On an Oh-My Meal

For a family gathering near the end of our trip to Italy this past October, my aunt wanted to take the entire family out to dinner. Well, actually a Sunday afternoon meal. Little did we know what to expect.

We drove about 45 minutes. Once we arrived I told my oldest cousin (in gist) that we passed 342 restaurants along the way, but they were closed – so this was the first one we could find that was open.

With the final part of the road being many twist and turns up a mountain, I knew that those who travel this road on this day must be going to the restaurant. In the image of the map, those familiar with Lucca (region of Tuscany) will see it toward the bottom. The restaurant is marked by the location icon.

The town is Fiano di Pescaglia, a small village with a population of less than 1,000 but a history that goes back to 847. On this day, the action centered on Ristorante da Valentino.

Note: I didn’t take any pictures of the meal, so you will have to rely on my descriptions. However, I want you to think about two important questions: How much did the meal cost (per person)? How long were we there?

RistoranteValentino

When entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the number of people throughout the numerous sections of this casual place. We entered one of the small rooms that had 3 other groups already seated. There was our table – actually several tables arranged end-to-end with 9 settings and a large bottle of red wine located at each end.

Each of us first received a small plate of appetizers: a slice of lunchmeat (Mortadella), fried polenta, 5-6 olives, and cheese.

Later, the server came by with a large bowl of mushroom risotto, and served a comfortable portion to each of us … returning after a reasonable time with a question: Would you like more? It was good, so both my wife and I accepted the offer.

Next, the server returned with a large bowl of tagliatelli in a wild boar sauce. Oh my, that was outstanding … and I can’t believe my wife ate it as she’s typically not accepting of dietary oddities. Surprisingly, I said no to the “Would you like more” question.

Later, the server returned with rolled lasagna that contained a filling of cheese and spinach with a different red sauce – yes, followed with “Would you like more” on which I passed.

Up next from the server with the big bowl was ravioli with a meat filling and a different red sauce that went into the same bowl that I’ve been using since the risotto. Of course, “Would you like more?” would follow later … I couldn’t pass on a second helping of this delight.

Attendants removed the well-used bowl, so the plate was now ready for the arrival of the next course: a platter of meat for each end of the table – small pieces of chicken, ribs, beef, lamb, and rabbit. The meats were especially tasty.

Before finishing the meat, the server made space at each end of the table for a platter of french fries and a platter with fried mushrooms and fried cauliflower.

Once it was obvious we were finished with this course, a small plate of salad appeared – an odd place as we Americans are used to eating salads early to prepare the way for the meal. But in this case, the salad was readying us for dessert!

The server delivered a platter of of variety of desserts for each end of the table. Pies, tarts, and cakes provided a delightful end to the meal.

Before describing the meal, I asked two questions: How long were we there? How much did it cost?

Sometime during this culinary extravaganza, I walked around the restaurant wondering about the number of people being served – and it was 165-190! Regarding the meal, my wife and I both agree that we were not stuffed until the desserts (we must have suddenly ran out of inner digestive space).

Finishing the 22 Euro ($24) meal 4 hours after starting, then we walked further uphill to the church … and the beautiful view of the valley.

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If you ever in this area of northwestern Tuscany near Lucca on a Sunday, I suggest you make a reservation at Ristorante da Valentino, then find your way to Fiano di Pescaglia.

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38 thoughts on “On an Oh-My Meal

  1. It sounds just wonderful Frank and took me right back! One of the things I love about Italian life is the long relaxed meal times. Good conversation, good food, good wine. The salad always comes last, but once I got used to that I found it refreshing. Followed of course, if it is a mid-day feast, by a quiet riposo 🙂 These people know how to live! Thanks for the memories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My mouth is watering for the tagliatelli in a wild boar sauce, the mushroom risotto, fried cauliflower, rolled lasagna with cheese and spinach, and both rabbit and lamb.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m usually not a big fan of four hour meals but in this case I would make a delicious exception. I would also carve out sixteen hours of touring about to knock off at least a few calories courtesy of the rolled lasagna I would fail to refuse more portions of. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t believe nobody has commented about the price! I always think of Italy as being very expensive, but I guess maybe that’s more in the cities and tourist areas? But seriously, that price is amazing for all that by any standards! I guess you need 4 hours to eat that much to allow some of it to…erm…pass on through and make room for the rest! Sounds wonderful 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vanessa,
      I’m with you about the price on all counts. I intentionally made price a focus, so I too am surprised … so thank you Vanessa for validating my point. Over 4 hours, pacing is important. In our case, we didn’t know we would be there that long until my cousin’s wife told me wife (after the risotto) had much more was on the way. … and to think there were so many people in this restaurant in a very small village away from everything and on the way to nowhere. Meanwhile, thanks for coming along! 🙂

      Like

  5. It sounds like a wonderful meal–but an even more wonderful total experience. I know even casual meals in Italy can last an hour or two, so I would expect that this one would have lasted at least 3 hours. (And a fabulous price.) 🙂 It’s great you got to experience this with Ms. Angle and family members.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just a beautiful spot – and served in a fashion and style to encourage taking time to enjoy both food and company.
    One thing that always struck me about traveling was that most cultures do not toss the food at people who consume it as fast as possible and leave. Each meal is an event.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A friend and her daughter leave in a week and a bit, for a twelve day stay in Tuscany. They will be driving themselves while there. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Considering their driving skills, and your description of the drive to the village ristorante, they should pick up some colourful language and hand gestures from the locals.

    Perfect meal. Perfect experience. Thanks for the delivery, you served it up well. I will pass this on to my friend and her daughter. I remember Lucca being on their itinerary, what a coincidence. This will delight them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Calvin,
      WOW … the fact that you have friends going to the area soon is great … and I hope they get to try this … but remind them this feast is only on Sundays and they should get reservations!

      Lucca itself is fabulous. So much charm, lively, yet not overwhelming. If I were to move to Italy, Lucca would be a place I would consider living.

      Like

  8. And thank you for not using block quotes around ‘the fact you have friends’. Though I would not blame you. You could buy a little villa and invite us all.

    It will be an experience for them. They fly into Florence and depart Venice.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a meal! And what an incredible value! Everything about the experience sounds delightful, Frank. The photos are beautiful, too, as have all of your photos from Italy. It really is another world from what we experience in the United States and still call fine dining.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debra,
      Simply so much about what this experience offered … food, value, views, family … such a great combination. This is definitely a worthwhile stop if travelers are in the area!

      Like

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