be back soon Till next time!

Mother's Day

As Mother's Day is rapidly approaching, it's time to start gathering ideas on how to celebrate your wonderful mom, wife, girlfriend, or treat yourself! Start the day off right with this Rosé Slushy recipe from Style Me Pretty. All you need is a bottle of rosé, some lemonade, ice cubes and a sprig of lavender for decoration. A very simple yet deliciously refreshing drink that anyone would enjoy; plus it's pink!

Rosé Slushy recipe  here .

Rosé Slushy recipe here.

Enjoying a fun day with my son Dries, age 4.

Enjoying a fun day with my son Dries, age 4.

Some of the best gifts (a drawing, an extra long cuddle, coffee in bed) are free but if you feel so inclined to want to purchase something, here are a few suggestions that can please even the pickiest of mothers. Perfect style additions for a mom on-the-go; This Zara bomber jacket is a nice way to keep comfortable and warm but also keep up with current trends as it is designed with a beautiful Asian motif. This can be dressed casually with jeans, or dressed up with some jewelry for a night out! Suede slides are on every Fashion It girl these days and these cute ones by Mango are actually something I purchased about a week ago, and they are beyond comfy yet super stylish. They have a 3 " stacked heel yet I wore them all day and was able to accomplish running errands and then go grab a bite to eat later. I ended up with a lot of compliments so I highly recommend them! The other shoes from Gucci are something I am secretly hoping to receive on Mothers Day (hint, hint family). The subtle pattern will go with everything in your wardrobe and the slipper/mule style is very trendy this year. Flats are essential for any mom, and these have a leather sole that will ensure comfort.

She can never have too much jewelry! My Aliya rose quartz earrings are a great gift for their soft color and daintiness. They complement any skin tone and also be a great gift for moms with young kids who love yanking everything. This is also a best seller item so you really can't go wrong.

My Berget locket necklaces are a new favorite of mine. Shown here in rose cut white topaz, I love how the stones dance and shake. I chose clear to go with everything but they also can be personalized by adding in photos or with different birthstones or her favorite color. What better way to show your love than with a photo of you or your siblings?

Stack rings are always a great gift because they can be worn together, separate, on both hands, or any way you like. The Marlien ring set. in dark blue opal and pearl is a great option for a woman who likes having variety in her jewelry. Set of 2 cabochons and a diamond cut band. This is also offered in chrysoprase, find that set here.

Initial jewelry is a simple accessory that is fun to wear. Whether it's the letter of her first name or of her children's names, she is sure to cherish it. It is very lightweight, and the thin chain makes for better comfort and fit on the wrist. The chain is also adjustable so you don't have to worry about fit. Available in any letter in 14k yellow gold or 14k white gold. I love to wear mine layered with a bunch of bracelets, like I did here.

Any one who knows me knows I'm a beauty product junkie. I'm always looking for a new favorite. This Tom Ford lipstick has been in heavy rotation since I got it.  This one is more expensive then I would usually choose, but I love the chic packaging, smooth application, and lasting pigment that's not drying. I chose Forbidden Pink which is one of their best selling shades for good reason. The creamy rose color brightens up my complexion when I'm tired and just makes me feel a little more pulled together. The pleasing scent is a bonus, (I'm a sucker for a good scent!) Find this or other shades from Nordstrom here!

What I love about the Tata Harper body oil is that it is 100% natural and free of synthetics, toxins, artificial fragrance, artificial colors and is not tested on animals. Everything is made on her farm in Vermont. The vibrant scent comes from the flowers and grapefruit used to make the oil. This product is great for moms on the go as it is fast-absorbing and extremely hydrating. Infused with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients for soft, silky and rejuvenated skin! She's also offering 15% off with code: THXMOM for mother's day, to use click here

Ole Henriksen  Spa in West Hollywood

Ole Henriksen Spa in West Hollywood

Hydrotherapy tubs!

Hydrotherapy tubs!

Who doesn't love a good spa day? Moms deserve to be pampered, and the Ole Henriksen Spa is just the place to do it. His products have been featured in magazines like Vanity Fair, Elle, and Marie Claire. It's a celebrity favorite spot, Charlize is one of their regulars. If I can look a little more like Charlize, well then it's worth it, right? Trust me,  I've had a lot of facials in my day, and this place is by far the best. I've been going here for years because unlike some spas that just rub cream on your face and call it a day, at Ole they are utilizing the latest technology to give you more long term benefits than just a nice smelling face cream. I've had facials in spas, and in a dermatologist's office and this is a nice combination of both. Usually the spa experience is a little too frou frou without much actual science behind it, and the dermatologists can be a little too functional without any of the soothing relaxing qualities. This combines the best of both. My favorite treatment is the advanced HydraFacial because let's face it, after becoming a mother you're always looking to hide lack of sleep and a tired complexion.  The facial will leave you glowing, and the hydrotherapy soak lets you unwind with lit candles and soothing aromatherapy. I like to read a book when I'm in there while sipping on a glass of champers. I highly recommend the Champagne Relaxation package: which includes a facial, a massage, a salt scrub, a hydrotherapy soak and a glass of champagne. Perfection! I think I may just be treating myself to one of these!  Treat yourself or your mom by going on to Gilt.com and take advantage of their Ole Henriksen Spa promotion up until the end on July; check them out here!

Los Angeles CA, Art, Food

An afternoon in Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the mural capital of the world! I love murals and think they are a great way for art to be shown on the streets of any city. Downtown LA especially has a lot of murals and graffiti, I notice new ones popping up all the time. Since they are out in the open, you can really interact with them in a different way than art in a museum. You can get close up and touch it or even take an obligatory selfie. Natural sunlight and shadow change how they look depending on the time of day and how they age with weathering. They are like living pieces interacting within their community. This was created by artist Teddy Kelly whose mantra is to "follow the bliss" which is something we can all try to live by. The bold colors, shapes and the use of line really mesh together to create something beautiful! To think this was tagged over! Thankfully it was recently restored to its original beauty.

Verve Coffee Roasters off of Spring Street.  @vervecoffee

Verve Coffee Roasters off of Spring Street. @vervecoffee

The outdoor space at  Verve Coffee Roasters .

The outdoor space at Verve Coffee Roasters.

Next stop: Verve Coffee Roasters for a little afternoon pick me up. I'm a coffee drinker through and through. I have to have it first thing in the morning; my husband can verify I'm a grouch without it! When I'm lagging in the afternoon, its aroma perks me right up. Verve originated in Santa Cruz before making its way to Los Angeles. The goal of their company is to bridge the gap from what they call "Farmlevel to Streetlevel," which provides open communication between growers and consumers. I love a hanging garden, so I especially enjoy their outdoor seating area. Besides being a cool space to hang out, they actually roast their own coffee!

Walking by the French band Wall of Death's album cover.

Walking by the French band Wall of Death's album cover.

I'm not familiar with Wall of Death, but the vibrant colors in the album cover definitely stand out to me. You can watch their video Loveland here.

The Wings by Colette Miller.   I'm wearing  Thierry Lasry  Sunglasses,  Frame Denim  jeans,  Mansur Gavriel  bucket bag,  Ba&sh  top

The Wings by Colette Miller.   I'm wearing Thierry Lasry Sunglasses, Frame Denim jeans, Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, Ba&sh top

Colette Miller created the Global Angel Wings Project in 2012 to "remind humanity that we are the Angels of this Earth."  She started painting her wings in downtown Los Angeles and has branched out to other parts of the world. This particular one was painted in 2013. I love the way the paint is cracking and beginning to show signs of age, giving it even more character. Miller has painted wings in locations including Africa, Australia, Turkey and Cuba. She even gave a TEDx talk to discuss how her Global Angel Wings Project expanded into a social phenomenon. Visit her website for more information.

One of three distinct lighting sculptures; this one really caught my eye. Love the massive arched windows!

One of three distinct lighting sculptures; this one really caught my eye. Love the massive arched windows!

Waiting for my food!

Waiting for my food!

The kitchen staging area. Love the chevron design in the wood!

The kitchen staging area. Love the chevron design in the wood!

Terroni was originally founded in Toronto, Canada, and Los Angeles houses their only American locations. The space was first used as the National City Bank in 1924 in the Historic Core District before becoming the restaurant in 2013. The building is actually 6,ooo square feet, which is huge! It was designed by Giannone Petricone Associates. They definitely embraced a more is more philosophy when building the space. There's a lot going on; chevron marble and wood cutouts, curvilinear chandeliers, varying furniture from table to table but somehow it just works. I especially love the white marble used throughout the restaurant and under the bar, cut and adhered in a chevron pattern. The play of light and shadow make the marble look like alternating bands of black and white. Same with the wood under the kitchen staging area, pictured above. It is a very contemporary Italian space full of wit and whimsy. Everything on the menu is so delicious, you can't go wrong. On this particular visit, I ordered the special which was duck ragu' pappardelle, quattro stagioni pizza, and the ricchia salad. Delish!