Thursday, 21 April 2011 15:58
Written by Gemma

I always encourage my clients travelling in Italy to eat at the local restaurants where there are lots of local Italians and no tourists. However this means venturing into waters unknown where there could be a few surprises. There might be a waiter who can speak English and translate for you but it is a bit scary I must say when you do not recognize anything written on the menu. Lurking in that nice tranquil water might be a shark!! (By the way an Italian told me only today that the only sharks in Italy are the men and yes this is true too!!)......

One has to be prepared to receive something that you had not bargained for. I remember once twenty years ago when I first started going to Italy, it used to upset me if I got it wrong. When expecting my third son, I was tired and emotional at the end of the day and  an unfilleted whole fish arrived with the head and eyes and the tail; it turned my pregnant stomach and I started crying with disappointment much to the dismay of the waiter.  I laugh when I think of that now and much water has passed under the Arno.

Now I am used to Italy and am prepared to try anything once and hell when you are hungry after a day’s travelling as they say “You could eat a horse!!  Tonight I was at a local trattoria found by asking my local lovely fruit man “Where is the best trattoria in the village?”. (A trattoria is a restaurant that sells home made basic cooking.)

Of course it turns out to be his cousin (everyone is his cousin as they are all born here and never leave) and he said that he would take me there so I will not be taken advantage of.  Yes guess what - they charge foreign tourists more particularly if there is no menu!! He worked out a deal for me. I could eat there every night for the week for 10 euro a night with Mamma’s home made cooking. One cannot buy all the food for 10 euro a night let alone pay someone to cook it.  I am thrilled.

Tonight however it was difficult to read the owner’s hand writing on the menu. I saw what I thought was Calamari – "ah -  just feel lik eating that!".. When it came out it was not Calamari it was Calamarata (written in Italian scrawl) which was all shellfish - mussels,  clams (vongole) and pippis sauce with large round pasta. It was such a huge plate and delicious but I did not want such a huge meal! so I asked to take half of it home with me. When the waiter bought out the takeaway box he had written his phone number on the top and told me so. I immediately got nervous and jumped up quicly to pay and get out of there, forgetting to take the serviette out of my lapel. On the walk home, I laughed and laughed at myself. Never a dull moment in Italy!!

Lesson number one – never assume anything when in Italy.... Lesson number two – do not be nice to the waiter (does not matter if you are twenty years older than him either)..... Lesson number three – do not walk out the restaurant with your napkin tucked into your lapel – (done when eating a massive plate of seafood pasta) as you will look like an idiot!!