Carnevale—a celebration that starts on Thursday night and ends on Tuesday. The Saturday of Carnevale started with drive to Sassotetto, a type of ski resort without the resort bit. It was a snowboarder’s paradise, bright snow everywhere. Here we stopped and had Italian coffee.
I say Italian coffee because it couldn’t be more different from the American experience. American coffee is just that—an experience. We fill up as big a cup as we can get and sit, talk, read a book or the morning paper. Coffee is not an experience for Italians; it’s merely something you drink. In the U.S., we would call it espresso. It is typically served in the cutest little, doll-like cups with a small teaspoon and packet of sugar on the side. Since I’m so tough and drink coffee black in the States, I’ve been taking it without the sugar. It’s a shot, isn’t it? You gulp it down and move on to whatever you’re doing next. Coffee does not equal relaxation. I will admit that in the past, this difference wouldn’t have evoked another thought in my mind. But the past, I don’t know, three months or so, I have been forcing coffee into myself, and it was becoming something I enjoyed having. I kind of miss the calming affect a large cup of coffee can have on oneself.
Anyway, the drive to Sassotetto might have been more than an hour, but I didn’t care at all because of the beauty of the drive. Green hills with massive white mountains in the distance. Little towns with ever-aging brick and stone buildings. Statues of Christ and Mary with rosaries carefully placed upon them. You just don’t see this beauty in America. And it’s not our fault. I think this beauty is something learned with age, and compared to Italy, we are still a child.
Even after we had talked about it a bit, I still had no clear idea as to what was going on that night. I knew there was some sort of dinner at a hotel, but what kind, how, what, when, where? We started getting ready for the dinner around 6:30 or 7. Apparently, we were supposed to dress up. Paolo had brought his costume in earlier that afternoon. Sofia and I were to be Smurfs; Asia was to be a wizard of some sort. Eleonora didn’t dress up. As much as I tried to explain that I didn’t want to dress up either, Asia insisted on my remaining a smurf. Seeing that I was not going to win this argument, I conceded.
The Hotel Horizon, in Casette d’Ete was situated on a hill that overlooked hundreds of glowing orange lights from the city surrounding it. As we drove up, I could see through the glass windows that there were long tables set up for a banquet like dinner. I could also see that the people already surrounding the tables weren’t dressed up for a Halloween-like celebration, but for a wedding reception or New Year’s Eve party. There were some adults dressed up, but most of those dressed up were children. Boy, did I feel out of place. I didn’t know when the ground had last opened up and swallowed anybody, but I had a feeling it was overdue. I would have greatly appreciated it.
It turned out all right in the end because with about 300 people in the room, it reached about a million degrees. The flannel smurf costume came off, and I went around in the clothes I had worn underneath which couldn’t have been as conspicuous as the costume I had been in. Nobody seemed to mind at all. That was probably because the dinner was so spectacular.
Before dinner started, I was introduced to Paolo’s friend Jury Piergentili who was the restaurant manager of Mediterraneo, the hotel’s restaurant that was putting on this dining affair. Jury had spent some time managing a restaurant in London, so he spoke some English. During the course of the meal, he came by a few times to see how I liked everything. He was great! As was his staff.
It was Valentine’s Day so forgive me for this interjection, but as a server who has worked every Valentine’s Day for the last 6 years, I felt guilty for sitting and being served. If I thought that being a server in the United States was a thankless job, I’m pretty sure it’s even more thankless here. I’ll make my final decision after I visit some more restaurants. The servers were rarely thanked or acknowledged. They had empty wine bottles waved at them while they were walking by with hands full of stacked plates. I think that is just the way things are here though. They also had to serve a dinner that was four hours long, plus clean up everything afterward. They were banquet servers, not restaurant servers, but still that’s a very long night considering we left at 4:00 a.m. I just wanted to relay this for my memory.
The dinner itself was AMAZING, so I take back that earth swallowing me up bit! I have never seen anything like it before and wish I could relive it all the time. Depending upon how you look at it, there were six courses served, I think, though it seemed like more to me. White wine and Champagne flowed freely during the meal, and nobody paid any attention to how many times you poured yourself either. LOVE.
Two different appetizers
1) calamari, tuna, and salmon
2) eggplant with the most delicious creamy parmesan sauceàI could eat this all day, everyday forever and ever
I call this the post-appetizers/pre-meal. It was the pasta round.
- Seafood risotto. Delicious.
- “La Pasta di Aldo.” Angel hair pasta with tomatoes and what looked like scallops, but was probably calamari. I don’t know what the pasta dressed it in, but it was darn good.
The main course
Fresh Sea Bass with skewered Calamari and potatoes
Zuppa Inglese “Arlecchino”
This cake was soaked in some sort of liquer and had a coffee-chocolate mousse layer. Delightful.
CAFFÈ E CORDIALS
Italian coffee and cordials
Dinner started at 9 p.m. and ended around 1:30 a.m. Three hours of dancing followed. I actually danced, but it was much more interesting to watch people dance here because it seems like all Italians are good at it. The exact opposite of us Americans. So after hearing that eating was an event in itself in Italy, I finally experienced it, making this one of the most enjoyable evenings that I have ever had. Sometimes it’s nice to have people cook for you once in a while! Until next time.