As a part of our motorcycle tour around Europe, one of our stops was the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello del Lario. We found a great new B&B as well and asked the proprietor if there was anywhere local to get some dinner. She said there was a local place that we may like, and she could check if they were open if we liked…. I am sure glad we said yes.
After getting ourselves sorted out, we set out on foot to find the restaurant. Winding our way through the narrow mountain streets, luck smiled on us and we took a turn down the right stone lined alleyway. We were pretty dubious that we had the right path until we happened upon another couple also taking the stone steps up the mountain. In my impeccable Italian I said “Scusi” and then must have looked like a monkey trying to mime restaurant… Fortunately, the lady was sharp and with a big smile waved her arms and told us to follow them up the mountain.
It was very warm that evening, and by the time we got to the top, we were dripping sweat. We found what looked like a little cabin with a family having a meal outside at a picnic table. Stepping into the cabin we ran into who I can only think of as “Mama”. The lady from the steps gave her the heads up and we told her our booking name. It was like arriving at home! While she handed us paper towels to mop ourselves up, she told us about Mandello del Lario, the lake, the people, the village…. At least I think she did, because I didn’t understand a word.. But she did tell us our waitress’s name and pushed us out the door to the picnic tables.
We found a spot on the end of a picnic table for 8 that already had 4 people. Then it started. A bottle of white wine with no label landed on the table, followed immediately by a basket of bread and plates of antipasti. She told us she would be right back with a bottle of red wine as well. Near full from the antipasti, and a bottle of wine closer to nirvana, a plate of gnocchi suddenly appeared, followed by a lovely truffle pasta. Somewhere in there another bottle of wine was drained and then I lost count of the courses. Suffice is to say that they were many and each was more delicious than the last.
About when we felt we could not possible take another bite, a huge block of cheese and an even bigger jar of honey with a pump spout on it appeared. I actually had no idea what to do with this, so it was fortunate that we were nearly family with the 4 other people at the table by then. They demonstrated how you cut a small piece if cheese, pump a little honey onto it and pop it in your mouth. I was skeptical, but it was like fireworks in my mouth. They were rich fireworks though, so I had to tap out after only a couple morsels. This is also about when the grappa and lemoncello started flowing. I happen to like lemoncello, and this was properly chilled and went down oh so nicely in the remaining evening heat. The grappa was a bit like medicine to me, so I just had to wash it down with more lemoncello.
Grudgingly, we decided to call it a night and I went to look into the bill. I found my way into the kitchen where I dug into my always reliable Italian vocabulary and came out with “bellissimo!”. When they showed me the bill, I thought it was very reasonable and told her my friend would like his bill as well. She said that was for both! I could not believe it. 48 Euros in total! I would have thought that appropriate just as the tip! I paid her 60 and went back to tell my riding mate the good news.. he was only into me for 30 Euros…
By the time we staggered down the hill with our new found friends from our table, I decided this was one of the highlights of the trip. As an Italian friend of mine used to always say.. “This is LIFE!”
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