Cooking From the Summer Garden

A Weekend Getaway with Viola Buitoni

8/23 - 26, Soquel, CA


Join Viola Buitoni and me, Barbie Aknin for an end of summer culinary getaway. Summer vegetables and Italian cooking are a match made in heaven! Summer squashes, eggplant, greens and fresh herbs will be in abundance along with, of course, tomatoes. These vegetables, along with the traditional preparations of Italy will be our focus. Well, that and rejuvenating before the busyness of autumn begins.

The cooking will be relaxed but informative. Our time will be a mixture of organized experiences and rest. There will be time to wander through the three acres of gardens or lounge around the pool or patio overlooking the Monterey Bay.

What will we be cooking?

This depends on the garden! And Viola’s mood and what’s available at the farmers market. I can promise you that the food will be fresh, abundant, and Italian!

Some of Viola’s thoughts are Pork Tenderloin Wrapped and Baked in Bread, Calamari Fritti, Stuffed Calamari, Summer Vegetable Gratin, Sardines & Anchovies (fabulous for women’s health per Viola), Baked Wrapped Fish, Panzanella, Homemade Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato sauce, Baked Eggs in Tomatoes, Frittatas, Pasta ...

My name is Viola Buitoni,

I was born in Rome and reared in Perugia, Italy, in a family whose veins were of pasta and chocolate was the blood that ran along them.

Following an idyllic upbringing in a family estate immersed in a life that moved to the clock of seasonal food, I moved to New York City in 1985 for a business degree. Soon after school, I found myself drawn back into the genetic and ingrained passion for food. After a few years honing skills in professional kitchens, I poured my passion into a catering kitchen and fine foods shop in the heart of NY's Madison Avenue. When I sold the shop, I followed my heart to San Francisco to start a family with my longtime love. 

It was motherhood that shaped my next professional step. My boy's birth crystallized the significance of the table in forming meaningful bonds to family, community, environment and it fostered a desire to share my knowledge and experience with as many people as would listen. Since 2010, I have been teaching Bay Areans to cultivate relationships at the market, by the stove and around the table and to make Italian cooking part of their every day lives.

My classes are filled with unfussy dishes built on mindfully purveyed ingredients and the agricultural bounty of Northern California is continuously dancing with the best Italian food imports. 



"Many claim to know about Italian food, but Viola has actually lived it. When speaking about holiday traditions or traditional foods or recipes, not only does she call on her childhood experiences in Italy, she also does extensive research to expand her knowledge and enlighten her students. I have learned so much from Viola and I'm excited to learn much more"
Tori Ritchie - cookbook author

Our schedule and what's included:

Thursday: Optional Day

NOTE: Thursday night option can only be purchased with a weekend package and not on its own. 

  • 5:00 Check-in

  • We'll be in the kitchen preparing dinner. You can participate, walk through the gardens or unwind and enjoy a view of the Monterey Bay with a glass of wine.

  • Aperitivo and dinner


  • 11:00 Friday arrival check in and light lunch

  • A visit and private tour, Live Earth Farm in Watsonville

  • Afternoon repreave or dip in the pool

  • Cooking class and dinner


  • Breakfast Buffet

  • A trip to a local farmers market or a tour and olive oil tasting of a local organic olive ranch

  • Preserving tomatoes; Viola will teach her traditional method for canning summer tomatoes. We’ll prepare enough to take home.

  • Afternoon repreave or dip in the pool

  • Cooking class and dinner


  • Coffee

  • We’ll prepare brunch with Viola featuring honey

  • A lesson on bees and their honey and a honey tasting with homeowner and apiarist Lorraine Jacobs

  • 12:00 check out


Floor to ceiling windows, patios and the expansive garden draws you to the out of doors. The interior is comfortable, airy, and clean. There are five simple private bedrooms each with a double bed. There is an additional large private room with lots of windows, a double bed and four comfortable twin beds. Slumber party time! Two bathrooms and a half bathrooms are in the hall.

Outside, paths wind around the three acre property with organic orchard, farm and garden. Guests are free to wander the entire property on the half mile bark trails. Eighty hens and five roosters live on the property as well as bees with hives in a fenced in enclosure 100 yards from the house.

Tap photos below to view more.

Accommodations & Pricing:

Please Note: optional Thursday night stay ($195) can only be purchased with a weekend package and not on its own.

Friday Through Sunday:

  • Thursday night, All Rooms with purchase of weekend below: $165

  • Queen Bed, Private Room, Friday & Saturday Night: $1045

  • Shared Queen Bed, Private Room, Friday & Saturday Night: $765

  • Double Bed, Common Room, Friday & Saturday Night: $895

  • Twin Bed, Common Room, Friday & Saturday Night: $775

  • Commuter: $595

    • The commuter program starts at 5:00 PM on Thursday and includes everything listed in the program other than accommodations.