Last Friday was the first official day of our fall break. We have until next Sunday to do with ourselves exactly as we please. So far, we’ve been doing basically that.
Friday, our friend Gráinne arrived from the States; she’s working on some thesis research, and is staying with us until Wednesday morning. Friday evening we decided to eat at the Champagneria, a local place I had heard about countless times as being one of the best in Orvieto, but I had never found. That evening, Jeremy, Gráinne, Bonnie and I found it—luckily Bonnie had been, I would never have discovered it, tucked away in the Piazza Marconi, which is mostly a parking lot—and we ordered a bottle of white wine. My understanding had been that you order drinks and they bring out food, cooked fresh with ingredients from the owner/chef’s garden. No menus to speak of, just some excellent wine and food. No menus can also mean a surprise bill, but it was worth it.
Sunday was a day of proportionally epic eating. Enrico, Gráinne’s and my “Italian babbo” (Italian Dad) invited the three of us for lunch. At noon, his son picked us up in front of the Duomo, and we arrived ten minutes later at their home in the localita of Buon Respiro, outside of Orvieto. Interior renovations are the current project for the first floor of the main house—Enrico explained that the floor bricks were newly installed, but had been made in the ways that they had made bricks and tiles in the middle ages. His wife had been cooking lunch in the guest house. We sat at the table and the first round of food came out. Pizza of two types: stuffed with chicory and sausage, or anchovies and cooked vegetables. Next was a baked pasta with tomato sauce and cheese. Just as we were beginning to look at each other and groan about how full we were, she said, “It’s okay if you don’t eat all of it, there’s still chicken coming.” I still ate all of it. Next was a pan-cooked chicken dish, the meat of which was covered with tomatoes and peppers and flavored with herbs and spices just so. It reminded me in a way of Nana’s and Tita’s arroz con pollo. I couldn’t place why, as Cuban and Italian cuisines are so different. Maybe it was just the style of cooking the chicken and how it soaked up its juices and the sauce, the herbs that made me think of home. We were encouraged to eat the chicken with our hands, “otherwise you won’t get the good parts.” At that point, we thought we couldn’t eat any more, and out came a light salad, fruit, and a perfect torta di mele (apple cake). Of course, all of this is accompanied by white wine, the last bit with spumante. I thought someone was going to have to roll us home. It’s funny to me that this is a traditional Italian lunch, in the sense of the amount. Our Italian family friends complain about how much weight they or relatives have gained going to the US; Americans have the same experience coming to Italy! It’s a different diet, is all.
That night, we ate leftover pizza and cake while listening to the most recent episode of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! Thank goodness for iTunes and podcast directories for another taste of home.