Going out to eat for Sunday Lunch is a tradition in Italy. You’ll hardly get a table in a Lunigiana restaurant on a Sunday afternoon if you haven’t reserved one, even in these economically challenging times.
Martha and I remembered with considerable fondness a Sunday meal we had in the town of Barbarasco, so last Sunday we wandered through the Chestnut festival and ended up at Albergo Ristorante Rolando. Just about a year ago we had a delicious Fritto Misto di Mare there.
We were all set for a repeat performance. And—we wanted some of the mixed seafood antipasti that looked good.
So, we got a seat on the terrace and they brought us menus. This didn’t happen last time, we just talked to the waiter. No matter, we found what we wanted on the menu and ordered.
The waiter shook his head sadly. No, they didn’t have much seafood. We could have stuffed mussels. Basta.
The disappointment must have been too much for him to bear. He winced, then motioned for us to sit tight while he ambled off to the kitchen. On return he said, yes, indeed, they could dredge something up for us.
The three plates weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything to blog about either. And one of them, of course, was the stuffed mussels.
We also wanted fish for a second course, but alas, ended up with grilled prawns, shrimp and calamari. Not a bad miss, but disappointing.
Then we talked a bit to him. This is what we neglected to do enough of in the first place. You see, Italians never trust a printed menu. They ask the waiter for recommendations. There’s a good reason for this.
He explained why they didn’t have much fish. It had rained recently, and then had turned sunny. “Everyone has reserved because the kitchen is full of wild mushrooms and boar and goats from the mountains and other game.”
You see, if we had followed our own advice and asked him what was cooking, we’d have been feasting of all the good seasonal foods they’d foraged for. Instead, they tried to please us with what little they had that we asked for. So, I can’t blame the waiter. He didn’t charge us as much as he could have, knowing we came up short on the antipasto course and didn’t get what we really wanted.
But dang, I’m sure kicking myself for not simply asking what was good in the kitchen.
Find out more: Ordering Good Food in an Italian Restaurant