Basta pasta

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m getting sick of spaghetti. I broke my five-day pasta streak last night. I had to. Between chocolate croissants for breakfast every morning, Caprese panini for lunch and pasta every night, my body was going into carbohydrate shock. Yesterday afternoon, I came down with a terrible stomachache and decided enough was enough. Or as the Italians say, “basta.”

For last night’s Il Pavone dinner, I considered going light with a bowl of soup and a salad, until I saw the steaks being delivered to the diners seated to my right. Remembering that I hadn’t eaten meat since Germany, I decided I probably could use a good dose of protein and iron. Tagliata, or sliced steak, topped with mushrooms sounded like just the ticket. Patrick’s colleague was also in a red meat frame of mind and ordered from the steak portion of the menu as well, but when our plates arrived, we couldn’t tell whose was whose.

One plate arrived hot and sizzling, like an Italian fajita platter, slices of steak topped with arugula and big shavings of parmesan. The other dish was a big hunk of meat with a mushroomy-peppercorn sauce. Hubby’s friend and I were both a little confused. I thought I had ordered my meat topped with mushrooms; he thought he’d ordered his topped with peppers. We traded plates, but still couldn’t figure out whether or not we were actually eating the correct order. In the end, we just split them down the middle and everyone was happy. I don’t even remember what hubby ordered, I was so into the beef. At least, I assume it was beef. If it wasn’t, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know about it.

The sizzling platter was delicious and the parmesan lent a touch of richness. And I always forget how much I like arugula until I get it on something in a restaurant. (Note to self: seek out arugula at Indy supermarkets.) The peppercorn sauce on the other steak was really spicy with crunchy whole roasted peppercorns that added a good amount of heat without blowing your head off. The steak was really on the rare side and though I’m more of a medium-well girl, it was so good I didn’t care. With a generous mixed veggie salad to round things out, the only carbs I ingested for the whole meal were a few bites of the toddler’s breadsticks.

My plan today was to try to see Michaelangelo’s “The Last Supper.” The original painting is housed in a church here called Santa Maria Della Grazie. The only hangup is, you’re supposed to make a reservation for a viewing. Weeks in advance. Hmph. The concierge here at the hotel gave me hope, however, that we might be able to just show up, wait on line and snag an unused reservation for one of the daily no-shows. I got directions, found out which tram line to take, and the toddler and I set out.

In typical Italian fashion, everything ends up taking MUCH longer than you think it’s going to, and you can’t ever count on anything to run efficiently or on time. We stood at the tram stop waiting patiently while the old step-up model trams that we can’t get the stroller onto passed us by again and again. After an hour, I gave up. Ever the little trooper, the toddler hung in there without too much complaining. Maybe we’ll try again another day. Or maybe not.

Changing gears, we hopped on the tram going away from the inner city and rode it to the Cimitero Maggiore (cemetery) at the other end of the line. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, and I figured it would be a good place to let the kid run free for awhile.

This cemetery has to be the most elaborately decorated resting place I’ve ever seen. The entrance is marked with huge stone gates and lined with half a dozen flower stands. Once through the entry, the graves and mausoleums are adorned with arresting statues depicting all manner of Catholic verses — the crucified Jesus laying across Mary Magdalene, life-size angels, Jesus gathering lambs. There are also stained glass inlays in marble headstones, whole series of family portraits atop the graves, and TONS of fresh flowers everywhere. This place is so scrupulously maintained, I didn’t see any browned or dried-out blooms at all. It was so peaceful and super interesting to stroll around, and we only covered a very small section near the front.

The toddler kept wanting to stop and rearrange the rock borders and then he tripped and fell straight into a muddy puddle, so I corralled him back into the stroller amid violent protest. We started walking toward the hotel, on the lookout for a little cafe we could duck into for a quick lunch, but nothing really jumped out at me and we were cutting into the toddler’s nap by that point, so we just continued on all the way back. I grabbed a fairly decent prepackaged salad at the supermarket along the way to eat in the room.

We planned to meet up with hubby downtown by the Duomo when he finished up with his trade show for the day, so I decided to try a new approach to get the toddler to eat something other than crackers and cheese. Some might call it an act of desperation. We went to McDonald’s.

I quickly discovered the Mickey D’s in the Duomo piazza is home to ALL sorts of humanity. I ordered a Happy Meal for the toddler, grabbed a stool in the back of the restaurant and hoped for the best. Alas, he only wanted to eat the fries. I did manage to get a fruit cup and some yogurt down his throat as well. I’m really going to have my work cut out getting his diet back on track once we get home.

We still had an hour or so to kill before hubby was due to meet us, so we went strolling around the shopping district yet again. There are some absolutely beautiful old buildings here. I’d love to go on a guided tour to learn more about the city and its colorful history, but don’t think I’ll get the opportunity before we leave next week.

Hubby made it through the metro, we reconvened and meandered over to a place I’d spotted just off the piazza. Most of the dining establishments in the general Duomo area seem to be total tourist traps, and Merchanti Caffe was no exception. After eating high on the hog and easy on the wallet at Il Pavone all week, the meal we had tonight honestly outraged me.

Hubby ordered his standard pizza salami, a good-sized pie to be fair, and I ordered the risotto con funghi (rice with mushrooms). We also had one beer and one rather stingy but delicious glass of wine. Our total bill: around 50 euros. That’s like 70 bucks or so. For 50 euros, three of us could easily have stuffed ourselves senseless at Il Pavone. With drinks.

My plate of risotto could have been a side dish. It was not a lot of food. There was no bread, no salad, no nothing else. Just a scoop of risotto. For 13 euros. My glass of wine cost about the same. NOT good value. To give you a comparison, I saw a sidewalk chalkboard outside a cafe near our hotel advertising a lunch consisting of a first course (pasta), second course (meat or fish), bread, 1/4 liter of house wine AND coffee all for a mere 9 euros.

I finished my risotto (quickly) and was still starving, but I wasn’t about to order anything else there at those prices. The waiters were very nice to us and I guess you pay for the ambiance, but I didn’t feel it was worth what we paid at all.

After settling the tab, hubby chased the toddler while I thought about picking up a sandwich or dessert elsewhere. If I’d known I was only going to get a small plate or rice and a few shrooms, I would have eaten the rest of the rejected Happy Meal earlier! As it was, I used the occasion as an excuse to wander back to the unbelievably beautiful gelato counter I’d found on previous excursions.

moregelato

ah, gelato!!!

I got a medium cone, which could have easily passed for a large in my book, and three good scoops of my choice of gelato flavors to fill it. After much difficult consideration, I opted for the chocolate fondant, milky vanilla and creamy walnut versions. It was the mother ice cream cone and, at three euros, almost totally alleviated the bad feelings from my overpriced dinner.

As soon as I got back to hubby and the toddler, the two of them immediately commandeered my cone and I was relegated to sharing. No matter, I was finally full about halfway through.

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