A Light Lunch

Thursday 25/8/2005

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Diary and Notes

This is quite the most massive lunch I have ever eaten - and that includes Monday's grande boustifaille that nearly put an end to my life at such a young and tender age. On the advice of Marcello's dad - who I had come to think of as the font of all knowledge where local food was concerned - we went for a long, long drive to somewhere so far off the beaten track that the locals didn't even know Liguria had been united with the rest of the country and that the city state of Genoa wasn't waging economic war with Florence and Venice.

This really was rural Italy and beautiful it was too - but we hadn't come all this way for scenery, we wanted food and food is what we got.

Actually we hadn't come for food in general but for ravioli in particular, for Marcello's dad said that he knew a restaurant that did the best ravioli anywhere and that you got massive amounts of the stuff. So much ravioli that all you needed was this and a few pieces of bread to mop up the sauce to have a fantastic meal - "Sounds great." I thought and the whole Trovati clan and I drove up through the mountains and into 1654.

On the way the only mention of food at this little restaurant was of ravioli, nothing else and I assumed that raviolli was what I was going to get - actually that's wrong, I do remember Giancarlo (Marcello's dad) saying that I shouldn't have a starter or I wont manage all the ravioli and it's too good to be filling up on salami and prosciutto before such a delight. That was all anyone told me.

So I had a bowl of ravioli and a little bread - all washed down with some excellent and very cheap red wine.

The ravioli was the best I've ever had - and I've eaten a lot of ravioli. Little spinach and ricotta filled squares witha bolognese sauce. home made of course - the woman who makes the stuff must do nothing else all day.

The waiter came around again and filled up my bowl, excellent I thought, I could manage another bowl and then a little pud and I'd be full and happy.

I ate the second bowl of ravioli.

Everybody else in the restaurant was eating ravioli too. Some people had taken the starters - more foll them - I thought, although considering everybody there seemed to be local they should have known what they were doing and they did.

Did I want more ravioli? The waiter wanted to know - no, that's fine for ravioli, a little sweet might be good though.

But it wasn't time for sweet thing, it was time for a bowl of tagliarini with porcini mushroom sauce.

The waited brought around another biant bowl of pasta and filled up our bowls. I hadn't counted on more pasta but I had a bit of room left so happily chopmed away.

the old people on the next table were slurping down pasta too. One old woman who must have been over ninety had already eaten a starter, ravioli and tagliarini. She was a tiny little thing too, I've no idea where all the food went but she seemed to be enjoying it.

Time for a little dessert? And it will have to be little, I've had three giant bowls of pasta.

No, it's not dessert time, it's half a stuffed hen (Galina Ripieni) and some Cima (not as good as Marcello's mum's - a little too dry).

And after the hen a giant plate of fried things in batter and breadcrumbs: Beef, apples, sweet semolina squares and ham & cheese on sticks - everything deep fried and hot and tasty.

I couldn't eat it all. I will confess that for perhaps the first time ever, I had to say no to a deep fried battered apple on a stick. Shame on me. And any thought of dessert, even the excellent looking apple cake that the old dear on the next table was eating was too much for me - I'd been out eaten by a pensioner and a woman at that.

After all that food and about ½ litre of wine (or more) it was time for a coffee and a glass of grappa. When we asked for a glass of grappa the waiter didn't pour it out for us, he just put some glasses on the table and gave us a litre bottle to help ourselves, and help ourselves we did.

And how much did this extravaganza cost? I can't really say as Giancarlo paid for it all. I was assured by Marcello it wasn't much and would have been no more than €12.00 per person and not to worry about it. €12.00 would not have bought the drinks in Britain let alone the massive plates of food.

After lunch we went to a local food expo where people were selling cheeses, salamis etc. I bought a big bag of dried porcini to take home and then fell asleep in the car.

I bet you're thinking after all that I didn't even manage a dinner aren't you?

Of course I managed to eat dinner, my stomach had expanded to such a huge size by now that I was capable of eating almost anything.

Dinner was, in comparison with lunch, a very light affair and I think that was for the best. It was another completely new experience though - Italian tortillas.

Yes, it seems that not only the Mexicans eat tortillas but the Italians as well. They are called piadina and are rolled around tomatoes, cheese and meat and then fried. I had one filled with salami and one with Italian lard - cured pig fat which though it sounds disgusting is really delicious - smokey tasting although not smoked, a little chewy and not fatty at all (although it is just fat). It takes three months of curing before it can be eaten and by then is really packed with flavour. Excellent in a piadina.

So this was to be my last meal on my Italian culinary adventure. Tomorrow I'm back home to Manchester, to the drizzle and curries, the traffic jams and chip barms. I'll miss Italy - but I will definitely be back.

Ciao and thanks for all the lovely food.

Cake Blog

I'm counting the fried sweet semolina squares and fried breadcrumbed apples as my cake for the day. I didn't have a specific dessert due to being too stuffed, but I think these certainly count.