June 14, 2010

Amalfi, Italy

It was the meal I’d dreamed about when I dreamed of Italy. Beginning with a conversation in italian that I didn’t understand between our host and the restrauntuer. it was finally decided that the owner should prepare whatever she wanted. And so we waited, sipping peach sangria (made from local wine and peaches) and chatting about amalfi and travel, life and love.

The antipasto appeared first. I was gazing, unfocused at the dark beach that surrounded us – the gentle lullaby of waves lapping against the swaying pier competing with the piano and voice accompaniment drifting down from one of the hotels precariously hugging the cliff’s edge. Fish, octopus, shrimp, clams, mussels, and lemon wedges appeared on plates set before us, and fried zucchini blossoms and bruchetta on a platter in the middle of the table. The seafood- caught that morning- tasted like the cool clear azure colored ocean all around us.

Next came our first course…handmade gnocchi with mussels and clams in a mild and silken tomato sauce. Nowhere near a marinara sauce, this was a delicate bridge between the firm potato dumplings and the sea.

The second course greeted us – a thin slice of swordfish sharing space with skewered shrimp and lemon wedges whose size more closely resembled grapefruit wedges.

At this point even I was losing steam…but i pushed through to desert –a small cake infused with lemon and covered in lemon cream. After all, this area is known for its lemons…from Sorrento and on around. The others sipped Italian coffee, espresso served in clear shot glasses, drunk hot sweet and fast. i contemplated the randomness that brought us to that secluded beach.

Shana, watching the kyak polo game from the concrete pier, was distracted by two men fishing for octopus in the harbor. After a short exchange, adreas invited her (and by default, us) to watch Italy play Paraguay at his bar. The two of us made our way there (lizzie wasn’t feeling well) but by half time we were famished.

Andreas spoke of a friend’s place on the water and after checking our guts (no alarms were going off, although we took note of his slightly creepy partner) we jumped on a small speedboat at the pier. This, after all, is (one of) andreas’ jobs – taking people out on the beautiful water along the coast. And so he guided the boat nonchalantly with one hand, not even facing forward, while he pointed out the five monasteries of amalfi (all converted on in the process of converting, to posh hotels high above the waves). A little further was Sophia loren’s home and what used to be her private beach before tax problems gave it back to the Italian government. He steered us into a dark cove and switched off the  engine and showed us the “arch of love”, guiding us through with only a few centimeters to spare, so that, on the other side, we could see what appeared to be two elephants kissing. And then we were turning into a better lit cove – without the tourist and world cup bustle of town.

It was clear he was smitten. But ever the gentleman and respectful of shana’s engagement, he talked to us of his Italy, his amalfi.

The meal finished, andreas pointed the boat toward positano to take us home, as he’d promised. The smoke from his cigarette billowed over his head like late day clouds shrouding the amalfi coast. Random sparks loosened from their tobacco bind, lost themselves to the wind and their orange embers were extinguished in the cool air. Positano’s lights danced on the water as we moored the boat to the pier and disembarked, preparing for the 400 step end to an otherwise wonderful evening…one of those wondrous adventures that was unthought and undreamed when I woke up that morning.

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1 Comment on four course

  1. sza says:

    wasn’t sure you’d write about this night. so glad you did. so glad we got to do this together.

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