Today I experienced my first Sunday dinner in Italy, and it was one that I'm sure I will never forget. I knew that I was in for an immersing experience, being the only person at the table that could barely speak a word of Italian. Luckily with Valeria by my side as my personal translator, I was able to share the laughs and good spirits of the great company I was with, truly making me feel like I was family.
The meal started with the “antipasto” portion; something to nibble on before the larger portions arrived. This consisted of fried dough balls stuffed with pancetta. It was unbelievable and left me curious as to know what was up next.
Next up was the “primo,” or the appetizer portion. It consisted of crepes with ricotta cheese and cream sauce, as well as lasagna with meat sauce. I would not consider myself a picky eater, but at home I know what I like and what I do not. Usually I would take a bite or two of something unfamiliar and pretend that I enjoy it not to upset whoever was cooking. Today, however, I knew I better not let a crumb go to waste. The crepes were truly out of this world, and the cream sauce that came along with it added so much to each bite. The lasagna was the best I've had. I felt myself getting full already, not even realizing that there were three more courses to come.
The second course is referred to as "the secondo," and consisted of meatballs, and chicken and veal cutlet. The food was non-stop. Once I finished each plate Francesco's mother Esther was right there with the next. I know better than to say anyone's meatballs are better than my own mother's, but these were absolutely incredible.
The “contorno” is the fourth dish, translating loosely to the word, "contours," meaning vegetables that help shape the entire meal. It was a delicious salad with lemon, olive oil, and salt; relatively simple, and a great way to help wind down the experience.
At last was the “dolce,” or dessert. Just take a look for yourself.
While the meal was unbelievable, what made this dinner an experience was the people I was with. Conversation was constant, everybody took a turn to pour some Ferrarelle (Italian sparkling water) and soccer was on the television. While I may not speak Italian, I didn't need to to feel like I was part of this family. The first thing Francesco's father said to me was to move my chair in closer to the table, making sure I was involved. Out of all the ingredients put into this exceptional meal, the most prominent one was clearly family.
Today, I was most certainly family.