The restaurant, Da Divo, had been highly recommended. One of the best in Siena, some said.
We ordered, nervously. We’d had some antipasti earlier. We only wanted primi. My travelling companion ordered the wild boar pasta. I had gnocchi with seafood sauce, over a bed of sauteed kale. What fun!
It took an age to get the food, but they served us an amuse-geule of fresh pea soup, oh, lovely.
Nearby, American families scarfed entire Florentine bisteccas. Bored American children scanned their Iphones. A man very closely resembling dead philosopher Michel Foucault wandered from table to table, meeting and greeting, his bald head gleaming in the candlelight.
We got our pasta, finally. It was scornfully placed on our table.
I dug in, hopefully. I almost choked at all the salt.
I looked at my travelling companion. She was swallowing, slowly.
Why, why? said the manager, his arms waving about, when he heard I hadn’t been pleased with my food.
I. Don’t. Know.. It. Was. Just. Salty.
Please. Tell. Me. Was it the sauce. Was it the gnocchi. Was. It. The. Kale.
The cook emerged from the kitchen, and stood in front of me, arms crossed. He looked as though he would weep, or have me killed, quietly, later, in my hotel.
We walked home slowly, hungrily, through old stone archways and across a bridge with an astonishing view of a church.
Bella Italia. In the end, it was the colours, the light, the architecture that nourished us. The food was uneven, and, at the large restaurants with large followings, rarely good. Maybe, after Eat Pray Love, it got too easy. You just had to be Italian, and your food was suddenly awesome.
In the end, it was the small places that fed us well.
The tiny osteria in an alley off the main shopping district, where the prosciutto, the buffala mozzarella, and the wine filled an ache for home. Mushroom crostini at a wine bar off the beaten track, behind the Piazza del Campo, rustic and earthy, with prosecco.
Organic pizza (this in Volterra) at a wi-fi cafe, of all places.
Slow, small food.