05.29.2015 - 05.29.2015
We awoke Friday morning to a beautiful, bright sunshiny day. Friday was our last day and was a bit unusual. After breakfast we met in the kitchen for a lesson in how to make pizza. There was a new chef, Fabrizio, to assist Chef Diana. She gave us the recipe for making pizza dough and then showed us how to do it. Since the pizza dough had to rise for 3-4 hours, we were finished at 10am, leaving us with three hours of free time…which was unheard of. We and the Brewers headed to the lawn area in front of our little villa and rearranged some of the furniture, retrieved the round kitchen table from our villa and got the dominoes clicking. Three games played with SJB and I prevailing on two and the ladies finally broke through with a one point win. We had to move inside because the sun was becoming a little too intense.
We reconvened in the kitchen at 1pm where we all were going to make our individual pizzas. There was red sauce and white sauce, freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and the dough had all been prepared that morning so it could not have been fresher. We were given an endless variety of toppings including locally made salame, black olives, fresh tomatoes, egg, bacon, prosciutto, pancetta, arugula, peppers, artichoke hearts, pineapple and I’m sure others I can’t remember. I got first crack, and rolled my dough out into a paper thin circle about 12 inches in diameter. They have a beautiful pizza oven that was wood fired and was about 800◦ F. I put tomato sauce on my pizza and added salame only at that time. At this temperature, the pizza takes only two minutes to cook. When it came out it was a thing of beauty…ultra-thin, light crust. I added raw tomatoes, sliced it into 12 pieces and the ceremony began. Each participant had to “present’ his/her pizza to the group. The pizza was placed on a round board and we marched to the center of the kitchen, announcing what we had created. Then everyone attacked…me first. There were large bottles of Peroni placed on the tables and, one by one, all 23 “students” made and presented their own pizzas… and all of them disappeared. To top it off, the staff then made their own dessert pizzas with powdered sugar, whipped cream, fresh strawberries and Nutella (never had it before and it was pretty good).
At 4pm there was a sale in the upstairs kitchen of various kitchen utensils that we used during the week. Margaret and Jan were really excited at the opportunity to purchase a standup, stainless steel spoon holder…of course they didn’t have any. So Margaret had to settle for a pair of tongs and a dough cutter. I had not ventured upstairs the entire week and found a beautiful kitchen that the program had outgrown. There was a living room, dining room and another outdoor deck. The furnishings and the artwork were first class.
The afternoon was the only disjointed part of the week. Peter, who is the one that makes things happen, took the day off. With Gregory back in the US, there did not seem to be anyone in charge. It was supposed to be a “shopping” afternoon. So the vans took us to Frosinone, probably the largest city in the area, population approximately 65,000. We were then left off, without explanation or instruction, in an area that had some shops, but was pretty unspectacular. We were told that everyone was to meet up at 7pm at the Shake Bar which was across the street from where we were left off. Since it was now 5:30 and, hence, cocktail time, we just headed for the Shake Bar and met our new Canadian friends, Richard and Pat Hicks. After a couple of cocktails, it was time to depart for the last supper.
The van drove us high up the mountain to a little village, Boville. This, from all appearances, would have been a much more interesting place to let us roam about through the cobblestone streets and alleyways. We had dinner at an elegant restaurant, Laltofrontoia. There was plenty of antipasti once again, prosciutto, arancini, focaccia, fresh mozzarella di bufala, olives, cannellini and eggplant. Dinner was a mixed grill consisting of lamb, veal, chicken, beef and sausages. All of this was followed by salad and the most delicious chocolate gelato ever. We were all pretty comatose by this time, but I managed to get up and give a little speech, starting with Peter’s line…”I have a public service announcement”…and I proceeded to thank the staff that was present…Patricio, Sebastian, Paolo and Giacomo…for all their hard work…and they work their butts off…long hours mostly seven days per week…doing a variety of things from driving to cooking to serving and anything else they are asked to do. All of them are quite charming young men in their mid-twenties and they helped to make it such a special week. I also thanked all of my fellow classmates for the friendships that were formed and for being such a great group. After the hour long ride back to CG, we were all pretty exhausted and could not even finish the domino game that we left sitting in our living area…SJB and I were way ahead as I recall. Besides there was packing to do for an early morning flight to Sicily.
If this was not the most enjoyable week we have spent abroad, I cannot think of another that would top it. Everything was 5 star. The staff was amazing. The food was incredible. The camaraderie among the guests was inspiring. At the beginning of our first class we were given the cookbook for the week, with recipes of everything we prepared…and how to do it…truly a treasure. The fact that “everything” was included made life easy. There was no bill at the end…only a generous gratuity for the entire staff which was gladly given. There are plans to add a pool and spa and I can certainly see a return visit in our future.