Trip Start Oct 07, 2009
67Trip End May 25, 2010
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We pull into his house, and his parents wave to greet us from the top deck. A small orchard of peach trees, their summer fruits long finished, nestles up against Carlos house in progress. We walk into his house and are greeted by his parents, Luciano and Piera, and his aunt Thea. Both of his parents are around 80 years old, and Thea is 86, but they have the fitness and mental sharpness of someone twenty years their junior. Not a cane in sight in this house.
We waste no time getting to the point, we're both hungry, so we sit down to lunch, and Carlo assumes his usual role as translator.
"I feel sorry for the rest of the world" his dad says, shaking his head "because nobody eats as we do, here in this house." he continues, pointing at the table for emphasis.
As my friend Elyse says "no one in the world is as sure as the Italians, that their food is the best. You simply can not tell them otherwise."
I'm happy to play along.
"Did you eat any good food in France?" I'm asked
My time in France was short, but to be honest, I didn't really eat anything spectacular. "No, not really" I say half joking.
"Of course you didn't. All the best food is in Italy and within Italy, the best food is here, in this home. I feel sorry for the rest of the world."
Our lunch was of the sort that I would hope to serve if I had visiting royalty; not dirt-bag, layabout, freeloaders such as myself. It started with home made grissinni and salami, followed by vittello tonnato: a mayonnaise based dip with capers and tuna served on top of cold slices of veal. I was encouraged to eat as much as I wanted, and dug in with gusto. The main course was beef Agnollotti with sage and Parmesan butter. The pasta so soft and tender that it was by some miracle that it was able to hold in the filling. I helped myself to two huge bowls. As I sat back in my chair, struggling to breath, and feeling as if I were about to burst, a homemade artichoke pie and goats cheese specific to the region made an appearance.
"Which do you want?" Carlo asks me.
"Both" I hear myself respond.
As I picked the final crumbs of the pie off my plate, and licked the soft cheese from my fingers, I could feel blood being shunted from every non vital operation (limbs, skin, brain) to my stomach. A shot of espresso, saved me from an imminent food coma, and gave me the requisite energy to go outside and walk it off. The French may think that they have the best food in the world, but Italians know.
The plan for the evening is pub crawling Italian style, in the nearby town of Aqui Terme. As with all things food and drink related Italians have this perfected. You pay for your drinks and eat as much as you want. We sip away at fine Belgian ales, while snacking on chunks of Parmesan, salami, and smoked salmon canapes.
Every bar we go to feels like an episode of 'Cheers'. I want to go where everybody knows my name. Carlo is greeted by staff and patrons alike; drinks are poured, food is served, and introductions are made. Carlo tirelessly assumes the role of translator, but as the evening progresses enough English is spoken, that I can get by without him, or perhaps we just got better at charades. By the end of evening, flaming shots are being poured; a sure sign that its time to call it a night. Tomorrow I go to Rome. I would rather not do that too hungover.