Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Birthday From Agerola!

Today is my step-father's 89th birthday. This is a picture of him (R) with his father (L). In honor of his birthday, I'm going to post about our visit to Agerola, the town in Italy where his father was born.
Agerola is located in the mountains, about 12km from the Amalfi Coast. We approached Agerola from Sorrento, which took us 35km over the mountains, through you guessed it, more winding hairpin turns (what is it with this country??) until we happened upon the sign that told us we made it.
Since it wasn't the height of tourist season, every restaurant along the way was closed. We were starving. But then we came upon a small pizzeria that looked as if it might be open. Eddie went to investigate and came back out with a thumbs up, so we all spilled out of the mini-van and into the restaurant.

The name of the place is Ristorante da Nicola, located at Viale della Vittoria 26. We were greeted with a friendly "Salve!" by Salvatore (2nd from the left) and after determining they were open and serving food, made our way into the dining room. In the photo, from left to right is Gilda, Salvatore, Rita and Alfonso; the family who owns the restaurant.
Gilda took over as soon as we were seated and once we told her we were "molto fame", she worked her magic. We ordered without a menu. She made suggestions, we said yes to all of them. Before we knew it, enough food to feed an army was being brought to our table.

This is the picture Gilda took of us (she stood on a chair!). Salvatore was holding up the "Benvenuti!" sign in the background. When we told Gilda that our family was from Agerola, her face lit up and she said, "Noooooo!" in disbelief. We gave her the brief version of the story, told her who the family member was (the local priest) only to find out that she knew him!
Her English was very good and between the Italian I knew, my dictionary and my cousin's mother Mary (sitting next to Ed), we had a great conversation. But let's get back to the food. First she brought out these beautiful plates...roasted peppers, mozzarella di bufala with fresh tomato (this is my cousin Ro's platter - the rest of us had our mozzarella wrapped in the thinnest slice of prosciutto - Ro doesn't eat pig) and risotto with mushroom. It was amaaaaazing.
She then brought out a small pizza (which we watched her make), smoked mozzarella served on lemon leaves (the oil from the leaves added a slight lemon flavor to the mozzarella), potato croquettes al forno (these were outrageous! potato with pieces of prosciutto and mozzarella inside, egg shaped, rolled in a very fine breadcrumb and baked in the oven), fresh bread and then our all-time favorite, homemade gnocchi!
After dinner, we realized it was getting later and we still had to see the church where one of our family members is a priest, so we decided to head over there before it got dark. The church is located in the Frazione of Bomerano (still in Agerola), so we knew we'd be able to buzz down there and then come back to the restaurant in time for cappuccino before we left. Gilda offered to call her cousin, who was a friend of the priest, to see if she could wake him to meet us, but since the man was old and it was late, we declined. We just wanted to go take a quick picture and see the area. So that's what we did.

After a few minutes there and a quick drive through the town, we made our way back to Ristorante da Nicola for cappuccino. After we ordered, we sat at the table and talked more about where we were from and all gathered around the laptop as Alfonso asked for our address to bring up our homes on Google Earth. Everyone in our group lives in New York, but when he saw our house in Arizona, he seemed intrigued by the desert landscape.

I showed him pictures of our truck on my iPod and watched as he passed it around to his family (and a few friends), telling them that I was a truck driver. It wasn't as interesting to them that Ed was also a truck driver though; again, it seemed as if the female truck driver thing was the big point of interest.

These people were so gracious, kind, loving and generous (they gave us each a small gift before we left), that they felt like family. They hugged us goodbye and posed for photos. They really made the visit to Agerola a memorable success. Next time we go, we'll be sure to stop by again and hopefully on the next visit, we'll be able to dig a little more into the history of the family.

My step-father was thrilled to hear of our experience in the town of his father's birth and he was happy that we were able to take the time to visit there while we were in the area. I have to say, having that little "connection" to the area, made the visit that much more exciting.

Agerola was definitely a highlight during the trip and I'd go back in a heartbeat...even if it's only for the food!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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1 comment:

Katie said...

What a wonderful story!