Cousin: Where are you going for Easter?
Joe: I don’t know. Should we be going somewhere?
Cousin: If you aren’t having a big family Easter at home, you need to go out to a restaurant!
Okay – so we did. Not having any immediate family here in our town, Joe and I spend a lot of holidays together, just the two of us. We honestly haven’t had that many! We invited friends over for Thanksgiving, and by Christmas we were back in the US! So realistically, Easter has been our first big “family” holiday where there are just the two of us. So we booked a table at a place we knew was going to have a blow-out meal! Ristorante Roma. Here is the menu!
These types of events in Italian restaurants (at least outside of the tourist areas), are long, lingering affairs. When I first phoned to make our reservation, I was unsure of what I had heard. My grasp of Italian is a lot better than when we first arrived, but we’ve realistically only been here 20 weeks over the past 10 months, and while I wish I could say I really know what is going on, I sometimes still feel like I only get part of the story. Anyway, the voice on the other end of the phone said something like “noon” and then “1:00 o’clock”, and it finally struck me that it was essentially that we should arrive sometime between noon and 1:00 p.m. Indeed, when we arrived, our table was set, with half of the appetizers for the meal already waiting for us. Our name was on one of the about 25 tables in the restaurant. At least one table’s occupants didn’t arrive until close to 1:30 p.m. There would be no second seating. There would be no additional customers waiting for our table. Everyone in the dining room was in it for the long haul!
The title of this post is translated to English as “that meal was a challenge.” So, let me walk you through this. This is a “fixed” menu for the day. All of these items were in the meal.
First the “Antipasti” (appetizers):
- Sformatino con fonduta di Castelmagno – Soufflé with Castelmagno fondue (Castelmagno is a location in Italy, and apparently they have a cheese – who knew!)
- Filetti di trota alla vinegretta – Trout fillets in vinaigrette.
- Caprino con purea di barbabietola – Goat cheese with beet puree
- Saccottini di verdure – vegetable pockets
- Bresaola con ricotta stagionata ed affumicata con riduzione de aceto balsamico – Bresaola (an air-dried salted, seasoned, thinly sliced beef cold-cut) with seasoned, smoked ricotta and a balsamic reduction
I somehow missed taking pictures of the trout and the goat cheese with beets. I will say I generally dislike beets, but the goat cheese was so delightful, I didn’t even notice!
Then the “primi” – first course!
- Risotto ai carciofi – Risotto with artichokes
- Anellini ai porcini – Crêpe circles with porcini
After that was the “secondi” – second courses
- Coscia di agnello al forno con patate – Roasted leg of lamb with potatoes
- Picanha – tri-tip
Then was dessert
- Colomba pasticciata – Colomba is to Easter what Panettone is to Christmas. Pasticciata literally translated to “botched”. They botched the Colomba with an egg creme and chocolate sauce – oh the humanity!!!
OMG – as they say in English!
Of course, wine, mineral water (we always have ours sparkling, but you can choose “still”), caffè and digestivi were included.
As an aside, I am always amused by travel guides which tell you “how” to eat/drink in Italy. We continually read that large plates of bread and parmigiano-reggiano are things that you only find in American Italian restaurants. Not true. I suspect that there are many places in Italy where you don’t find free bread and ubiquitous grated cheese at the table, but up here in Provincia Parma these are definitely the norm.
Also, in our town, you walk into the bar caffè, sit down at a table, and the owners (typically – although there are always other employees as well) either come over and ask you want you want, or just call out from behind the bar. And there is no extra charge for “sitting”. You would still be well served to follow the “guide books” when in a big city/airport to order your caffe at the cash register, take your receipt to the barista and shout out your order, and then carry it yourself to your table. But when you get outside of the larger cities, life is much less structured!
Our meal lasted over 2-1/2 hours. If there had been more people at our table, I suspect we might have gone to 3-1/2 hours, just due to the extra talking and merry making. And all for €35 a person (which at today’s exchange rate was a total of $74 out the door).
Now I need a nap!