I had the most beautiful experience today. Odd way to describe it but very true. I was invited to have lunch with a charming man and his family. Si is 80 years old, his brother Peno is 86. We met up with his two sons and off we went for lunch. I was not sure what to expect but deep down, I had a warm feeling.
When I walked into the house the sights and smells brought me back 40 years. I could almost feel my grandmother’s wet hands on my face saying to me, “Hello Dolly, and who have you brought with you?” I felt the oil cloth table cloth and the pans hanging from the rack above the island in the kitchen. I was so torn between happiness and sadness. Happy that I was lucky enough to have those memories and sad that they were gone.
After our cursory introductions, two cheek kisses and discussions about our menu, down into the cellar we went for lunch. Cellar, really? Yes really and what a treasure. Si gave us the tour and as an Italian woman and cook, I was shamed that I did not have the cooking tools he did! He had slicers, bread makers and a refrigerator with curing Lonza. Lonza is a cured meat and it is spectacular. We then entered his wine cellar, or what would equate to an Italian Man-Cave and now my heart is soaring. Si and Peno were such wonderful hosts, how much better can it be? Better than the Provolone and prosciutto hanging from the ceiling? Better than the Italian pictures and family portraits?
Yes, and I could smell cheese and salad. We entered a very small room with a table and chairs in the center and a lazy Susan filled with these treats in the middle. The ceiling was low and the room small. A recipe for my usual anxiety to kick in…..but it did not. The feeling I got from this family took that fear and put it away. I was in Heaven. We ate this wonderful lunch and drank some red wine and laughed about family stories until we were full, and ready for dessert.
Sidebar: while we were waiting for the guys to come upstairs, Peno washed off a small tomato from the garden and handed it to me. He said, “eat it, just like this, nothing else.” I did and it was sweet and wonderful just the ones from my grandfather’s garden.
We reconvened upstairs to the family room for dessert and espresso. Si made the very best espresso with the right balance of sugar. The home made cannoli and eclair from Civetello’s made the meal. We talked a bit more and began sharing more recipes. He loaned me his polenta board. I never heard of this before but it is made of bamboo and you serve polenta on it, family style. I will add the recipe to another blog, I promise. I also left with a bottle of his home made wine, Nona’s Risotto recipe and a pair of oven gloves. I was ready to hit the works and cook!
As the time came to leave, I was both happy and sad once again only this time to leave my new friends. They promised to come for a Sunday Dinner and I promised I would share my blog with them. If you are Italian then I hope I have conveyed the sights and smells and tastes to you. If you are not Italian, as my grandfather would say, “I’m sorry”. Grazie Si e Peno per un pranzo delizioso.