By Ann Cipperly

Our area has many ideal locations for being outdoors and enjoying a picnic, including Chewacla State Park, Lake Martin and nearby Callaway Gardens. Over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, pack a picnic and find a place with a view to savor the food and linger all afternoon.

Linda and Bob Fucci of Opelika have enjoyed picnics in interesting places, their favorite being with views of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. On their anniversary a few years ago, they were staying at their favorite place, the Hotel d’ Aubusson in Paris.

They asked the hotel to prepare a picnic basket with meats, cheeses, yummy French bread and fruit.  “We bought a few other items at the store and a bottle of wine,” Linda said.

Along with many others, they sat with a view of the Eiffel Tower. As night fell, the lights of the tower came on, providing a magnificent scene.  From time to time someone would play music, which was mostly live.

While the virus has kept them at home this year, they recently had a picnic to celebrate their 39th anniversary.  “Bob is always such a romantic,” Linda said. “The picnic was my idea in Paris, but this year it was his idea. He always does something special for me.”

For the picnic this year, Linda and Bob picked up crab claws, artichoke hearts and a hamburger and French fries from Saugahatchee Country Club. They took the food, along with their own bottle of wine, to the lake just off the 10th hole on the golf course for their picnic. They also took two lawn chairs and a lavender scented candle to ward off mosquitos.  

“It was nice and quiet,” Linda said. “A couple of people came by fishing.” 

Linda and Bob have a view of the golf course from the deck of their home on Heritage Drive. They spend a great deal of time on the deck and enjoy breakfast there almost every day.  

Linda, who was born and raised in Opelika, is retired from Auburn Bank, where she was a senior vice president, while Bob, who comes from a family of restaurateurs, owned restaurants in Auburn. His Grandmother Fucci came from Naples, Italy, and opened several restaurants in New Jersey, where Bob was born and raised until the family moved to Florida when he was 15.

After high school in St. Augustine, Florida and a tour in the Marine Corps, Bob came to this area to attend Auburn University. His parents moved to Columbus, Georgia, for his father to become co-owner of the Villa Nova restaurant.  

Bob would go over to help his father at the restaurant. He was more interested in assisting in the front of the restaurant rather than the kitchen, where cooks prepared his father’s recipes.

While Bob was a student, a space became available in downtown Auburn, where the Auburn Cash Grocery had been located. “I called my Dad to tell him a building was available,” Bob remembered. “He told me to stay in school, but I thought I was too smart to do that.”

Although his father tried to discourage him, in 1960 Bob opened what was probably the first Italian restaurant in Auburn, called Sorrento and located downtown. In 1967 it burned to the ground.

Bob then opened Fucci’s Steer and Stein out of the downtown area. “In those days you were not allowed to sell alcohol within a mile of campus,” Bob said. Across the street from this restaurant, he opened Fucci’s Food and Follies and then a few years later in 1983, he opened Denaro’s, followed by Aubie’s.

Bob’s father trained the cooks and taught them how to prepare his recipes, which were originally served at Bob’s grandmother’s restaurants in New Jersey. After 12 years, Bob sold his restaurants and focused on real estate, as well as family, which is important to both of them.

While you may not be able to find a stunning site like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you can still enjoy wonderful family time outdoors with a picnic, even if it is in your own backyard. The following recipes will give plenty of delicious choices for your picnic.

 Picnic Essentials

Be sure to have enough cold inserts and bags of ice in the cooler to keep food cold. Don’t forget to take hand sanitizers, wet wipes, paper towels, rash bags, napkins, paper plates and utensils.  You will also need sunscreen and insect repellent or a lavender candle. Pack plenty of water bottles. Take a blanket or folding chairs for

Ann Cipperly can be reached at

Avocado and Bacon Sandwiches with Avocado Spread

Kathryn W. Whetstone

2 avocados, divided

Lime or lemon juice

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

8 slices fried bacon


8 slices sandwich or sourdough bread

Salt and pepper to taste

Mash 1 avocado and mix with softened cream cheese, a small amount of mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.

Slice other avocado and squeeze a little lime or lemon juice to prevent darkening.

Spread avocado and cream cheese mixture on all the sandwich bread, and then add bacon and sliced avocado. Top with another slice of bread.

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Nealey Dozier Thompson

8 eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s Light)

2 Tbsp. snipped chives

2 tsp. cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Bring eggs to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cook for 12 minutes. Rinse with cold water (or place in an ice bath) to stop the cooking. Peel and chop.

Combine chopped eggs, mayonnaise, chives, cider vinegar, mustard, salt and bacon crumbles. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve on white sandwich bread (don’t even think about getting fancy here!).

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Chicken Salad in Mini Pitas

Peggy Tipton

4 chicken breast halves

1 lemon

2 celery stalks cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup coarsely chopped red onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped

Red seedless grapes cut in half

Package of mini pitas

Set oven to 350 degrees. Spray Pyrex 9 by 13 baking dish with Pam spray. Place chicken

breast into dish. Halve the lemon, squeeze juice over chicken. Slice lemon into ½-inch

pieces and place over and around chicken. Cover with foil and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool.

Tear chicken into chunks and discard lemon. Note: I have found that baking rather than boiling the chicken makes it tenderer.

Into a food processor put chicken, celery and red onion; grind together. Add mayonnaise and mustard and pulse to incorporate. Add more mayonnaise if mixture seems too dry.

Slice mini pitas in half. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of chicken mixture into pita. Place grape half onto chicken mixture and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Rolls

Chef Christine Healey

2 flour tortillas

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 lb. smoked salmon

6 gherkin pickles, sliced in half

On each tortilla shell, spread cream cheese and layer salmon. Place gherkin pickles

on one edge and roll into a tube. Chill for 2 hours. When ready to serve, slice into


Oven Fried Chicken Fingers with Comeback Sauce

1½ chicken breast tenders


¾ cup buttermilk

1/2 cup coarsely crushed cornflakes

1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Vegetable oil

Salt chicken and place in a bowl. Pour buttermilk over chicken, cover and refrigerate

overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika and pepper. Dip chicken into cornflake mixture to coat.

Spread small amount of oil evenly in a shallow baking pan. Arrange chicken in a single layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on each side or until done.

Comeback Sauce for Chicken Fingers

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup chili sauce

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. Tabasco Sauce

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together and chill until ready to serve.

Turkey or Ham Ranch Wraps

1 cup ranch dressing


1 lb. thinly sliced turkey or ham

8 slices cooked bacon, optional

4 slices American or cheddar cheese

Romaine lettuce

Tomato slices

Spread 2 to 3 Tbsp. ranch dressing onto each tortilla. Top dressing with 4 slices turkey or ham. Top with 2 slices bacon and one slice cheese. Add small amount of lettuce and tomato.

Fold in ends of tortilla up over fillings, then fold up burrito-style. Wrap each on in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to serve.

Mama’s Special Stuffed Eggs

Anne Carpenter

6 large eggs

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. regular mustard

1/3 cup mayonnaise or to taste

¼ cup sweet pickle relish or to taste

Put eggs in water to cover; bring to boil. Remove from burner. Let sit covered for 20 minutes.

Cool eggs in cold water and peel. Slice in half; put yolks in a bowl with vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise and pickle relish. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon yolk mixture into halves.

Garnish with a basil leaf or pimento pepper strip.

Mac n Cheese Salad

Jean Martin

2 cups elbow macaroni

4 cups boiling water

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped

1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped

1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated sharp cheese

Salt to taste

Place macaroni into boiling water and cook until tender. Drain into colander and spray with Pam to prevent macaroni from sticking together. Cool. Add chopped vegetables, cheese and mayonnaise. Salt to taste, if desired.

Sweet Potato Salad

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 Granny Smith apple, chopped

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. honey

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; drain and cool. Combine potatoes, apples, celery, raisins and pecans in large bowl. Mix together the remaining ingredients. Gently fold into potato mixture. Chill.

New Potato Salad

Mary Hodson

5 lb. new red potatoes, diced and cooked quickly (do not overcook)

1 bunch green onions, finely diced

½ cup sour cream

¼ mayonnaise

Prepared horseradish to taste

1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

4 to 5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and horseradish together until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add mixture to potatoes, onion and dill weed. Toss well and chill until ready to serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle bacon on top.

Orange Brownies

Brenda Goodman

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 scant tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

4 eggs

2 sticks butter, softened

1 tsp. orange extract, optional

Combine all ingredients; blend well. Pour into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tests done.

Punch brownies with fork. Pour topping over brownies.


1 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. orange juice

2 Tbsp. orange zest

Combine ingredients.

Caramel Brownies

2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 box light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add brown sugar and vanilla; cream together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Mix nuts with flour until coated. Add flour and nuts to batter; blend well.

Pour into a greased 11 by 7-inch pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve. Freezes well.

Chicken, Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Wrap

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh basil, optional

1 tsp. olive oil

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and salted

2 oz. (4 slices) fresh mozzarella cheese

4 flour tortillas

In a small bowl, mix tomatoes, spinach, basil, oil and vinegar.

Place chicken on center of each tortilla; top with 1 slice and about 1/4 cup tomato mixture.

Fold bottom of tortilla over filling; fold both sides to close. Wrap each on in plastic wrap.

Chill until ready to serve.

Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Roll Ups

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. sour cream

1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1/2 cup Buffalo wings sauce

4 flour tortillas

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream, blue cheese and cheddar cheese. Add chicken and buffalo wings sauce.

Lay a tortilla on a plate and spread an even layer of the chicken and cheese mixture to the edges.

Roll up tortilla tightly and repeat until all the ingredients have been used. Wrap each on in plastic wrap. Chill until ready to serve.

Peanut Butter Bars

½ cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup self-rising flour

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Melt peanut

butter and butter over low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.

Pour into greased baking dish; bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Makes 2 dozen.