Under the Tuscan Spell

I get asked two questions when I reveal I work for EAT; What’s the best part of the gig? and How’d you dream up all those story ideas? The answers are incredibly similar. For me, the best part has to be discovering the businesses and passionate folks who make Victoria’s food culture possible. Often, these are right below our noses, which segues perfectly into my second answer: the entire EAT web team works hard to develop stories that unearth the secrets of Victoria food.

For example, this article started after a lengthy discussion with the EAT editors about checking out “that Tuscan store with the nice tableware.” I’ll admit, I rushed down View Street every day this summer on my way to work, but hadn’t ventured into Tuscan Kitchen. So thank you EAT for giving me a push through their doors.

Now married for 43 years, Mauro and Gerri Schelini originally started the Tuscan Kitchen in 1997, opening Maddox Farms in Cordova Bay. Two years later they expanded to their current View Street location. While the Tuscan Kitchen stocks an overwhelming variety of majolica ceramics, they’re also focused on the art of Tuscan cuisine. “To me, Tuscan cooking is taking the products that grow well in your area and making them shine,” says Gerri.

Gerri's recipe

Hoping to experience a taste of this Tuscan cooking, I consulted with Mauro and Gerri for a recipe that would embody their store’s goal: to enjoy life’s little daily luxuries.

They loaded me up with a bounty of true Italian ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, san marzano tomatoes, cannellini beans and a vessel to combine everything: a Staub enameled cast iron cocotte. Gerri also included a handwritten recipe for minestrone soup. The recipe was more a guideline than exact instructions and despite the fact I’ve never made minestrone before, I wasn’t nervous.


As Gerri said, it’s about making the ingredients shine — not hard to do when they’re Italy’s best. For instance, san marzano tomatoes originate from the Mount Vesuvius area, first grown in volcanic soil. Today, they are considered a must-have in chef’s kitchens for their sweetness and low acidity and seed count. When grown in the Valle del Sarno region in Italy, canned san marzanos can be classified as Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino in accordance with Italian law (much like the champagne distinction in France.) Look for the Pomodoro S. Marzano designation when purchasing.

Staub (okay, technically from France; I’m making an exception) already has an excellent reputation, but I was curious if the hype was warranted. With a matte black finish, there’s no need to season the pot prior to first use. The cast iron’s natural heat retention sweated my mirepoix evenly, and kept the soup at an even simmer after the stock had been added. Staub’s also engineered the lid to continuously self-baste the content — small spikes on the bottom of the lid enable drops of condensation to fall back into cooking food.

With the addition of miniature bow tie pasta and a drizzle of balsamic, the minestrone provided a hearty meal. I’ve listed the ingredients I used below, but note this is a very rough guide. Essentially, you want to sweat the mirepoix with flavorings of your choice until lightly caramelized. Add in the next layer of ingredients, in my case tomatoes, potatoes and cannellini beans, and cover with stock. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Serve or continue to cook with pasta.

I have no doubt Gerri and Mauro would lend their recipes to anyone who inquires. It’s pretty neat to have a shop in Victoria dedicated to one region and style of cooking.


Tuscan Kitchen ingredients

TK ingredients

Minestrone Soup






Herbs de Provance

Canned san marzano tomatoes

Cannelli beans

Stock of your choice

Small-sized pasta


Grated cheese

Drizzle of oil olive and balsamic vinegar

Gerri (L) Mauro (R) 2
Balsamic drizzle on the soup

Written By:

Kaitlyn Rosenburg holds a BFA in creative writing with a minor in journalism and publishing from the University of Victoria. Her work has appeared in local publications such as The Martlet, as well as national publications like ...

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