Eating in Montagna: A snap shot

Flowers for Local Honey My former colleague Venessa is visiting her family in Montagna, Italy which is in the mountains about 26km from the Swiss-Italian border. It was too good not to share. Venessa writes:

If I thought I was a goose being fattened up for foie gras yesterday, it was nothing compared to today. Sorry if you’re bored by these missives, but this is for Brett’s sake…

Breakfast I kept to the bare minimum of strong black coffee and a sliver of that delicious “Ferrero Rocher” cake (as I’ve called it), to be polite. Then went visiting around the village with Lina (whose uncle was my grandfather), who showed me where my grandfather lived, worked etc before he left for Oz.

At each pal and relative’s place we visited there was espresso and cakes and pastries. By noon it graduated to lunch offers. And I mean proper lunch. A feast seemed to be set out on each table ready for whichever family lived there. But we politely declined each one and went back home for our own lunch of lasagna (made with ragu that Sandra had simmered for 2hrs), salad, cheeses (being in the Alps, they like their formaggio – YAY!!!), mortadella (another fave from childhood), coppa, bread and red wine from their own grapes. Just a little wine, they never have a great deal. And Sandra’s hubby, Giuliano, pops in each day from work as an electrician and we all sit down for a proper meal (except Giovanna, who works 1hr away as a doctor at the regional hospital).

Then popped next door for espresso and more pastries and a local delicacy called coppetta (boiled honey with walnuts, biscotti, amaretto and other bits and pieces that are spread over a tray to set and chopped into chunks, a bit like nougat) – and received gifts of home-grown honey made from flowers(!?), some home-made copelletta and a beautiful tin of recipe cards (in Italian, but they’re all on a mission to get me to learn the language). And then they pulled out the grappa – at 2.30 in the afternoon!!

Then more visiting, more espresso, more offers of cakes and pastries.

Then came dinner for my last night. O.M.G. You know how I said Sandra’s bro-in-law was a baker? Um, I got that bit wrong. He just happens to be the head chef of the best restaurant in the commune of Valtellina that is housed in a little castle from the 1200s. And he really went to town. Canapés of crostini topped with various delicious bits and pieces. Followed by huge plates of thinly-sliced fish from the fresh-water lakes and rivers all around us, plus a salad of octopus, white beans, tomato and caviar. Followed by plates of tortellini with a delicate but verrrry tasty prawn and calamari ragu. Followed by plates of ravioli stuffed with local ricotta in a light pesto sauce with lashings of pepper and butter. By this time I was stuffed like a poncho.

But wait – there’s more!

Steak. The most delicious medium-rare steak, served carved into slices, with simple crunchy sautéed potatoes and rosemary from the garden outside (that I was far too full to eat – the potatoes, not the rosemary). Some of the most tasty beef I’ve had, and I like my beef. We managed to decline cheese and dessert(!!) – although it was offered – but they slipped in a lemon sorbet before we could protest. Of course, the meal was washed down with a superb local red wine that chef Gianni also gave me a bottle of to take away.

Man alive, I won’t need to eat for days. Brett, you would’ve loved it.

We finished the evening by bro-in-law unlocking the gates so we could wander around the flood-lit castle and sigh at the sheer beauty of the view. The Italian Alps all around us, and the valley of Valtellina snaking through them way below, with the twinkling lights of each village and the bigger city of Sondrio. Absolutely beautiful. I actually stood there mentally pinching myself.

Am off on a train to Genoa tomorrow, to meet up with a bunch of French pals who are all staying with Philippe at his home by the sea. So any idea I had of reining in the massive food feasts is about to come to nothing, because that lot eat like kings and have the extra curse of drinking like fish, too. It’s a hard life.

It turns out I arrive in time for lunch – “fish alla plancha”, says Philippe. See? I’ve got no chance.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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