Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Italy, Day 9, 6/23/2008

  • breakfast: bread and jam
  • lunch at Ristorante Clemente: fried dough; farro salad; roasted eggplant; sun-dried tomatoes; cured meats; warm ricotta; mashed potatoes that were crunchy on top; gnocchi with zucchini, saffron, and salt cod; ravioli with ricotta, tomato sauce, and basil; sfalgione mousse; puff pastry with cream; warm apple cake
  • dinner: pasta salad with pickled vegetables, asiago, and ham

We went with Fabrizio and Maria to Ristorante Clemente. We started with an enormous antipasto course and an excellent bottle of Montepulciano red wine from Abruzzo. The farro salad was made of cooked farro--like barley but not as chewy--with cherry tomatoes and basil. The mashed potatoes were put in a casserole dish, covered with breadcrumbs and baked to make a crunchy top. After this came the pasta dishes, one after another. They were flawless. Salt cod goes nicely with zucchini, livening it up. Dessert was great too, and it came with a glass of delicious, sweet white wine. I set the automatic Google translator on the restaurant's menu, with hilarious results.

Ovid's Square in Sulmona

In the afternoon we moved on to Ancona, a port town with lots of immigrants. We stayed with Chiara, who had been an exchange student living with Giovanna's family 18 years ago. She showed us how to make "cold pasta": cook the pasta less than usual; drain it and run cold water over it; add vegetables, ham, cheese, and olives if you want them; put the entire dish in the freezer for five minutes.

Ristorante Clemente
Vicolo Quercia, 5
67039 Sulmona (AQ)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Italy, Day 8, 6/22/2008

  • breakfast: bread and jam
  • lunch: fusilli with pesto; turkey cutlets with tomato sauce; salad; strawberries with sugar and lemon
  • dinner: cured meat, cheese, marinated mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts; rosticini (grilled lamb skewers); cheese, roasted vegetables; cheesecake with strawberries, cheesecake with mosto cotto, tiramis├╣

We had lunch with Giovanna's family again. The turkey cutlets were coated with the thinnest layer of tomato sauce.

In the afternoon Fabrizio and his wife Maria got back from the U.S. Despite his jetlag, Fabrizio was full of manic energy and declared that he had to keep doing things or he'd fall asleep. So we all drove up to see the cave where Pope Celestine V--the only man to ever turn down the papacy--lived before he was pope. (After he was pope, he issued a papal decree declaring the pope's power to abdicate and then promptly abdicated, according to Wikipedia.) We also saw the house that was supposedly Ovid's.

Looking down on Sulmona

Next we drove back into town to go to a restaurant, but it turned out to be closed. So we drove to another restaurant--also closed--and then on to another and another. The problem? Italy was playing Spain in soccer, and since everyone would be home watching, almost no restaurants bothered to open. After an our of searching, we ended up at a place in the nearby town Raiano. (They stayed open because they had a television.) We had rosticini, little skewers of grilled lamb so thin that almost all of it was crisp and charred. Each skewer cost €0.50 and five of them made a good portion.

After dinner we went down the street to a bar specializing in rum, where we got cocktails and dessert. The cheesecakes were in the American style but a bit less dense than usual. One had an intense layer of strawberry gel, and the other had mosto cotto, grape must cooked down into a sweet, slightly bitter syrup. The crust tasted exactly like graham cracker crust, though it was actually traditional to the region and entirely homemade. Fabrizio, who makes his living as some sort of consultant on desserts--he used to own a gelateria--had a long conversation with the chef critiquing what we had eaten. I don't know what he said, but the desserts were good enough that it must have been hard to come up with any criticism.