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La Vita e Bella

Life is beautiful.  I don’t know why it seems so much more here than in Atlanta.  Maybe because I’m almost always on vacation here.  I do some work – this morning I worked first thing before I did anything else.  Maybe because the landscape here is just so darn perfect.  Maybe because the food is so simple, yet so celebrated – the most mundane meal is an event.  Many reasons, I’m sure.  But back to the food.

Since our first night here when we went to the birthday party for Rosanno, we have eaten very well.  Our second day, we were invited to dinner at Michelangelo’s and Rossella’s.  IMG_1860(2) Knowing that would be a huge meal, we wisely decided to have a light lunch.  We had our cheese and fruit from the market out on the terrace.  It was the perfect lunch and gave us the energy we needed to run a thousand errands before we made our way to Michelangelo’s.

Shopping here is always an experience.  Everything is very specialized.  There’s no Target or Wal-Mart.  We needed a few little things and went to three different places and still didn’t get everything on our list.  You have to adjust to the pace of life here and not sweat the small stuff.  Italians don’t get frustrated if they don’t knock out their to-do list in one outing.  They also know where to go – unlike us.  I’m pretty sure when we leave here in a month from now, we’ll still have things on our list.

Dinner at Michelangelo’s and Rossella’s is always wonderful.  We have such a great time visiting with them, seeing what’s growing in their garden, taking in the incredible view, and watching the dynamics of the Italian family.  Steve and Michelangelo disappeared with their glasses of prosecco as soon as we got there.  I was given an apron and watched Rossella make pesto.  I did stir in the cheese, so I guess my contribution was critical, thus justifying my apron.  Rossella proceeded to catch up with me – all in Italian.  I actually understood the majority of what she was saying.  There’s always one word or phrase that I don’t know and is somehow crucial to the meaning.  And my responses are limited to “Si!” and various facial expressions suggesting surprise, sadness, or happiness.  When Michelangelo wanders back in and translates, I realize that I thought we were talking about world peace when actually we were talking about the new supermarket in Citta di Castello.

IMG_1861(1)Dinner was pasta with the wonderful homemade pesto (which I didn’t get a picture of), sauteed peppers of some kind, a potato sformata, steak alla Milanese, and sausages.  And crostata for dessert.  Good thing we didn’t have much for lunch.

Yesterday we decided to go IMG_1864(1)down to Ciccolino’s for lunch.  They always have the most unusual things – most of which we have no idea what they are.  Since it was Friday, they had fish.  Fried fish.  We got it and ate it up.  So much for a light lunch.  It was very good, though, and we left there happy.  So happy that I had a gelato.

After an afternoon of running more errands (still have items on that list), we had a lovely happy hour on our terrace looking out over the Tiber Valley.  We decided to go to dinner at Cantina Gran Duca and walked down there at about 8:00.  What a lovely meal.  This is the restaurant that we lived above during our six-month sabbatical here a few years ago so it has a special place in our hearts.  The family that owned it then recently sold it to a young couple.  The husband is the cook and the wife works in the front.  The food is just perfect.  He has worked in a Michelan starred restaurant and he knows his stuff.  They are locals and everyone is rooting for the hometown talent to make it.  By the looks of things on a Friday night, they are on their way to making it.  The place was crowded and we saw some people from Rosanno’s birthday party.  He said they all grew up together and they love eating here.

We started with a mixed bruschetta plate – spinach, tomato, and IMG_1874(2)the ever-present chicken liver pate.  We had a fantastic wine – a Barbera di Asti from the Piedmont region.  I know it’s a little wrong not to get local wine, but it was on the menu so they obviously didn’t care.  It was so good it made us smile really big.

IMG_1868(2)Next we had slow roasted meat.  I had pork shoulder and Steve had beef.  Steve’s came with roasted potatoes and mine came with polenta.  Both were so tender and had the most wonderful sauces.  Just divine.  This is the kind of food that reminds me so much of the American south.  My mother used to make a slow roasted pork roast that tasted so much like this.

Dessert was pistachio panna cotta for Steve.  I had a bite and I IMG_1879(2)must say it was the most creamy, delicious, wonderful thing in the world.  Steve loved the panna cotta that the former owners made.  He hesitated getting this one because he didn’t think anything could live up to Veronica’s.  Well, Veronica, look out because this panna cotta gives yours a run for the money.  The pistachio sauce was very subtle but powerful and the chopped pistachios on top gave a nice crunchy texture.  Heavenly.

After dinner we sat out on the terrace for a bit and watched the lights twinkling over the valley.  A tranquil end to a tranquil day.  La vita e bella.  And tasty.  Indeed.


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