Martha had survived begging for a replacement permesso di soggiorno at the questura in Massa and was feeling good enough about the whole deal to drive me to Forte dei Marmi where we would hunt for an off-season restaurant in the expensive resort city known for its Russian following. We found several. Restaurants, not Russians.
Then we did a strange thing. We looked at a menu, decided the restaurant it went with was a good place to eat, and proceeded to plop down at the restaurant adjacent to it, Il Fortino. Fortunately (and although it was a ((large)) dollop more expensive) we had a good meal there. The pasta—well, my pasta—was superb. Paccheri (those big tubes of pasta the folks in Campania allegedly used to smuggle garlic in during the garlic wars or some such) was drenched in a sunny seafood sauce that begged loudly for a “scarpetta” to swipe up every molecule of sublime goodness. The dish even looked pretty nice. The next course wouldn’t, so gaze longingly while you still can:
And Then Came the Second Course…
Martha, feeling frugal, didn’t order a pasta, but had a fish soup that was heavy on tender, baby calamari. I, on the other hand, pulled out all the stops and went with the Rana Pescatrice served with tomatoes, capers and anchovies. Monkfish dressed to the nines.
This is the point where you admire Italians for not thinking every dish has to look like it had been assembled by an engineer and then given a beauty treatment by Melania Knauss-Trump’s hairdresser and makeup man. I mean the fish is acknowledged to be mainly a head with a tail tacked on to it. It’s like a congressional attempt at passing a bill that real people will actually like, it’s got nasty teeth and there’s very little meat to it.
But it tasted good, and that’s the main thing, eh?
When the thing was brought out to me, the waiter advised where the meat hid and where I’d find it, and then added, “if you turn it over and are willing to work at it, there’s more to eat under where the gills and other inedibles are kept.”
This sounded like fun. I followed his suggestions. The tablecloth looked like a murder had been committed upon it after I thought I was done: red blotches showing signs of struggle.
Then the waiter came around, surveyed the prehistoric bones on my plate and pointed his pinky finger toward the cheek area which you couldn’t tell was a cheek because there seemed to be no fish eyes by which to measure a fish cheek’s normal position. Yes, upon closer review, I could detect a thin sliver of fish-flesh positioned on both sides of the ginormous head. I couldn’t extract it with metal tools. Fingers, they’re what ya brung!
So we had a good meal. It took some work. In the end I had to turn up the head so the thing could be inspected by the fish police/waiter. It looked gruesome indeed.
I must have done the right thing. The guy offered me a free limoncello big enough to knock me out. Really, it made me sleep throughout the entire ride home.
And then I struggled to write a blog post so you wouldn’t miss out on the experience. The internet is full of people sticking slender forks in things and using quasi-words like “yum” so I thought you, the discerning reader, would like some alternative facts about beautiful Italian food.
Il Fortino Ristorante on Facebook (Check out the foodie tattoo!)