At the start of all of this. Possibly even before the first of these posts. I asked where people would rather be.
If they could close their eyes and let their imagination take them. Where would I find them?
Gino De Blasio quickly responded with what could, quite frankly, be the best response ever on Twitter.
Gino wanted to be in an Agriturismo. So then, did I.
I am not sure if there is a simple English translation for what an Agriturismo is, in Italy. Working farm with accommodation. Restaurant. Culinary hub. Heaven down a dirt track.
If you ever finding yourself sat in a dinning room of one, you will quickly understand why it isn’t easy to fathom exactly who you are eating with, and why they are there.
Holiday makers, sharp suited business men, locals taking advantage of a great lunch – workers from the field. Blended as one.
Don’t @ me about farmhouses with skilled chefs, high-end accommodation and cookery courses in the UK. Modelled on, but not the same thing.
I’ve been to two. One by design, once by accident. Both in Piemonte.
We were taken to the first by a family friend. It was somewhere he went for business meetings over a two or three hour lunch. With wine. In the middle of nowhere.
The venue had accommodation for holiday makers, but it was clear on the day that the only people eating (With the exception of A. and me) were wearing suits. 11 years ago. When workers still took lunch.
We had Robiola cheese. Filled pasta. Chicken Cacciatore and… Well, for some reason my mind isn’t as razor sharp for the pudding details. That might have something to do with the bottle of Roero Arneis and glasses of grappa we put away.
I vowed to return, should we ever be in that part of the world again.
Which we were. Two years later.
We asked our friend for directions – and set off.
I remember it being somewhere in the hills, from the sketchy details I had of the original visit. Blanketed by the fog which gives the Nebbiolo grape its name.
It was clear as we came off the motorway, that this wasn’t the same place. The landscape was flatter. More industrial.
We then saw a sign for an Agriturismo. We followed it up a dirty road and in to a space being used as a store for farm machinery, and expensive looking Mercedes and BMWs.
A woman came out of a back door. We tried to communicate. I think she pointed at her watch. I shrugged the shrug that says “I don’t understand. Do you have someone in the family who can help this idiot Englishman out?”
She did! We were invited in. It was the wrong place.
They were extremely apologetic. We had arrived without a reservation. Too late for lunch. As they were clearing away. Yet it was they who were apologising. I knew this, thanks to learning the phrase ‘Mi dispiace’ (I am sorry) for when I simply couldn’t string a sentence together in Italian.
I think we had about 6 courses off the set menu. No wine this time. They tried to give us the same pasta course twice because they had run out of another dish. We were too full to even think about it.
We were the last table there. A table they had tried to clear away a couple of hours earlier. A table in the dinning room we had stumbled on by mistake. It was spot on. Amazingly so.
So yes, Gino. An Agriturismo is exactly where I want to be right now. In fact, where I want to be is at the start of the dirt road. Anticipation growing. Imagination running wild as to what lies ahead. Admittedly I’d like a few more Italian words in my armoury, beyond Sì and Grazie – but let’s not push it.
Let’s just think of the simple, yet perfectly formed meal we could all share together.
If only in our minds. For the time being.