Day 39 Day Off In La Spezia
March 19, 2004
Our drive from Bergamo to Sarzana was, again, very gorgeous. More mountains and streams and snow. We left Bergamo around 11:30 pm. Earlier, we’d had breakfast with Barry and his mates; they were apologizing for how drunk they’d gotten at the hotel the night before. How drunk did they get, you ask? Well, Barry is writing diary “Day 38 part 2” but not until Sunday because he has a drinking problem, which I mean by that is, of he can’t get a drink there’s a problem! But I’ll let him give you the strange detail of that day, as only he can.
The drive from Bergamo to La Spezia was only two hours and a half. We stopped for petrol and there was snow everywhere so I made snowballs and threw them everywhere. Around 2:30 we pulled into La Spezia (which translates to “the spice”)which is only one km from Sarzana. Turns out, the hotel is across from the venue (from my window, I have a view of Sarzana, the mountains, the churches and the 15th century fortress). Around 4:30, Rusty, Chap and Anthony went walking around. I changed my strings and played around on the guitar a bit. Took a shower and sent some laundry out. Then, I went for a long walk and about a mile from the hotel it started to rain, but just slightly. I stopped at a hot dog stand and got the “American Hot Dog” with mayo, ketchup and mustard. Mmmm not bad. Got back to the hotel about 6 pm. Spoke to Rita briefly. She assured me “Fred” hadn’t load a finger on my whiskey (see “Day 37 & Day 38 part 1). So, a bunch of us (ok, everyone but the singer) met downstairs, as the promoter, Paolo, had suggested a restaurant for dinner. We waited and then were told that eateries in Sarzana don’t open till 8 pm. The singer came down and we asked if he wanted to come along. He said no, thanks.
At 7:30 we drove to a bar/café and had a round of really good Italian Premium lager. Around 8:15 we headed to the restaurant, “Taverna Napoleone” (see, Napoleon used to live in Sarzana and the restaurant is in Buonaparte Street, the “u” on the last name represents the original spelling). The owner was named “Jimmy” and his brother “Mario” was the main chef. We were treated with excellent bottles of Valpolicella Classico, an Italian red which was splendidly sweet. This was to be a 5-course meal and course one made its appearance in the form oh a sausage/spinach delight, wrapped in a tortilla and surrounded by a sweet brown plum-like sauce. On a scale of one to ten, this was eleven! Next came several bottles of Capital San Rocco, another red but a little stronger than the first. Course two was a white truffle in sauce which crushed pastacious on top. Then came the third course, which consisted of a delicious puff pastry in an incredible coulèe sauce on top of watercress leaves. I’d give course two a nine out of ten and course three a ten out of ten (by this time, we were simply in heaven, as I guess you can imagine). Course four arrived as a ravioli dish stuffed with goat cheese in olive oil and truffle, topped with nuts (crushed). This was another pure success, easily a ten out of ten. At this point, Jimmy tells us a story of how his brother – who lived in San Francisco a bit – did some work for the American baseball icon Barry Bonds, and didn’t know who he was. Well, Barry pretended for 20 minutes not to be himself. When Mario still didn’t admit to knowing Bonds, Barry said “you don’t watch much baseball, do you?”. Around this time, more bottles came out. This time it was an even stronger and more robust red called Promoroso-coppo. Then came the Magna Opus, the Omega if you will, the last course, the fifth of five courses, the crescendo… it was named tagliatelle di castagne and consisted of chestnuts, flour pasta, cabbage and fontina cheese from the Alps! It was amazing and easily an eleven.
So, along with Kose, Ant, Daddyo, Chapple, Rusty, Troels, Bent and myself, the two promotors Paolo and Umberto dined as well. That’s ten people, and we were already through seven bottles of wine. Then came a sweet white called Sautern, which is made with old grapes and served before dessert, so that the pallet changes for dessert. By the way, each wine increased in strength with each addition. This is to adjust your pallet for each course. Then were served Italian ice cream with powdered sugar and a sweet crème on it. It was called Amarato and made with Marsala wine.
At about 10 pm, chef Mario appears from the kitchen and receives a round of applause from the patrons. He truly had earned it. It was the most amazing meal I’d ever had. Some people smoked cigarettes while others had coffee, at this point in the night. Antony told us about gypsies in Britain, very intriguing indeed! Then Paolo told us about his BBQ and how he loves to bake bread.
Around 11:30, we headed back to the hotel and then walked across the street to “Latin Night” at the club “Just Tap”, where we were to play the following day. Umberto and Paolo gave us all the drinks they had in the house. We were on nine whiskeys, two rums for Antony and our 8th pitcher of beer when I decided to call it an evening. I crashed around 2 am and never felt the better for it.