The Final Food Report
by David E. Corona
When last I wrote we were on our way to Tuscany. I can report that while Your Reporter did not, one intrepid diner did indeed enjoy Bistecca Friorentina, a ~2 pound Italian Porterhouse steak. Other Tuscan specialties are white beans, and a thick spaghetti called pici. Members of the JTCC tour enjoyed pici with a rabbit based, thick meaty sauce, as well as osso buco, a slowly cooked beef shank in a very rich tomato/vegetable sauce. During our trip up to Fiesole we all enjoyed various pizzas in a trattoria on the main street. There were vegetarian specialties, spicy salamis, and the atomic pizza–a double crusted pizza with all kinds of strange things cooked inside the two crusts.
Your Reporter also explored away from the group on one of the Firenze days. His side trip was to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast. Ravenna was the last capital of the Roman Empire, and contains different art from the 5th and 6th centuries. For a normal person it might have been too much of more or less the same religious mosaics and almost Byzantine architecture, but Your Reporter had a quite enjoyable time. On the food front he enjoyed a lunch of grilled fresh local vegetables, a grilled local sausage–delicately yet wonderfully piquant, and a dessert of Italian creme caramel. Your reporter can also assure you that the gelato along the Adriatic coast is first rate.
In correcting an oversight by the bus and tour companies, the Theater Class also took a side trip up to Vicenza. During a layover in Bologna we toured the crowded streets of Italy’s oldest university town. We found a street fair next to an old church, which had a booth containing Sicilian foods. Being half-Sicilian himself, Your Reporter grabbed two arancini, rice balls, and enjoyed himself immensely. Were there not laws against bringing in sausages and cheeses, Your Reporter might have gone bankrupt shopping at that bazaar.
Vicenza is a stately city with wonderful building and palazzi, many of the designed by the Renaissance architect Palladio. The Theater Class’ objective was the Teatro Olimpic, also designed by Pallado, and the oldest enclosed Renaissance theater in the world. It was a great delight to study its ornate architecture and imagine seeing a production on its elaborate stage. We dined simply in Vicenza since it observes a siesta period and its restaurants were closed during the afternoon. Its gelaterie were not however, and delicious gelati were available for all of us, including frutti di bosco, berries of the woods, and mirtillo, a tart gelato made from the bilberry. (Your intrepid reporter would appreciate any help from enlightened gardeners as to what exactly a bilberry is, aside from being delicious.)
The members of the tour headed back to Rome for the final three nights. On the final night the students and faculty were treated to a dinner at the Restaurante Nazzarone near Termini Station. A variety of grilled vegetables were our antipasi. For our main course we had three different pastas, fettucini in a vegetarian tomato sauce, lasagna in a creamy, cheesy tomato sauce, and gnocchi, potato dumplings in a tomato sauce. Mineral water and wine were available at each table. For our dessert we had fruit cups of wonderful strawberries. Along with we had wonderful grappa-filled chocolates thoughtfully provided by Debora.
The group certainly hopes that our pre-trip classes and preparation made us informed and knowledgeable students and tourists, but there was no disguising our non-local roots. Various eating establishments seemed to appreciate our company and patronage, often gracing us with free after dinner drinks–especially a drink called lemoncello. Lemoncello is an experience in and of itself, very much liked by some of us, respectfully sampled by others of us, and found to be extremely unusual by others of us. You might check with your son or daughter, husband or wife, or friend to see to which group he/she might belong.
Your Reporter hopes that these reports have been illuminating and provided a small sample of the gustatory delights encountered by the JTCC group. At the moment he is sure that many of the group are enjoying meat, potatoes and American food, but hopes that the return to Italian specialties at the group party will be a nice reminder of our wonderful time. Signing off until next summer, when Pasticio, Gyros, Village Salads, and Kaimaka Ice Cream, (made from sheeps’ milk and mastik,) will be on the menu, Your Reporter wishes all of you buon appetito!