Sometimes, a food, a piece of art, a window on a wall, can catch you unawares.
We stumbled out of the Venice Biennale, dazzled, overstimulated, hungry. We had just seen shafts of golden threads by Brazilian artist Lygia Pape; an evocative piece about immigration in Europe by Polish American artist Krysztof Wodiczko, shadows of immigrants peering in from outside, and an audio Babylon of their stories; an installation of rope made from human hair by an artist from India, and a simulated audio guide by an artist from United Arab Emirates, commenting ironically on art tourism. My eyes and ears were full of the beauty, grief, humour, and determination of a world of artists; my people, my colleagues.
How on earth do you pick out a restaurant after all that?
I.Want. A. Bowl. Of. Cheesey. Old-School. Spaghetti. I announced to the Literary Tour Guide. By then we’d eaten fish lasagna; crespelli with pine nuts, cheese, raisins and arugula saucei; gnocchi with crab sauce. We’d had torte with our coffee, and cappuccino with our breakfast. We’d had everything except spaghetti with tomato sauce.
OK. She said in her agreeable Maritime way. How. About. Here.
The restaurant she was gesturing to was but fifty metres from the Biennale entrance. What, no hunt, no scanning of menu after menu, no exhaustive culinary overview?
Uh. No. I don’t think so. I said. The. Menu. Is. Translated. Into. English. And German. I said. That’s. A. Very. Bad. Sign.
The LTG sighed. You. Said. Old. School. Here it is. This is where we eat.
And so we shared a big bowl of cheesey old school pasta arrabiata. The noodles were lovely and firm, the sauce was made from fresh tomatoes and was sweet without being cloying. The waiter left a bowl of parmigianno on our table, an unbelievable extravagance.
The light, clear and luminious, highlighted an ochre wall. We talked about the art.We ate those noodles up.
We both agreed it was the best meal we had in Venice.
Have you ever been surprised by the simplest of foods? Did a person or a flavour or an artwork ever unsettle you because they were so straightforward, utterly direct and clear?