A very big thank You to Chef Anthony and his Wife Katia for inviting us over to their cosy country restaurant Gargantua for an evening of grand food, good wine and great company. It’s not often that I get to speak English with so many different people all at one time, so you can imagine my earnest when Tony called me up and told me that there would be a group of Americans arriving for dinner and we should make our way there and join the shindig. With no holds barred we arrived to meet such a fine group of people and what a bash we had just talking about food and the joy of eating. One of the guests, Roger an American living in Italy for many, many years has an arcadian home in the countryside where he grows his own vegetables and raises his own chickens. Nestled in the peaceful evergreen close to a picturesque fountain, Roger has been kind enough to invite me over soon to show me around his garden and to create something delicious in his kitchen. Roger’s guest Nathan, a twenty something backpacker and lover of nature entertained us with stories of his travels around Europe, Nyumi  a Japanese expat living in America for eighteen years after marriage to her husband a chef and restaurateur, who have spent the last days touring around Tuscany and Genova, and finally my precious Mum who is vacationing in Italy. It was a table of people across different ages, cultures, nationalities and traditions, but united in our love for good food. The testimony of the wonder and joy of food is that it never fails to bring people closer.

Few pleasures in life match the loveliness of worthy company, cheerful conversation and quality food course after course, to make for a memorable evening where strangers become friends. From our gracious hostess, Katia who served and entertained us with genuine heart, to Tony’s talented teenage boys who never missed a beat on the drums, piano and guitar, to my lovely husband who improvised with Tony’s bass but still gave us some good Jaco Pastorius tunes, to the Chef himself who left boiling kitchen to play some drums, to the old Italian man at the other table singing classic Italian songs from the South above the chatter and the banter, the charm in this little restaurant was wholly inviting.

Of course what would a food blog be without its honorary  guest, THE FOOD. I think I speak for everyone at the table when I say the dishes far exceeded our expectations. To start a very tasty rustic bread, followed by a primi piatti of exquisitely cooked Trenette (long flat strands of pasta) saturated in a sultry sauce, brimming with steaming fresh mussels, scallops and a variety of other favoured seafoods like prawns and squid. We barely got finished raving about the first course when we were introduced to the secondi piatti of delicately poached monkfish, stuffed with prawns and swaddled in bacon served over a rounded artichoke sauce and a subtle beet puree which needless to say abruptly stopped the conversation dominated by the clatter of fish knives and forks. This dreamy course was followed by red wine and Cantucci biscotti’s, an almond biscuit which is dipped in red wine as a custom to soften the biscuit and spike it with moonshine. The petit sweet course made up of  little confections served together well to make one stellar dessert. The fresh fruit and delicate parfait with hints of citrus and lemon zest, was the perfect accompaniment to a warm apple pie.  As if the evening could not have gotten any better, Limoncello shots to finish.

I love a good home-made Limoncello and I remember that I gifted homemade Italian Christmas baskets to my family and friends in 2013 and in there I included pint-sized bottles of Limoncello that I made weeks prior. I thought it was the perfect addition for that explicit Italian touch of a traditional Limoncello. Stay posted because I’ve promised my new American friends the recipe for this fabulous drink and it will be on here soon. Once again thank you Chef Anthony for the invitation and the gorgeous spread and to anyone looking for a fabulous place to dine in the Italian countyside, look no further than Ristorante Gargantua or simply send me a message for details.