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.
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, Luigi’s mother, came out 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.
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.
We were in heaven.
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
and we helped ourselves to veal, melanzane, and patate e pepperoni all of which we had followed
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.
When the staff hustled away from our private dining room to serve the arriving guest, Armando, Luigi’s father,
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,
but as long as one’s eyebrows still have color, vitality continues. Show him white eyebrows and he will
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
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.
*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.