This past week has been mostly uneventful, just going about our slow days waiting anxiously to move into our house (four more days!!). But to break up the mundanity of the days in wait, we decided to check out a new restaurant. Our hotel has a list of off-post restaurants from which we decided to choose by closing our eyes and letting our finger fall. The restaurant for the night is called Ristorante Antica Locanda and luckily for us it was just a short bus ride away. Upon walking in the front door we see the display case with a HUGE fish head staring at us. By the look of the case of freshly picked fish, we knew we stumbled upon something fancy!! I make eye contact with the hostess, "Due per favore," I say with my best Italian accent, maybe I can fool them for the first few minutes that I might be italian. We sit at our candle lit table and are handed the leather bound menu. Each page representing a course of food from which you choose one per page...well, supposed to anyway.
Here is what I learned from my culture lesson and what I have noted since arriving here. Italians do not eat dinner until around nine o'clock pm (restaurants don't even open until earliest 7:30). For formal dinners there are roughly six courses (depending on the formality). Aperitivo: mostly a wine menu with some small morsels to chomp on such as olives, nuts, cheese and crackers, Antipasta (before pasta): this is usually a cold appetizer such as a salad, or cold cut meats, Primo: is usually a pasta and the like such as gnocci, polenta, or risotto. Secondo: is usually a meat, the main heavy plate, Dolce: in my opinion the best course, dessert, then of course the last course is Caffe.
Out of these choices, we chose from the primi, secondo, and dolce. Scott ordered a duck fettucini, filet minon, and a chocolate cake with English cream. Sorry, I didn't take pictures of Scott's dishes, he was giving me enough grief as it was taking pictures in the first place (looking like a tourist), but I was able to get a snapshot of him at least!
This is a sample of what an aperitivo would be which came out as a complementary dish. It is a slice of raw salmon (yumm sushi) on a dollop of a whipped zucchini sauce. Also, I must apologize for the poor picture quality. Our lighting was a small candle, and my camera is a small ipod.
We had kept up our appearances as maybe not Italian but at least people who knew the language...until we opened our mouths to order. The entire menu was in Italian and the items we chose were not the easiest to say for someone who has only been exposed to the language for less than a month. Even though we lost our cover, we continued to speak in Italian the entire time to the best of our ability so I say we did pretty darn good seeing as the waitress clearly did not know English and we got all of our food to order!
I ordered a gnocci with carrots and zucchini for my primi. The gnocci was perfectly cooked and reminded me of home since it's my favorite comfort food (mashed potatoes) but in a ball form.
For me secondo, I wanted something small since I knew I would be full after eating the pasta dish and since small things are usually the least expensive, I scan the prices and find a dish for 5.50 euro. From my years of Spanish, I could comprehend that it was some sort of seafood with shrimp, but for the price, I thought it would be some sort of shrimp cake or a few on a skewer? Well....
Clearly, it was not as I expected. If you cannot tell from the poor quality of the picture, I had ordered an entire lobster tail, 3 crawfish, and 6 huge shrimps with beautiful carrot and cabbage garnish. Umm, maybe I looked at the price wrong. I eat a shrimp and prod at a few other pieces for a bit of meat, but I honestly don't know how to eat this stuff correctly, so Scott swaps me plates. He shines off the crustacean shells like nobody's business and I eat a few bites of his meat (I honestly don't get how Italians eat this many courses) which Scott gladly takes back to finish off.
Even though I am nearly stuffed (note I said nearly), there is always room for dessert. I scan the menu for something light and gelato is an Italian word that I am very familiar with! I order a tiramisu flavor and it is the most wonderfully smooth and creamy gelato that I have ever tasted. I ate it slowly and deliberately trying to make it last as long as I could. But alas, all that is cold cannot stay. So we asked for the check.
As we wait for the check, Scott and I mess with our candle (that has begun to drip all over the table now. It has been nearly two hours now since we got here, not due to slow service but to Italian culture of a slow and leisurely meal). As we watch the wax build up we discuss how nice it has been to get out of the hotel and that we deserve to go out to a fancy smanshy restaurant like this since we have been eating glorified ramen for the past eight days. We keep this reasoning even after the check comes out and we see that we have paid 33 euro for my single plate of seafood. It apparently was 5 euro a gram (or some kind of weight measurement). Which makes the total a bit steeper than we had originally estimated. After a bit of cringing and "OmygoshIcan'tbelieveIspentfiftybuckonasingleplate"ing, we reasoned again, that we deserve it. We are in Italy. We have been eating 30 cent cans of Campbell's soup and 17 cent packets of ramen for enough days to compensate for a 33 euro mistake.
We enjoyed our night out together. The food was good and the experience was great. Though, we will try to use a bit more caution when we are ordering a plate of
seafood anything (as the main course) that costs less than 10 euro. (Seriously, what was I thinking?)