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Why I love Italy

June 22, 2012 | 10:00 am

The plan was impromptu and as sometimes happens in such situations, ran into a roadblock. That that difficulty turned into of the best things that happened on our visit to the Lake Como area is typical of Italy.

A bunch of friends gathered last week to celebrate a couple of significant birthdays in a splendid house on the Milan Malibu stretch of the lake’s north shore (George Clooney’s place, everyone insisted, was nearly next door!).

One morning we decided we’d walk up to the nearest town, Moltrasio, and hop a ferry to ride around the lake. But when we got to the landing, it turned out we’d just missed the boat (rim shot here). We had 90 minutes to wait for the next. So we decided to get some lunch.

We had passed a hotel dining room on the way in with white-jacketed waiters. Nope. And then there was another place nearby that I misread as Albergo “Pasta”. You know that doesn’t sound good. But it did have a terrace, and it was hot, so, we figured what the heck.Como3

Good call. We settled in under an arbor of wisteria and started to order. First, prosciutto and melon -– the ham satiny and salty and the melon explosively flavorful even this early.

There were a couple of special fish dishes from the region. Missoltini, which is like fish jerky –- herring-sized freshwater fish that have been salted and dried, then lightly grilled and served with a drizzle of vinegar; and agoni, the same fish cooked fresh -– first fried and then simmered in onions, bay and vinegar: “en carpione.

Even a plain dish of steComo4amed vegetables was delicious, dressed with a little very good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkled with salt.

Como1And to finish? One of the best (and simplest) porcini dishes I’ve ever eaten –- the fresh mushrooms sliced thin and sauteed in butter with minced shallots and parsley and served with house-made fresh fettuccine. The mushroom flavor suffused the noodles.

Add in a couple of bottles of a crisp local white and it was a perfect example of that magical Italian way of, without fanfare or folderol, making the simplest dishes sing. The total cost? Less than $20 per person.

It was the perfect embodiment of the philosophy that good food should be an everyday pleasure. In this case, quite literally. The next day we went back to the same place and ate the same lunch again. And enjoyed it just as much.

Restaurant La Veranda at Albergo Posta, Piazza S. Rocco, 5, Moltrasio.

--Russ Parsons

Photo credits: Kathy Parsons