Thanksgiving is a special, socially-based day of the year in the U.S. On this day, we Americans can set aside a few hours of our hustling and bustling so that we can eat and be together with family and friends.
In Italy, however, ‘being together’ is not so unusual. Rather, stare insieme (to ‘be together’) is a natural component of Italian social life that can be felt, to one extent or another, wherever one goes. Over the last twenty years we have been repeatedly recharged by this magnetic social energy – this filling of a place next to oneself with the presence of another self – as we had the chance to do during our most recent trip to Italy.
During a grey, mid-November stop in Cervia on the Adriatic coast of Italy we had entered one of the few local restaurants still open there during the off-season. It hadn’t been easy to find the place; in fact we had circled the block twice before noticing that it actually was open.
We entered as otherwise deserted sala (dining room). A smiling young Signora glided out, as though she had been anticipating our arrival. We were seated, then exchanged pleasantries, discussed the menu, and bantered about selections. Our ensuing choice of appetizers was concurred upon as being “excellent” before the Signora glided back to the kitchen.
Before long, we were served. Indeed, they had been excellent choices…the Tuna tartare was firm yet diced well to liberate its aromatic patrimony, and it was well matched with sips of high quality Prosecco. The mixed crostino plate that followed was nicely done as well, itself complimented by glasses of local Lambrusco. We chatted then decided, insieme (together), our next course.
Signora Elena (by now) returned from the kitchen with nutmeg-accented, spinach-filled ravioli topped with pecorino di fossa. As predicted, it was delightful. As we ate Elena continued where she had left off – emoting over the joy of eating high quality, aged pecorino, over the importance of supporting regionally-based producers, over the challenges faced by local restaurateurs.
No other guests had arrived. However, eventually Elena’s chef/husband/co-owner Marco did arrive – with two dishes of amazing semifreddo, gratis, in hand. For the next couple of hours we chatted, about food, our work, politics, while Marco made brief trips to the kitchen to have us sample this olive oil, that balsamic vinegar, and so on… soon we were sampling their cherry liquore, again gratis…
Marco kept pouring our after-meal liquore while Caterina began to pour out her emotions. Apparently they had been struggling to make ends meet running a quality restaurant in a seaside town. As summertime diners diminished so did the interest in culinary excellence. And so on.
As finally unfolded from our time together, it turned out that Mauro and Caterina and had decided they couldn’t make it in the restaurant business any more. By this time next year, their lovely, expansive sala would become a video game arcade. The couple poured out their sorrow at this development while pouring us another liquore, this one a tar-black deep anise-flavored liqueur.
As midnight approached we had to take our leave, but we exchanged phone numbers and were invited to dine with them again, the next day. Although we had just met, the couple had offered to plan another opportunity for us to be together, just because. Because sometimes to stare insieme over a simple plate of food is just enough.
For that we are thankful for our time together with Caterina and Mauro.
And thankful for our times to stare insieme with our friends here at home.
Serving Suggestions for Ritrovo main dishes good for eating with friends:
- Ciacco Tajarin Egg Pasta with Ciacco Pasta Sauce with Alba White Truffle
- RITROVO SELECTIONS™ Odds & Ends Pasta baked with Radici of Tuscany Pasta Sauce with Sangiovese and ground beef, some grana padano cheese
- Tenuta Castello Polenta with RITROVO SELECTIONS™ Limited Edition 100% Natural White Truffle Oil and RITROVO SELECTIONS™ Truffle & Salt
- Michele Ferrante Controne Beans with Grilled Italian Sausage and Bruschetta
- Steaks on the grill topped with RITROVO SELECTIONS™ Truffle & Salt
- La Bella Croxetti Pasta with La Bella Basil Pesto
- Bagna Cauda made with La Bella Angiolina DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and veggies to dip