I decided that I would not reveal that I was a professional cook so that Vincenzo and his mother would be more open and feel free to share the basic information. Often the fundamentals — in this case, chopping, drying and frying eggplant for caponata — are some of the most important details in re-creating a recipe, and I didn't want them to assume I wasn't interested in basics.

How did you choose where to stay? And did you do anything fun and touristy? Or was this strictly a working vacation?

We had stayed downtown before, closer to museums and churches, where Peter, my husband, spends his days when I'm off at markets.

He thought that I needed a "treat," so we stayed at the Villa Igiea. The villa, formally a "health center" at the turn of the century, has a stunningly beautiful Italian "art nouveau" (or Liberty-style) decor and has equally spectacular views of Palermo Bay.

Imagine playing tennis with that view! It is a good excuse for a few balls to go into the Mediterranean!

We took day trips to beaches of Mondello and north to San Vito lo Capo and Segesta to see an ancient Greek temple.

Did you bring anything with you that a regular traveler might not need, but a "cooking" traveler would?

I often bring an extra small bag for food gifts and treats for myself, including sea salt and spices. And despite the weight, I love to buy more Sicilian cookbooks and food magazines.

Do you have to be a good cook to take this kind of trip?

An adventurous eater and cook would certainly have the best time here. I have taken cooking classes in other parts of Sicily, but I really loved the pairing of the market tour and class in Palermo.

Can you share a recipe with us from your travel?

Sure.

When will Donna's in Mount Vernon open again? And how different will the menu be as a result of this trip.

We are working on that right now, and we are looking forward to opening in the spring. On Dec. 1, we will be giving a "food preview" at a private party on the fifth floor of the Park Plaza on the night of the lighting of the Washington Monument.

Does food inspire all your travel plans? And do you have a destination for your next trip?

There is always much debate about where we should go. We love ruins, art and great food.

I'd really like to stick to the Mediterranean. While I could keep going back to Italy again and again, we are thinking about returning to Istanbul and southwestern Turkey, where we have experienced another fabulous cuisine.

Swordfish alla Franco Crivello

Franco and sons made this simple but wonderful dish, served with a big piece of lemon. I have added an anchovy-caper vinaigrette. Serve with grilled vegetables: zucchini, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and polenta.

1-2 pounds swordfish steaks, 1-inch thickness (about 6 ounces per person)