After lunch, we were stuffed. Actually, stuffed barely covers it. We stumbled out, halfway in a food coma, eyes glazed over, vacant smiles on our faces. After all, next we were just heading back for… a tour at a pasta factory?! There is no rest for the weary. At least this wouldn’t require high energy or anything… or so we thought.
We arrived at the small Spinosi facility and sort of rolled out of our vehicles, yawning and blinking. I say “small”, but don’t be fooled – Spinosi pasta is sold all over the world, in some of the finest Italian gourmet shops you can find. After a few seconds of adjusting to being in a standing instead of a sitting position, Mr. Spinosi himself burst out of the factory to welcome us. I say burst, and I mean burst. A tall, balding man with a megawatt smile and a booming voice, Mr. Spinosi commands attention and managed to bring all of our sluggish brains back to full speed in milliseconds. He whisked us into his shop, where he showed us a video of his tours through various countries and with sundry celebrities, then whirled us down into the heart of quality pasta making. Actually, he did not allow us to call it “pasta”, insisting on referring to his product as “spinosini” rather than the more generic term. He was loud, he was funny, he was entertaining, but more than anything else he was generous. After we had convinced him NOT to cook us a full meal (please, heavens, no more food right now…!) he sat us down in the yard of his home and brought out no less than a dozen bottles of various digestivi along with chocolates and biscotti. He tried to convince us to stay for dinner (!) but we, alas, already had plans (next year, perhaps?)
Dinner that night was at our villa, and as it was mostly seafood, promised to be a bit lighter of a meal. It was to be both dinner as well as a cooking class, so we changed into our aprons and rolled up our sleeves. The chef had visited the fish market and brought back some of the freshest catch of the day for us to prepare. Additionally, we would finally learn how to make the famous olivo ascolano we had been eating since we arrived. On the menu: Fried stuffed olives, gnocchi with seafood tomato sauce, and the main course, Brodetto San Benedettese. Every seaside port in the region has their own special recipe for this fish stew, and since we were closest to San Benedetto, we went with theirs. All kinds of fish can be used, depending on what’s fresh, but the actual broth can vary by location. In addition to the more usual bell peppers, ours included the unique ingredients of green tomatoes and vinegar. First, the fish:
Prawns, monkfish, mussels, and cuttlefish were a few of the types I recognized. Some of our crew was a bit put off by all of the eyes… can’t say I can empathize with this mindset, but we try to be sensitive. We assured them that they didn’t have to eat it if they didn’t want to. (More for me). In spite of the initial hesitations, everyone took turns getting their hands dirty…
After a spirited team effort, dinner was served.