A Birthday on Two Continents

Birthdays roll around every year to remind us that as much as we don’t like to think so, we are getting older by the minute.  They provide us with the framework we need to mark time.  I can watch other people age, but I live my life not through the mirror but through how I feel.  I’ve been blessed with good health and strong joints – although recently some of those joints have started talking to me about taking it easy.  I don’t want to listen to them, I’d rather ignore them and keep on walking, climbing hills, stairs and the other elevations that make up life in this town.  No one wants to get old and everyone has a different interpretation of what old is.  To my young former co-workers, I was born old.  To my slightly older friends, I’m the “kid”.   To myself I’m just me, getting a little grayer and a little slower, and hopefully a little wiser, but still the same.

My big decision for my birthday was whether to have a big lunch and light or no dinner, or a light lunch and nice dinner.  Also, where?  Should we take a little day trip or stay close to home?  I opted for a nice, long lunch in Citta di Castello, which is about a half hour from here.  The weather was looking bad, so we decided not to stray too far away, but far enough that it was special.

I made the right decision on all fronts.  We got to Citta di Castello about 11:30 and walked around for a bit.  We found two fantastic kitchen stores that I will certainly remember when I finish my inventory of what I need.  My kitchen is fairly well equipped, but I do need a couple of things to round it out.  I plan to do a lot of cooking here, especially this winter, so I want to make sure I’ve got the basics covered.  These two stores are my favorite kind.  Pots and pans, dishes and gadgets.  What more could you want?

Our reservation was for 1:00 and at about 12:30 it started sprinkling.  We headed for the restaurant and took us right away.  Trattoria Lea is on Piazza Matteotti, a huge wonderful piazza in the historic center of Citta di Castello.  I love that the first thing you see when you walk in is a big cooler full of wine.  This is a good sign.  We got settled at our table just as the rain came.  We spent a long two hours lingering over our lunch and exited to a wet, but not rainy, piazza.  Perfect timing.

Lunch was everything I had hoped for.  I had an appetizer that I’ve never seen before – prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella.  It’s my new favorite.  It’s like the best ham and cheese sandwich you could imagine with out all that pesky bread.  It was perfect with the Rossa di Montepulciano wine.  Steve had a panzanella salad.  This is summer at its best and I’m sure this was the last one we’ll see for a while.  This was a good one to go out on.  Finely torn pieces of bread that absorbed all that great flavor from the dressing.

Pasta – they make it fresh there and it is wonderful.  I had agnolotti stuffed with a meat mixture and topped with a meat ragu.  Too much meat?  No way.  One day someone will have to explain to me the difference between agnolotti and ravioli.  They look suspiciously similar to me.  Maybe it’s the stuffing.  True ravioli, so I’m told, should only be stuffed with spinach and ricotta, although you see other things creeping in there.  Maybe agnolotti can be stuffed with reckless abandon.

Steve had the penne arrabbiata.  This is typically quite spicy, but this one was mild and flavorful.  It was great with the Rossa di Montepulciano, too.  Heck, anything would be great with that wine.  In addition to our appetizers and pastas, we both ordered a main dish.  We were eating with gusto.  Steve had a mixed grill of pork, sausage, and lamb.  I had my favorite thing this country has tempted me with – sausage.  I can’t get enough of it because it tastes so good.  This one didn’t disappoint, but even I, the sausage loving birthday queen, couldn’t finish it.  I was served three sausages split open and grilled and I left one whole one.  Shameful, but on the other hand, quite impressive that I put that much food away.  This food is so good that you just can’t help eating too much.  I really try not to do this, but it being my birthday and all, I went all out.  I was very happy.

Because Trattoria Lea knows that they have given you more food than you should consume at one time, they offer you a choice of disgestivo after your meal, compliments of the house.  One is a licorice-y, thick, syrupy thing and the other is limoncello.  I sampled both and I think it did help make everything play nicely in my digestive track.

My birthday marked the end of summer here.  We’ve seen the temps drop a little and the sun comes up later and goes down earlier than the glory days of summer.  But October 6 was the first raw, fall-ish day.  Our plan was to go down to the piazza for a glass of prosecco in the evening, but the rain came in earnest after we got back home.  It rained steady and hard for several hours and we wanted no part of going outside to do anything.  So we opened our own prosecco and listened to some music to end our perfect day.

As we were driving to lunch, at about 11:00 our time, I started getting birthday wishes from the US.  I don’t know what my sisters were doing up so early, but they got the prize for ringing in first.  I continued to get them until we were almost finished with the prosecco.  It made me realize that no matter how old I am, I am the luckiest person alive.  I had a great day in Italy with my husband and dog, and had great messages from my family and friends in the US.  A birthday on two continents on a blustery October day.  The season has turned and so have I.

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