Cooking classes in Rome at The Beehive

“You offer cooking classes??”  Several friends I’ve talked to recently have been surprised by this which made me realize that we don’t do a very good job sometimes marketing the things we offer at The Beehive.  Besides having guest chefs who come and do pop-up lunches and dinners, we also offer cooking classes either by those same guest chefs or more often than not, by Beehive owner – my husband,  Steve Brenner.  Steve is not your typical chef – he wasn’t professionally trained and the classes he gives are based on pragmatism and utilitarianism.  He is often accompanied by our youngest daughter Viola who has aspirations of owning her own restaurant some day and who acts as his assistant and also makes a mean tiramisu! (see photo at the end of this post)  
Recently journalist Barbara Woolsey interviewed Steve for an article she wrote about taking cooking classes while on holiday for the on-line publication Thrillist.  Only a small part of the interview was used so I wanted to share with you all the rest of it and Barbara kindly allowed me to use her interview.  
What are your favourite “pragmatic” dishes to cook?
I like to teach a few pasta dishes that focus on basic techniques so in teaching those 3 dishes, people can turn them into 9 or 10 as they teach skills to make other dishes.  The top three that go over well, that are impressive, yet easy to do are:
1. Pasta alla norma – a basic tomato sauce with eggplant, topped with an aged ricotta cheese  2. Walnut pesto  3. Zucchine, basil and almond pesto, which we first make by cooking the zucchine in “aglio, olio, peperoncino” which is a great way to cook pretty much any vegetable as a side dish, antipasto, or to dress pasta with.
Why do you prefer to teach dishes that people can cook at home, as opposed to making fresh pasta?
Because I like to teach things that people will actually go home and do, and most people won’t really bother making fresh pasta at home.  I do like teaching how to make fresh pasta though, as it’s easy to do, and very forgiving, and with a few attempts you can get good at it fast so I’m not opposed to teaching people how to do it if that’s what they want to learn how to do. Plus, working with dough, any kind of dough, is a great cooking skill.  You can apply it to bread making, crusts, anything.  Once you understand how to form a dough properly with the right amount of liquid to flour, it applies to all sorts of things.
How did you start doing these cooking classes? Did you ever work as a chef, or was it always the plan to incorporate cooking into The Beehive from the beginning (or did it just start up organically somehow)?
I’m not really a professional chef.  I’ve cooked for loads of people though, and in large numbers (110 being the most, in Bali, with chefs using a wood-fired stove!).  I worked in/ran our own cafe for a while too when we used to provide lunch and dinner.  I just seem to have a knack for it and I enjoy it.  I got started doing cooking classes myself because we had guests who wanted to learn and there wasn’t anyone available or any classes accessible within their budget so I figured, what the hell, I’ll just do it!
What’s the feedback you’ve gotten from guests (anybody still keeping in touch and making those dishes at home)?
We had a group of young university students who did two classes of 6 people each and they wrote me afterwards with some questions.  I’ve had others say they can’t wait to get home and show off what they know to their friends and family.  So yes, I think people come away with practical skills that they are then eager to use.
Do you ever take cooking classes yourself? If so, why is it a great idea for people to do this?
Yes.  I took a class here years ago in Rome through the Gambero Rosso school based on vegetarian cooking, and in Bali I took a class or two on dishes I was interested in, but for the most part I am completely self-taught with the help early on of older ladies at the market and fruttivendoli who are always happy to tell you how to prepare the produce you are buying from them.  
Italy’s a particular place because the classic dishes aren’t secret.  If you ask at a restaurant how they make it, or what’s in it, they’ll just tell you.  Many people wonder why food doesn’t taste the same here, i.e. why it tastes better than at home, and I set out to show them exactly why, so they can reproduce what they experience here.  The best meals I’ve had in Italy have been home cooked.  It’s a cuisine that’s based on poverty, simplicity and seasonality, so it’s very much something anyone can do themselves.  It’s also a mentality – it’s about using what’s abundant and available and fresh and knowing what to do with it and what basic combinations work and don’t work.  By learning how to cook like an Italian, I think you can go anywhere in the world and take inexpensive, seasonal ingredients and make great food without needing a huge budget or a lot of equipment.
Steve is available for cooking classes by advance reservation – maximum 6 people.  Prices start at €50 per person for 2 people and €40 per person for groups of 3 or more people.  

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Federico

Federico is the kind of guy that I could talk to for days.  He came into The Beehive when Linda and I were at reception and immediately introduced himself and exuded a unique open friendliness that you can feel he extends to everyone.  Here we are talking about how food is the new religion.

22 September 2016

HostelLife: Conversations with guests – Dana

Dana, a “Syrian Princess”, tells Steve about the nicest, most gentlemanly taxi driver she has ever encountered  (whose number is available in private for anyone who wants it…..)

8 September 2016

Beating the heat in Rome

Before we decided on a camper trip through France & Spain this past July, we had considered a home exchange in Tel Aviv – a place we have been wanting to visit for some time.  I had a difficult time finding an exchange and in the end after much searching and inquiring, I had three serious possibilities all fall through because they didn’t realize it was going to be hot in Italy in July!

Despite crowds and heat, summertime in Rome is a great time to visit and enjoy the intense blue skies, incredible long days, beautiful sunsets and dining and drinking al fresco that is such an integral part of life in Rome.  When the temperatures start climbing, here are some suggestions I have for keeping cool in the Eternal City.

1. Escape into one of Rome’s many churches. Rome has hundreds of them, although many are closed during lunchtime hours. The cool marble, the dim lighting and plenty of seating – the perfect place to just be quiet & still.

2.  Nasoni. The translation of this is “big noses”.  These fountains found throughout Rome have potable clean cold water – a great way to cool off and there’s also an app now that shows you where they are located.  Tap water in general is clean and perfectly drinkable although restaurants may try to convince you otherwise because they want you to purchase their water.  Refill a water bottle and reduce plastic waste. To see how the locals drink from the nasoni check out this cute little video with our daughters and a friend we made several years ago.

3.  Public parks. Rome has loads of accessible and gorgeous public parks with lots of shady spaces to have a picnic and take an afternoon snooze. There’s the Villa Borghese, Villa Torlonia, Villa Celimontana, Villa Ada and Villa Doria Pamphili to name a few. You can read on this blog about our favorite deli near The Beehive to pick up made to order sandwiches and other picnic items.

4.  Avoid sightseeing during the hottest parts of the day. This is me (and my youngest daughter Viola) at the Statue of Liberty in August 2006 not following my own advice. Get an early start when the air is still cool and wrap up around noon and go to lunch. Afterwards head back to your room if you can and have a siesta. Your body will love you for it. If that’s not possible, hit up a museum although keep in mind that many are not air-conditioned. Shops stay open late and many museums don’t close until 7,7:30pm.

5.  Gelato! Of course I had to mention this! My preference is for fruit flavors which are refreshing as dairy based flavors can actually make you thirstier. Fragola & limone (strawberry & lemon) are a classic combo. Another refreshing favorite is grattachecca – shaved ice (see photo at the top of the post).  Many of these stands can be found along the Tiber river. There’s also granita – a Sicilian treat and which can be found at some Roman gelaterie such as Gelateria dei Gracchi (listed on our app) in the summer months.


6.  As a last resort and if you have a good amount of time to spend in Rome, escape to the seaside for the day or to one of Rome’s outdoor swimming pools.  The nearest most accessible seaside which isn’t totally toxic is Santa Marinella about an hour north of Rome with the train station right in the middle of town so it’s pretty effortless to reach.  The beaches here are rocky though and in the summer you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to the beach and extra for a lounge chair and an umbrella.  For sandy beaches, cleaner water and a gorgeous historic center, there’s Sperlonga which is a bit further afield being a train and a bus ride away, but very worthwhile.


16 August 2016

Tips for navigating Rome like a local


Guest post by Francesca & Alexandra Bruzzese

Recently we had a group of students from College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts stay in a couple of apartments that we manage and who were referred to us by local alumni and Beehive friends, Francesca & Alexandra Bruzzese.  We had a brief orientation in our garden with the students the day after their arrival and Francesca and Alexandra had put together a fantastic little “cheat-sheet” of local tips and recommendations to help these students during their time in Rome.  Below are some of their tips:



Water is not free in Italy, unless you request acqua del rubinetto (tap water) which many restaurants are loathe to provide – so be prepared to be charged for this. You do however have a choice between acqua liscia/acqua naturale (still water) or acqua frizzante (sparkling water). You are also sometimes charged for bread.

Tipping is not expected in Italy to the degree it is in other countries. You do not have to leave a 20% tip at restaurants nor do you have to tip the taxi driver. If you were pleased with your service, feel free to leave something extra, but a few euros is generally enough (waiters make a living wage here without tips).

Though you are not obligated to leave a tip, some Italian restaurants include a coperto, which is a service charge included automatically in your bill.


Waiters at restaurants don’t introduce themselves by first name, or check in on you like they do at restaurants in other countries.  Don’t be offended by this. In Italy, it’s considered polite to leave the diners alone as they eat and talk. When you are ready for the bill, call the waiter over.


When ordering gelato, Italians typically order more than one and up to even three gusti (flavors) for their cup or cone. Torn between strawberry and chocolate? Get them both!


Italy’s coffee culture is quite different from the Starbuck-fueled one or the pretentious elite coffee shops in other countries.  Coffee comes in one standard size, is devoid of different flavors and syrups, and while can be taken away if you want, is not really provided in typical “to-go” cups. Cappuccino is typically a morning beverage (never pre-lunch/dinner nor post-meal as a dessert).

A typical Italian breakfast consists of a coffee or a cappuccino accompanied by a cornetto, a pastry similar to a croissant but sweeter and less buttery. You will not find bagels, bacon, or eggs for breakfast here – Italians do not do savory breakfast.


In Italy, it is socially acceptable (in fact encouraged) to eat the entire pizza tonda, or round wood oven baked pizza by yourself as they are considered a single serving.  You are not expected to share.

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are used for your salad.  There are no other types of dressing here for a salad.  Also, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are not considered dipping sauces for bread as is done in the U.S.  If you want bread with olive oil, ask for a bruschetta which is toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with oil in its simplest form and also with chopped up tomatoes and basil.



You’ll find that restaurants and bars are not the greatest at restocking toilet paper in restrooms. Carry around a packet of tissues which you can purchase a single packet at the same bars that sell bus/metro tickets.


Look for the small fountains dotted around Rome (called nasoni) to fill up your water bottles. The water is fresh, drinkable, and most importantly free.  Tap water in Rome is perfectly drinkable so fill your water bottle from the tap as well.


Buses in Rome are notoriously unreliable, so do your best to not get frustrated. Download the Muoversi a Roma smartphone app to figure out how long your wait will be in real time.

The website for Rome’s public transit will help you figure out which bus or metro you need to take to get to wherever you need to be.

Rome has two main subway (metro) lines, the A Line and the B Line. Both lines intersect at Termini, so that will be the station to switch lines at. The subway is generally reliable and a subway train passes every 2-5 minutes. The red and blue ‘M’ signs will lead you to the metro at Termini.


Around the touristy areas (St. Peter’s, the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, etc) you’ll find lots of people trying to hawk knickknacks, sell you roses, or ask for money.  Do not feel obligated to buy anything (unless you really need a selfie-stick).


Be mindful of pickpockets and scooter riding bag snatchers.  When walking down the sidewalk, make sure your bag is facing the inside away from the street and crossed over your chest.  Keep your camera, smartphone or tablet close to you and be mindful of who is around you when you using them.  Make sure your wallet and personal belongings are accounted for, especially when taking public transport.  Rome is not a dangerous city, but exercise caution as you would in any large urban center.

Francesca and Alexandra are identical twins from the U.S who have been living in Rome since 2011. Alexandra works for Eating Italy Food Tours and Where Magazine, while Francesca works at FAO. In her free time Francesca also writes a food blog,, with both Italian and American recipes. Alexandra meanwhile serves as the taste tester.

4 July 2016
1 2 3 12