April 2017


You would have expected the Romans to spend their Buona Pasqua at home, eating chocolate and Easter bread, and roasting lamb for dinner. After attending morning mass at one of the 900+ churches in la bella città. 

Well –

Certainly that is a bit of a cliche, but I did think I would find few establishments open – and rather empty streets.  Not so.  It was a stunning sunny day – in the 70’s – and thousands of people, Italians – not just tourists – were out and about. In the historic center anyway. 

But I thought this scene on a small side street of the Monti neighborhood was rather touching.  A family held their Easter dinner outside on a wooden table – here just a few members of their group were wrapping up their meal. 

Carina. Sweet. 

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So, I set out for a lake adventure on this sunny Spring day in Italy – getting an “open ticket” on the ferry, allowing me to stop in one of six towns on Lake Como, including Bellagio. 

I realize once I am on the boat that wherever I start – I would have about a two-hour wait until the next ferry departure because it was lunchtime. That’s okay – I am going to need something to eat anyway. 

I make my first visit at Lenno – walk along the waterfront. See a few tourist places – and head up the hill to find the center (il centro) of the tiny little town. And a restaurant not for tourists – which, of course, I don’t regard myself as — but a place to eat for the townsfolk. 

I stop at a post office and buy some stamps (francobolli) for my postcards (cartoline). I ask the dude behind the counter – in Italian (of course: hey, I’m no stinkin’ tourist!!!) (which is ridiculous because I am. But I digress). 

Where can I find a restaurant, I inquire. Oh, we have hundreds of restaurants, tanti (many). 10 kilometri. 

I know enough to know I am not walking 10 kilometers to find a non-tourist restaurant. Pizza would be fine. At this point. Tic toc – lunchtime is almost over. My ferry departure is closer. AND I needed a toilette!

I return to the restaurant I’d  rejected. Order a nice salad and a glass of vino bianco and ask the waitress. Scusi. Dov’è il centro?  Oh madame, she answers: here! This is il centro!!

Ha! Serves me right. 

Lunch was perfect, by the way. 

It comes to the table – steam, redolent of garlic, warmly wafting from the plate. 

A mosaic of buckwheat pasta, melted cheese and green vegetables.  Where to start?  With a bite of potato? Or some kind of perfectly cooked green vegetable: the leaf of a romanesco cauliflower, a slice of – I don’t know – perhaps fennel. Subtle little greens – maybe broccoli – maybe spring vegetables. 

And that pasta! Humor me as I wax poetic over this pasto di pasta. A thick, not wide, noodle – with that hearty bite of buckwheat, delicately covered with sauce. 

It may triumph over Cacio e Pepe.

Maybe.  I haven’t spent any real time in Roma, yet. 

My very first pizzocchere. Accent on the second syllable: pea-ZOCK-uhree. 

Oh – did I mention dessert: la meringa con fragole?
Soft and crunchy. Meringue. With strawberry sauce and a kinda squishy, gelato-like layer. 

Burp!

Janet Eats, indeed. Better head out for una passeggiata up and down those steep and narrow hilly streets called contrada.

Italy awaits and I am venturing out of la bella città di Roma for the Lake District. A little village described as “if you want to do nothing, go there.”

Oh boy!

I am very excited to try this dish called pizzocchere – though it kinda sounds pizza-like – it is not. It is buckwheat pasta with melted cheese, potatoes and greens.

Yum!

I will be sure to report in.  More foods to explore, paths to walk, people to meet. More anon!