Friday saw us back in Stroncone with Bruno as our guide once again. I had called him as he said I should should I want a return visit. I feel certain that after our tortured conversation on the telephone, he was rethinking his kindness but he agreed to meet us in the Piazza Liberta at 10 a.m. nonetheless.
His unfailing generosity of time and effort was an incredible gift. He took Dave, Claire, Michael and me to see Costantino, the artist whose studio is in the church of Gonfalone. The first time we were in Stoncone with Cindy and Paul, Costantino wasn’t there. It was great to get to meet him and find out a bit more about his work. It was also nice to meet his black lab puppy, Giotto.
After viewing two volumes of the codices of Stroncone and being presented with gifts, including a lovely bottle of wine, we took our leave. We had hoped to lunch at a recommended restaurant in Stroncone but, as before, we were unable to find it. Therefore, an alternative plan was quickly formulated.
We headed out toward Piediluco to see if the Taverna Teresa, also recommended, was open. We were far too early for its 1 p.m. lunch opening; so, we set off on plan #3, which was no plan at all. We saw a sign for a restaurant for which we had seen a brochure in the apartment. Good enough. We set off. Turns out, we drove almost all the way around Lake Piediluco on ever narrowing roads until we were directed down a single lane track towards the lake. It was wooded, kind of drippy and puddly, and not well peopled. I got out and went into the establishment asking the man and woman there if they were open. They both assured me that they were; so, in we trooped.
Needless to say, we were the only folks there but we were made very welcome. The man pushed two tables to a more favorable location for looking out of the eisenglass curtains (that roll right down in case there’s a change in the weather) at the lake and the town on the opposite shore. The woman, Mara, came out and dressed the tables for us, explained that she was the chef, and handed us the menu.
She was very proud of the food and made a number of recommendations, all of which we took. First courses of “a great plate of vegetables in” something or other and fried pizza with an olive sauce. Second courses of filet of coregone with a potato crust and a mixed fry of stuff from the lake. All four of us were sharing one order of each of the courses. Water and white wine for beverages.
It soon became apparent that the main cooking implement in the kitchen was a cauldron of boiling oil. The something or other that the veggies were in was batter. Mara brought out with enormous pride a platter of fried vegetables the size of a small table. Then, she brought out the pizza; sure enough, they were fried but, in spite of that, were fairly light. “Fairly” being a relative term in this context. The coregone had been carefully divided into four small portions (“just a taste each”) with a heaping helping of fried potatoes on top of each. Finally, the fritti misti appeared as a small mountain of fried fishies. Some very tiny indeed, although Mara assured us that some varieties were even smaller than these. What the tiny fish lacked in size, however, they made up for in fishiness. Suffice it to say that some of us liked them better than others did.
In spite of the fact that this meal contained more fried food than any army platoon should consume in a month, the genuine delight and pride that Mara brought to our table along with the food made every calorie worthwhile. When it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to eat every fishy morsel, she asked us if we would like to take the rest of the food home. This was the first time this has ever happened to me in Italy. Dave’s response was an enthusiastic “yes,” which pleased Mara greatly.
Before we left, she presented Dave with a carefully constructed paper cone containing the fishy bits and gave us a telephone number that we could call the next time we came. The purpose of the phone number? To give them a call when we reached Piediluco to summon the boat to come and get us to save us the drive around the lake. I really feel like a local now. Tuesday night is all you can eat grill night. We might have to go back.