Dinner in l'Aquila da Giorgio (by Jo Malcolm)

Dinner in l'Aquila da Giorgio (by Jo Malcolm)

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wild chicory from Gran Sasso

Dolce Signora, it’s wild chicory from the Gran Sasso - it grows up there, you know, at 2,000 metres’, Giorgio said, winking at me and bowing not quite obsequiously at the table of Roman tourists.

I thought he might add that his son climbed up there every morning to pick it at 2,000 metres - or even at 3,000, to the barren crags at the very top - but he bustled off smiling through the swing doors and back into the kitchen.

The Roman tourists shrieked at how lucky they were to have such special Abruzzese food, and with evident pleasure, mirth and not a little noise, chatted on for quite some time about the merits of life in the provinces .

Mino caught my complicit eye and poured me another glass of the local red wine, which is so dark that it stains your tongue if you drink it enough. Giorgio always left a litre of this vino nero on the table for us and we paid for what we drank ( which was usually the lot ) .

It was cold and snowy outside, Sunday evening, and the trattoria was busy .The tiny high windows had begun to steam up and the two vaulted rooms glowed with cameradie and pleasure.

The arched wooden doors had glass across the top part, with little white cotton curtains held up by narrow brass rods, and every time someone came in, the rods rattled slightly against the panes and heads went up to call a friendly welcome to a known face, or a buongiorno to a stranger.

E voilà , bella Jo!’

Giorgio put a triumphant plate of strangolapreti on the white tablecloth in front of me, moving my cigarette packet and other personal odds and ends out of the way to make room for it .

Eat it up now or it’ll get cold and none of your smoking and chattering , ah bella Jo… bella Jo.’

He shook his head in feigned disapproval and busied himself with the other diners.

At the table opposite us was a group of young men in overalls, heads bent over their plates, stubby fingers soaking up the remains of food with the customary scarpetta. From time to time the Romans called across , engaged them in some inconsequential but friendly chatter.

Mino and I were now onto our main course, castrato (which means what you think, of the sheep family), roast potatoes, spinaci in padella, peperoncino and garlic. I had broken a filling on the tattoria bread a few weeks previously, so I avoided that, but Mino ate his, and our meal was as delicious and cheerful as anyone could possibly have wished for.

Giorgio was now amusing other diners by dousing their portions of freshly-cut pineapple rings in the Abruzzese centerbe liqueur. Then with a smiling flourish, he set the rings alight. Gasps of awe rippled through the trattoria as the turquoise flames flared for a second , then flickered just as quickly to nothing.

Mino and I finished off our vino nero , stood up out of Giorgio’s way in the cramped space, and asked for the bill. Giorgio added it all up in his head or sometimes with a few lightning squiggles in blue ballpoint on a little notepad . Tonight , as always, he rounded the price down for us.

After we paid, I went into the kitchen to see Giorgio’s wife, Loredana, the trattoria cook, dishwasher, and peacekeeper. She immediately abandoned her steaming pots and pans, hot water and chopping board to greet me. Her grin showed the little gap between her front teeth, and she wiped her strong hands on a stained white apron before shaking mine. She asked how my family was and told me her own news, chucked me on the cheek like a child, then kissed me goodbye.

I left to an arrivederci from the entire trattoria and joined Mino back out on the wintry streets to whatever it was that next awaited us.

wintry street

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Questo sito non rappresenta una testata giornalistica, in quanto viene aggiornato senza nessuna periodicità.
Pertanto, non può considerarsi un prodotto editoriale ai sensi della Legge n. 62 del 7.03.2001.


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