About two months ago (it feels like yesterday), Dennis and I decided to revisit the town of Todi. One of his business friends is from there. His friend, Daniele, who loves food as much as we do, has recommended a restaurant, and even told us what we should order if we go there.
We arrive on a Saturday afternoon (mid-August) for a two night stay. Upon arriving by train to the tiniest of stations, a little bus comes by to take us to the top of the town. It lets us off in a little piazza, where there happens to be a charming little hotel. We go in to check availability and price. It’s a little higher than we want to pay, so we tell the man we will check a few others before we decide. “Did you arrive by car?” he asks. “No”, we reply. “We came by train from Rome and took the bus up.” “Did you know there are no other hotels in the town? All the others are outside the city walls in the countryside.” Well, I guess that bit of information makes the decision easier for us. Actually, he kindly gives us a nice discount, and a lovely room which includes a nice buffet breakfast.
Though it has been sweltering hot and humid in Rome, it’s lovely in the hills. The humidity is gone, and there is a breeze that actually requires a light sweater in the evening. Todi is very small and very walkable and though Daniele’s directions to the restaurant seem quite simple, it takes us a while to find it. When we do get there, the owner is thrilled to know that Daniele has sent us, but they are filled for the night, and so we make a reservation for the following evening. We go instead to seek out the restaurant of a decade ago, and actually find it much more easily. We talk with the owner telling her that we are repeat customers, and she explains to us all the changes that have been made to the restaurant since then. She seats us along the edge overlooking the verdant valley below, and as we munch on a cutting board of cheeses and salamis and savor a fabulous pizza, I think to myself, “I need to hold on to THIS minute.”
The following day, we start off just exploring the town. We walk everywhere, snapping photos of picturesque streets, beautiful views, and charming scenes. I hate to describe it this way, but Todi is almost like Disneyland. It was SO charming, SO clean, and SO well restored, as to be not real. We wander aimlessly along hilly, winding side streets stopping into shops to buy ceramics, wine, and olive oil. We find a beautiful city park overlooking the beautiful valley filled with beautiful well-behaved Italian children with their beautiful, well-dressed parents. Dennis and I look at each other. “Is this place real?” But it is, and it’s fabulous.
This day is an important one in the history of Irene. It’s when I have my red wine epiphany. We were looking for a place to have a small lunch when we came across a little enoteca with a sandwich board out front advertising appetizers different from those we’d seen before. “Not the usual fare” we think. This is the place for us. We order a plate of peppers and sundried tomatoes stuffed with fish, and another of crostini covered in melted gorgonzola cheese, drizzled with local honey. Dennis decides to try a red wine, and at 6 euros a glass, I decide to have water. The fish stuffed tomatoes and peppers are quite yummy. But some strange and very powerful chemical, emotional, reaction occurred between my mouth and my brain when I took a bite of that gooey crostini and washed it down with a taste of Dennis’ red wine. POW! Ecstasy! Why did it take me nearly fifty years to discover this?! I flag down the waitress. We need another glass of that wine. She smiles knowingly, and is back in a flash with a goblet of ruby red elixir. Well, as it turns out, I have good taste. It’s a Sagrantino from a vineyard called Lungarotti. We buy a bottle for 25 euros because Irene has fallen in love, and has discovered the secret of red wine; it’s not just the wine, it’s what you eat with it.
Oh, and dinner that night? Fabulous! The owner seated us at the best table on the terrace overlooking the lights of the valley. The steak Dennis ordered on his friend’s recommendation was another one of those juicy slabs of beefy wonderfulness covered in black truffle sauce. We used every bit of bread to mop up every bit of sauce. Life is good. This is the moment.
(Written Aug. 2008)