Friday, February 22, 2008

pranzo italiano!

Fact #1: I like to eat.

Fact #2: Italian is one of the the world's truly great cuisines. From Chef Boyardee (haha) to Giada De Laurentiis (mmm), it doesn't get much better than this, folks.

Rhetorical question based on Facts #1 and #2 above: If one chances upon the opportunity to enjoy lunch in Italy, would it not be a crime against humanity to turn a blind stomach on said, aforementioned opportunity?

Fresh oranges for sale at the markets in Ventimiglia, Italy. (2008).

Can't argue with that logic. So with great hunger, I leave France behind and head for Italy in search of la dolce vita ... well, at least as far as food is concerned.

The first stop past the Italian border is Ventimiglia.

"I had a friend who was from Ventimiglia ... I went there once, and I would never ever go back again," Lorenzo, an acquaintance from Venice, would later laugh.

Of course, not being privy to that information nor having any prior knowledge of the town at the time, I figure this is a good a place as any to get off the train.

Ventimiglia gets high marks for unpretentiousness - nobody's bending backwards to make things any prettier for tourists around here. This is a rough-and-tumble, working class town and, as a camera-toting Canadian traveler, I feel like a fish out of water in these parts.

But it's just as well. An authentic Italian town is more apt to serve authentic Italian food and this is what we're here for.

I look for a hole-in-the-wall pasta kitchen, preferably where the head chef is an angry-looking grandma that would beat you over the head with a wooden spoon if you didn't eat enough scrumptious pasta. Unfortunately, my search gets cut short when it starts to storm outside. I relent and escape into a rather modern-looking, bustling place on the coast.

The middle-aged waiters speak no English and laugh at me when I take pictures of my starter olives. Whatever. I order by pointing at the menu ... Gnocchi Bolognese ... a humble, honest, no-nonsense choice in a humble, honest, no-nonsense town.

It's simply delicious.

Fresh black and green olives are a good start to any meal. Ventimiglia, Italy. (2008).

Gnocchi Bolognese - fresh potato dumplings in a tomato-meat sauce - makes for a filling, satisfying lunch. Ventimiglia, Italy. (2008).

A view of Ventimiglia, Italy. (2008). Former capital of the Intermelii, an ancient Ligurian tribe, the city has been in existence since before Roman times and the birth of Christ.

Sorry for badly missing the focus on this blurry photo (sometimes it's pretty hit-or-miss when using manual focus lenses). But to me, this shot is what Ventimiglia is all about: fine, fresh produce being sold by a grumpy shopkeep with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Ventimiglia, Italy. (2008).


  1. You know what? I like the last picture. It's got an old-world quality to it. :o)

    Did you try grappa while in Italy? Disgusting stuff. *lol*

  2. Thanks, Soho. Still wish I would have focused it correctly though, as I think that shot would've been a cracker.

    Nope, no grappa while in Italy. That stuff would probably kill me. :-)