'Mamma mia e poi dicono che MacDonald sta conquistando il mondo'. (Mamma mia and they say McDonalds is taking over the world.)

Wednesday 27/10/2004

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Diary and Notes

Another bloody review. We want recipies I hear you cry. But sorry folks, yesterday I went out for dinner. I went to an Italian place with the inspired name 'Mamma Mia's'. I bet you don't have a restaurant near you called that, do you?

If a group of people, from various cultures, meet and agree to go out for dinner, you can be sure that the dinner they choose will be Italian. Italian food is the true McDonalds of world cuisine. Just like McDonalds you always know what you are going to get at an Italian restaurant (except in Italy of course, I'm talking about the export market only). There will be a selection of pizzas, pastas, some salads, fish and meat, but these dishes will always be from a repertoire of about fifty. Everybody, no matter whether they are Russian, French, American, German or perhaps even Himalayan will know what each of these things is and will not be threatened by anything. Ok, so maybe the more adventurous restaurants will lay on some fresh squid or sardines with the heads still on, but apart from me, I think nobody ever orders them and they are only there to add authenticuity to what is really a global franchise.

Now real Italian food is not like the pizza/pasta we are all used to. Yes, the Italians eat both pizza and pasta and they love them both as much as a French president his mistresses - but on their own that's all they are, mistresses, a quick, bit on the side. The real Italian meal is not like this and is a great way to spend five hours, slowly getting fatter and drunker. A true Italian meal will have many courses, anti-pasti (before pasta), pasta (often more than one type, served in succession and if you want they'll always refill your bowl), pesci (fish), carne (meat) then perhaps a little desert and coffee. Oh and some cheese, don't forget the cheese. However, this was not the case with my evening's meal yesterday.

It is a scientific fact that if a large group of academics go out for dinner nobody has a starter. I don't know if it's because they are too mean (though I suspect this is the case - they're always going on and on about how badly paid they are) or because they aren't that hungry (unlikely - if you want to get academics to show up at anything just lay on free food and watch them roll in by the droves, eat until they are nearly sick and then fill their pockets with vol-au-vents for the journey home). So anyway, it was no starter for me, but I did choose an excellent dish.

Amongst the list of tagliatelle carbonara, pizza margerita and ravioli will be the greatest gem of these little Italian restaurants - saltimbocca. This is a delightful dish, one of the classics of world cuisine and should be far more famous than it is. It is traditionally made with thin slices of veal (though more often you will find pork fillet is used), sandwiched between Parma ham, marinated in wine vinegar and sage and then fried in a little olive oil. A sauce is made from the meat juices, flour and hot stock (a veloute in the trade). This (in these restaurants to which we are all accustomed) is always served with fried potatoes, green beans tossed with bacon and a small salad. Yesterday was no exception.

My saltimbocca was one of the best I've had for a while. It was made from pork (so stop crying you lefty, cabbage eating, jumper wearing, crusties) and I will on the strength of my love for this dish be cooking it later in the year (as per The rules). The potatoes were extra crispy, the salad dressing worked and the beans had bacon in them which can't be bad. I had an excellent glass of beer, a big glass of chianti (when in Rome etc..) and an espresso. It was a tip top meal (though perhaps I should have gone for some tiramisu afterwards) and it cost a staggering 20.45 euros. In my book a bargain.

One final comment before I check out today and that's on the subject of Italian waiters. Is there a factory, hidden somewhere in the mountains near Patenza, where nobody can find it, that manufactures Italian waiters for the export market? Everywhere you go they seem to be programmed by the same insane genius. I think they are clones, each one, though looking slightly different to the next, being almost identical in temperement. They are all just a little bit sarcastic: "One glass of America's finest red wine for you." handing a glass of Coke to somebody with real disdain (an order of Chianti or Frascati is always met with a cheery smile). They can push it just far enough with good looking women and old grannies (who love them) and they always get the order spot on. They may be clones, but they are bloody top rate ones.

One final comment about something that brought a smile to my face. On the way home I saw two German polizei queueing for a kebab at a Turkish kebab shop. There surely is hope for the world.

Bis morgen.


  • Saltimbocca,
  • Fried potatoes,
  • Green beans and bacon,
  • Salad

  • Kristal Weizbier,
  • Chianti,
  • Espresso.