The annual goodbyes are beginning. I hate this time of year, ESPECIALLY when we still have no idea what we are doing (let’s just say there’s been a bit of a spanner in the works in that department!) – there’s definitely more than an ounce of jealousy in this post! Jealousy and good food.
One particular set of friends will sadly leave for Stockholm in a few weeks, and that giant metaphorical patchwork quilt will expand further still…
This particular friendship began over a meal or two in Munich, and one truly memorable night which involved giant steaks at Brenner and an equally giant (accidentally ordered) magnum of wine – much to the glee of the over-enthusiastic waiter (I wonder if he has a job as a used car salesman yet – I think he could sell water to a whale!)…. Plenty more dinners and family get-togethers followed over the years, along with raucous Oktoberfest tables (see picture above!) and the occasional school gathering… And then all too soon came the inevitable “we are leaving” announcement, and along with it, the disappearing weeks as we race towards the end of the school year.
Thankfully, at the weekend we had time for one last supper (although I am sure there will be more, just a little further afield!), and, reminiscent of our first truly memorable meal of giant things together, it had to be steak of course. Cooked on the barbecue on the first really warm evening of the year, and accompanied by some good wine, a bit of an explosion after somebody tried to open a bottle of prosecco with a bottle opener, plenty of laughter and a little bit of sadness at our diminishing supper club. Like I said, I hate this time of year…
Talking of memorable meals (and of steak!) I have been meaning to let you in on this little secret for a while… Whilst in Lake Garda recently, we took my Mother in Law for a special birthday lunch at Locanda Bella Italia. Locanda basically means Inn, and with its fantastic food and beautiful setting perched on a quiet hillside surrounded by its own vineyards, I can’t think of anywhere nicer for a couple of days in this area!
As it was a special occasion, Mr R had booked ahead, and after a friendly welcome we were shown to our table in a corner of the light and stylish dining room. The owner came to have a chat and recommended a few specialities on the menu, namely the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina – promising it would be “so good you will cry tears of joy”… A bit of a bold claim, but one I was hoping he was right about!
Then the feast began. Little dishes of homemade foccacia and pickles and smoked meats were scattered across the table before a delicious starter of home-made pasta stuffed with asparagus – a never-ending bowl of which might not have been enough. And before we knew it, there it was. The largest steak I have ever seen – rubbed with salt, rosemary and olive oil and cooked over an open fire in the kitchen.
The proprietor carved it for us, drizzling it with yet more olive oil before serving it, and for those of you interested – yes, I think there might have been some dabbing of eyes at the sheer simple deliciousness of it all. We don’t eat a lot of red meat in our house, so when we do it has to be worth it in terms of quality and the likelihood that the animal involved has had a pretty nice life (up to this point!). This was easily the best steak I have ever eaten in my life, and I promise you I am not exaggerating.
Happy rolling about on the floor of the restaurant, something the adults in the group couldn’t get away with…
Wonderful side dishes had us bursting at the seams, and the fantastically friendly service and excellent (and not extortionate in terms of price or size!) wines had my cheeks aching from smiling. We all enjoyed it, the birthday girl had a blast, and even the baby enjoyed himself happily rolling about on the floor (I love the child friendliness of most restaurants in Italy!) – one for the memory bank!
We will be back with empty bellies for a much longer stay next time. Well worth a detour if you happen to be in the area (you absolutely have to book though!)…
Locanda Bella Italia,
Via Filiselle 16,
37014 Castelnuovo del Garda
Tel: +39 045 751290