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When we arrived, Sharon set up her easel for plein air work in our idyllic spot.

When we arrived, Sharon set up her easel for plein air work in our idyllic spot.

Here we were, back to Ristorante Stella dell’ Isola, our favorite spot  for beautiful food and a Calabrese welcome. They enfold us in unequaled hospitality.

Gianluigi giving is a few basic before we began

Gianluigi giving is a few basic before we began

This was a special visit. Nancy M. and I had been determined to have a cooking class here in Scalea, so this seemed the perfect place. When Luigi agreed to have us, we were thrilled.*

Lorita could keep it all going in the huge pots.

Lorita could keep it all going in the huge pots.

Lorita, Luigi’s mother, came outIMG_3655 of retirement to teach us the techniques of making some of our favorite antipasti. We learned the secrets of these gorgeous plates of food that had been set before us.

Calin was the jack-of-all-trades, picking and delivering produce from the gardens surrounding the restaurant and then demonstrating his expertise in preparing barbecued ribs.

Calin, our good friend from past visits, was the jack-of-all-trades, picking and delivering produce from the gardens surrounding the restaurant and then demonstrating his expertise in preparing barbecued ribs.

Giusiano and Julia, a part of the kitchen staff, graciously allowed us to follow them, snapping photos like the paparazzi and generally being in everyone’s way. FloryAnna translated for us while doing her background work in preparation for the lunchtime clientele.

Making pasta the new-fangled way.

Making pasta the new-fangled way.

We were in heaven.

P1010071Being included in the family and staff lunch was was an invitation we couldn’t refuse.

Potatoes fixed Calabrese style are one of our favorites...even tho we now know just how much oil is used.

Potatoes fixed Calabrese style are one of our favorites…even tho we now know just how much oil is used.

We had watched each bit of food being prepared and felt vested in the gorgeous presentation. Everyone joined us in the staff dining room. Giusiano served us the wonderful pasta

Eggplant is a staple and it seems that the delicious tomatoes are added to everything.

Eggplant is a staple and it seems that the delicious tomatoes are added to everything.

and we helped ourselves to veal, melanzane, and patate e pepperoni all of which we had followed

In the meantime, Sharon's painting is taking shape.

In the meantime, Sharon’s painting is taking shape.

from the automatic peeler, (which is really a big electric water spinner with sandpaper-like substance on the bottom that leaves the potatoes ready for slicing) to the bubbling skillets on the stove where they were sautéed and/or fried.

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Armando’s stories and jokes were interspersed with tunes played on his hand made creation

When the staff hustled away from our private dining room to serve the arriving guest, Armando, Luigi’s father,

It all starts with fresh products.

It all starts with fresh products.

began regaling us with his philosophies. For instance…if we have it properly translated…one stays young by laughing. Once a person is sober and humorless, it is time to die.

Or, that one can have totally white hair,

I'll never be tired of the rustic plates of fruit served a family tables.

I’ll never be tired of the rustic plates of fruit served at family tables.

but as long as one’s eyebrows still have color, vitality continues. Show him white eyebrows and he will

Or the delectable desserts appearing from nowhere.

Or the delectable desserts appearing from nowhere.

demonstrate the continuum of aging all the way to using a cane (demonstrated by a fork stabbed into the tablecloth).

I have scarcely conveyed the magic of being invited into this experience. It was like being taught

The stars of the day, Luigi and Lorita. (Nancy's Photo)

The stars of the day, Luigi and Lorita.

to cook by a world-class chef who happens to be your best friend and mentor. It was being honored and at the same time being included – a powerful combination.

When we left our friends that last time, it was like leaving family. Making connections across the world is precious. It’s leaving those friends behind that is unutterably sad.

Sharon's finished painting drew admirers from the restaurant. It is a perfect reminder of our day.

Sharon’s finished painting drew admirers from the restaurant. It is a perfect reminder of our day.

*When they agreed to pick us up 10 miles away (we had returned our car) we were doubly grateful. (As usual, we were packed into a car. I don’t a photo of me sitting in the back-back of the station wagon, but I’m sure it was a sight to behold.