Around here there is no shortage of help if you want to find a good place to eat. One of our sources is Ricky. He has an enoteca across Ponte di Tiberio, on the San Giuliano side of Rimini. Before lunch or dinner, we stop in for a glass of wine.
The thing to do at Ricky’s is listen to the locals. What do Italians talk about? Where and what to eat. Our friend Adele jokes about Italians: Even while they’re eating, all they talk about is food.
At Ricky’s one day, 3-4 of the local boys (age 50+ to 70+) are talking about where to eat snails. Not the little tiny sea snails we have in tomato sauce around the corner at Trattoria Marianna; these are garden variety snails, land creatures, big devils.
Call it agility, call it effrontery, my wife inserts herself into the conversation. “My father loved snails,” she says. “But he would only eat them if his mother cooked them.”
“Buongiorno, signora. I bet I know why.”
“She knew how to purge them and clean them.” Her comment elicits general laughter. “For two weeks, Nonna would keep them in a box, as they emptied themselves of ca-ca.”
“Then you have to go to Zaganti,” one says. “They have the best snails in the area.”
She points at me, says, “Tell my husband where to find Zaganti.”
“Ponte Verucchio. Do you know it?”
I know it.
From snails the conversation drifts to a salami producer below San Leo. Ricky pours wine. The boys comment on the purity of the local pigs, rhapsodize about the quality of this particular producer’s cured meats.
Local boys talking about local food, drinking local wine. One of our primary sources.
One day I ask Ricky, “What wine is this?”
Sangiovese from Bertinoro, a hill town just up the Via Emilia.
Another day when I ask about the wine, he says, “A Sangiovese from the colline Riminese (the surrounding Rimini hills).”
He holds up the bottle.
Eutyches. I attempt the pronunciation, noting that it’s not exactly a household name around here.
“Named for the surgeon in town.”
He means the surgeon whose house was recently uncovered, dating back to Roman times, probably abandoned around 260 AD. The archeological dig revealed mosaic floors, surgical instruments for treating bone trauma and extracting arrowheads from wounds; coins, kitchenware, and tableware. That house, the Tiberio bridge, the amphitheater, the Porta Montanara, and the city walls, are reminders that Rimini has been here a while.
This night, as I sometimes do, I ask Ricky for a second glass of wine. He gives me a different Sangiovese to try, from the hills above Cesena (about fifteen miles away), tells me this wine is a little more “curato,” cured, but not in the medical sense, not in the meat sense, more like more carefully and artfully produced.
I remember Bertinoro when I’m looking at local festivals one year, called sagre, and see a sagre di Sangiovese in Bertinoro the first weekend of June. Our son and his girlfriend are coming to town and would like to have a wine experience. What could be better? In the spirit of reconnaissance, my wife and I drive up to Bertinoro a few days ahead of time, walk around the old town, look in windows, read menus. It’s a hill town, walled, fortified, a sweet destination. It will be a good place for a sagre.
The day we drive up for the sagre, the autostrada is clogged with beach traffic. First weekend of June, everyone within a few hours of the Adriatic drives to the sea for sun, sand, umbrella, water, food, and probably large quantities of Sangiovese. Along the road we stop and start, get hungry, get thirsty. When we finally reach Bertinoro, on a Sunday afternoon around 11:00, the city is abandoned.
In a coffee bar I inquire: What the heck?
The internet publicity, the bartender says, got the date wrong. He’s been giving people the bad news all morning. The sagre is next week.
Well, we think, we’ll just eat here in Bertinoro.
No, we won’t. It just so happens to be first communion Sunday in Bertinoro. Every restaurant, osteria, and trattoria is booked tight.
In another coffee bar we inquire: On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June, if not in Bertinoro, where do you eat around here? There must be lots of places. What would we like? Do we mind driving? Local food. A view. Some good wine. A drive is okay. The barista has just the place for us. It could be his wife’s brother’s cousin’s aunt’s restaurant. We don’t care. We’re disappointed. We’re hungry, we’re eager.
And we trust him. The guy in the coffee bar, also a primary source.
Chances are his tastes are our tastes. He lives here. He knows the good places. When he’s not working he probably hangs out at an enoteca, drinking wine and talking about food.
Where we end up, up on a hill, the view is amazing. A valley. Vineyards. Olive trees. The food is good, plentiful. The wine, Sangiovese from Bertinoro, a barrel of it.
Bring it, we say. Bring us a little bit of everything. We have our sources, we hear it’s good here. And it is.