Monday, July 17, 2017

What was the best restaurant experience of your life?

Whether it was a hundred dollar Michelin-starred restaurant or some hole-in-the-wall restaurant on a trip abroad, where was it, and what made it special?

Ozhamada, Trying hard to avoid the dark side of the web.

My wife and I were backpacking through Europe in 1999. On the journey through Europe we ate simply - often just cheese and bread. However, a promising exchange of information that occurred with other backpackers had us heading out for lunch when we arrived in Florence.

Florence is a fantastic city. Like most European cities the area immediately around the city center is a tourist trap with pricey restaurants. Our tipster had us heading well into the streets of the city to a small tavern. With our map in hand we walked about two kilometers twisting through the streets. We passed many acceptable looking eating places, whilst staying steadfast on finding our destination.

We were told that the tavern did a different meal combination everyday. We were informed that we were best to just pay the flat rate, and then wait for the food to arrive. Guests sat at long tables that filled on a first-in-first-served basis. We chose to sit next to each other rather than opposite each other.

What followed was unforgettable. The food itself was superb. The conversation was curious.
We were not long seated - and the only foreigners in the building - before a young, local, Italian male arrived. He looked flustered. He shrugged his shoulders and advised that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. Next seated - and adjacent to the male - was a local nonna. At a guess the nonna was probably in her early nineties. The nonna was quick to join the conversation.
A rowdy and heartfelt debate followed between the nonna and my wife on one side and the young male on the other. The debate centred on the nonna's unmoving insistence that the male leave immediately to woo his former girlfriend back. The nonna was like a rock - she refused to budge from her position one bit. One-by-one she dismissed every one of the male's arguments. At appropriate times other locals also contributed to the debate. We were using our limited language skills to contribute, such that there was a mix of Italian, Spanish and English flying across the table.

The male felt besieged. He relented as the meal came to an end and agreed to go and find his former beloved. There was a great deal of backslapping and applause.

It was memorable for it's genuineness and warmness. It was memorable as a one-off event. It was memorable as a highlight of our journey. Michelin-starred restaurants cannot deliver such an experience.

Not to be outdone, the male did have a question for us before he left. The meal included a choice of a carafe of red or white wine. We had chosen the red wine. Everyone else on the table had chosen white. "Why did you choose the red wine?" he asked. We looked back at him blankly and before we could answer he continued: "Everyone here chooses the white wine", at which he paused to put on a huge grin; "Because you can drink more of it".

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