I’d been running around with Paolo Librandi, whose family has done so much for the image of wine in Calabria and Italy. It has been raining sheets for a few days and the fishermen weren’t even going out into the sea to gather what they usually would. For that, instead of having dinner at Paolo’s favorite seafood haunt, we headed for the hills.
Appetizer wise, I lost count at 10. Small plates, little tastes, but they add up. We started with a wine I am very fond of, the Librandi Ciro rosato.
The first platter they served was their home made salumi. I didn’t photograph it. I thought about my chef friend’s back home who would have given their Formula 1 tickets to sit at this table and eat this platter of salumi. Little sausages, flat slices, varying shaded of red and brown. A slice of another cured meat larger, full of flavor. Paolo warned me to pace myself. There would be more.
The next dish brought by the son, a shy, almost feral boy. Tiny skewers (oregano branches) holding some kind of organ, with this little sheet of wild onion to accompany it. “Take a bite, then I’ll tell you what it is,” Paolo said. How many times have you heard that? “I’m not afraid,” I countered.
Wedges of roasted potatoes. Crunchy, warm. I take a bite. Or two. Or three. I’m sunk.
“This is the poorest of cuisines,” Paolo reminded me. I needed no reminding, having seen it years ago in Calabria in my grandmother’s hometown. “This food is made from things nobody in the city hungers for, wild onions, herbs, parts of animals that get discarded, skins of plants no one would think were edible. Throw away food.” More like throw it down food, Paolo. Which we are doing a pretty good job of doing. We would pay in the morning. We would pay. But in the meantime, I thought of my chef friends and my food writer friends, and my wine lover friends and we pressed on in service.
Yes, these dishes aren’t Savour-magazine picture perfect. But the food coming to this table is another world. We are in the kitchen of a woman from Calabria. I was in déjà vu territory. But this was just the beginning.
Paolo sees a man coming in with his date. He comes to the table, I think I recognize him from the winery and say hello. He is not who I think he is.“He is from one of the old established families on the top of the hill.” That’s all I will, all I can tell you.
στιφάδο. Yes, a proper southern stew. Gorgeous stuff.
Thank you, Paolo, for opening a door into your Calabria and sharing it with a fellow traveler..
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W