Friday, June 1, 2012

The Post in which Christopher sort of Apologizes to the Nation of Italy for Thinking it Served Only Bad Food to Tourists

(Important! If this post is cut off by photos at the end, try reloading the page. This usually solves the problem.)

Tale of La Mimosas

Yes, I can eat my own words. I'm going to tell you two tales, both happening in the same city. Rome.

Before I left Munich, I did a bit of homework, printed out a couple of pages of restaurant addresses where I could get a gluten-free meal. As it turned out on Saturday afternoon when I was looking at the addresses, none of the streets looked familiar. I threw the list on the bedside table, resolved to eating another Insalata Caprese for dinner.

"Go down to reception and ask," Josef, the Hungarian florist said.

"You know I don't like to talk to people."

"Go down to reception and ask anyway," he said. The anyway was a good argument, so I went down to reception and asked anyway.

In keeping with my experience with receptionists in Italian hotels, I expected the receptionist to shrug and tell me, "You have to eat pasta. You're in Italy. Your intestine will understand."

What actually happened: She found a restaurant that offered an entire gluten-free menu within walking distance from our hotel, and she did this in under three minutes. The restaurant--La Mimosas--was about a 10-minute walk away, and it was fairly full of non-tourists. I neglected to tell the man who greeted us at the door that we had a reservation, so he took us to the deserted, chilly tarped-in terrace at the back of the restaurant, which smelled like cat piss. Still, we sat down and started looking at the menu.

Parkerman & Christie (San Diego)
The gluten-free "focaccia" at La Mimosas
A few moments later, another man came and got us and ushered us to the front room, where a cozy table was waiting for us. As soon as I mentioned senza glutine (gluten-free) to them, they rushed off to make me a gluten-free focaccia. Now, I am going to eat my words in a way, but I can't say that the gluten-free focaccia was good. It wasn't focaccia. I know focaccia. This is focaccia on the right (although the focaccia I've had in Cinque Terre was square, not round).

Gluten-free pizza capricciosa

I then ordered a gluten-free pizza capricciosa. Eating a pizza has become an emotional experience for me since I haven't been able to eat conventional pizza for the last 8 years. Though mediocre, the pizza still brought tears to my eyes. The crust was exactly the same crust as the focaccia I'd nibbled on earlier--just bigger. The wine was good.

The best thing about the meal was the fact that the restaurant staff were friendly, they spoke Italian with me, and they seemed genuinely concerned about the gluten issue. By the end of the meal, I'd all but forgotten about the cat piss odor.

Tale of dei Frescobaldi

I was about an hour early for my flight back to Munich, which is not that early for me. I usually like to test all the skincare products in Duty Free, which takes some time. In terminal one, there is a wine bar, a chain, called dei Frescobaldi. When I sat down, I intended to drink only one glass of wine. The menu is pricey, so I thought I'd be able to stop at one.

Sipping on my 10-euro half glass of wine, I began to take in my surroundings. Carpaccio, prosciutto, caprese (my old friend), all sorts of antipasti. I wasn't hungry, but I was impressed by the ripe red tomatoes and the freshness of everything around me. I asked for the menu. There was no way I was going to pass this up, but the prices were laughably high. The prices on the internet menu are out of date.

I ordered La Nostra Caprese (15 euros): ripe roma tomatoes, salad and the best mozzarella I've had in a while. The balsamico they use has other ingredients, so I asked the grandmotherly server if the condiment was senza glutine. She was so sweet. When I was finished with my Insalata Caprese, she placed a plate with vanilla pudding and strawberries in front of me. "Anche senza glutine," she said and smiled. And she restored my faith in Italian hospitality. My bill was 50 euros--senza glutine.

I must be off,



Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire). He writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.