Category Archives: travel

Pizza, Good Any Time of Day

“Breakfast of champions,” I say to the kid sitting at the next table.

We’re in the hospital bar. It’s nine in the morning. I’m here with my wife, who’s going to have some stitches pulled. (She fell down a stairs, sliced her knee, broke her wrist. No, we say when someone asks, and everyone seems to ask, I didn’t do it.)

The boy takes a big bite from his breakfast pizza, tomato and cheese, and leans toward his father, who’s reading the pink sports gazette men in Italy love. I nod toward the pizza. I imagine he’s thinking, “Weirdo.”

Pizza is a common breakfast food over here. You see them, the size of pancakes, in the pastry cases at the coffee bars.

For me pizza in the morning was always hangover food. Leftover pizza, that is, obviating the need to busy yourself, providing the spicy, oily bulk that seemed to soothe and stabilize a woozy stomach. Usually washed down with a coke.

Both here and at home, we usually opt for pizza on a night no one wants to cook. Over there it comes to the door. Over here I walk two minutes up the street to the main piazza. The bar is called L’insolito Posto, the usual place. Think Cheers, the bar from the television show, only in this tiny village in San Marino. Weekends, if you want to eat inside, you need to make a reservation.

Once it was a coffee and breakfast pastries bar. Now it’s doing what lots of bars do. Coffee and pastries (and probably pizzas) in the morning; aperitivo (a pretty sumptuous appetizer banquet) and drinks in the early evening.

And pizza. Thin crust. Wood burning oven. Last night was one of those lazy nights. It took 5 minutes to cook my pizza margarita, which costs 5 euros. I walked it home and ate half of it, thinking I would eat the rest in the morning. But didn’t. Maybe it’s age. Or I wasn’t hungover.

The statute of limitations on leftover pizza is about 48 hours. Something tells me reheated or cold, that margarita will be the best thing I eat that day.

Food of the Gods

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Persimmons galore.

We’re on our way to Ro e Buni for a fat pasta lunch. This restaurant (called a “tenuta,” meaning an estate), is off the main road that passes through Villa Verucchio. A sign says there’s a golf course back here somewhere. I’d look for it but I’m totally distracted by the orchard next to the road. Orange fruit heavy in the branches. Looks like oranges.  But, no, these are persimmons. In Italian called “cachi” (pronounced “CAH-cky”). Continue reading

Polenta, I’m Coming

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Twice now I’ve chosen not to eat polenta. My wife and I are in restaurants. It’s a choice between tagliatelle and beans or passatelli in a vegetable sauce, or polenta, I reluctantly say no to the polenta.

Last night it happened again. This just has to stop.

Oh, polenta. It comes to the table vivid yellow, this cooked corn flour mush with a sauce ladled over the top of it. Last Sunday, at Osteria del Pisello, their polenta with pea sauce.

You eat it with a spoon. It’s still hot. The red sauce, peas or beans or ragu or whatever, is likely to leave an reddish-orange olive oil sheen, as you stir, mix, spoon, and lift this wonderful food your mouth. To borrow a phrase from Raymond Carver, it’s a simple, good thing. That’s the dominant culinary principle in this region. Simple is good. More likely, simple is perfection.

When she was a kid, my wife says the practice was to pour out the polenta on a large cutting board and put it in the middle of the table, cover it with ragu. No plates. No servings portioned out. Each individual, spoon in hand, having at it.

In one of my undergraduate psychology classes I learned about what researchers call “the just noticeable difference.” We’re talking levels of perception. At what point does one lose the ability to distinguish one sensory input from another that is a measurable gradation less or more in strength. What is the just noticeable difference between the pleasure you take in one dish you love over another you love? That’s the fix we are in when we eat over here.

As we say these days, indulging in cliche, It’s all good. (This is cliche I can live with.) Seen below, last night’s polenta from Trattoria Rinaldi.

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Polenta, I’m coming.

There’s Truffle in River City

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And I do mean truffle, the white ones and the black ones, those gnarly, earthy nuggets of delight, the ones you dream about, their shavings falling like heavenly snow flakes on your tagliatelle. Yes, those truffles. Continue reading

So Many Ravioli…

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My wife’s cousin sat a few chairs down from me.  It was Christmas 1984. We were having cappelletti in broth, a typical–and beloved–dish we look forward to at holiday time. After spooning (scarfing) for a few minutes, the cousin looked up, turned to me, and said, “I could kill myself eating these things.”

They’re that good. Continue reading

Meet Me at Rivetta

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Fish lasagne? Don’t think about it.  Just try it.

We’re eating at Trattoria alla Rivetta in Venice.  We’ve been coming here for over 20 years—for the seafood risotto, the moeche (soft shell crabs), the branzino, and whatever else they have that day that’s fresh. And always, in addition to great fish, there is a generous assortment of fresh vegetables that are boiled, sliced, and served with a generous anointing of olive oil. Was ever a potato so good? Continue reading

Ciao, Signorina?

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“Signorina?” I say.  My wife and I are in an airport restaurant in Venice, waiting for a friend to arrive. We have an hour or so to kill.  There’s no better way to do that than by eating.

I’ve ordered the pasta; my wife has the prosciutto and mozzarella.  We need some bread. Well, my wife needs some bread.

She shakes her head. “You really should call her signora,” she says. Continue reading

A Reading at Hannan House

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Happy to be reading at Hannan House, 4750 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan on September 16, 2018, 2-4 p.m.  Music, open mic first. Then the reading.

They say, “He’s funny, warm, and peevish.” Yup, that’s me.

 

Oxtail, Head-air, and a Swim

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At dinner last night I had a piece of Lake Superior trout with oxtail on top of it.  Five green beans and a fried polenta ball with roasted corn inside. Nifty.

To my knowledge I’ve only had oxtail once, in Rome, when my daughter was having a semester abroad in college. She and I ate lunch one day in Trastevere. A chef buddy back home named Franco had spoken appreciatively of Trastevere. Ballanno, cantanno. Non lavora nessuno.  They sing, they dance. Nobody works.   Continue reading