Sunday, August 3, 2008

I finally found the best food in all of Italy...

It was quite a long, difficult search to find the best food in Italy. I have had to sample so many things in so many different places. If anyone knows me at all, they know that I took this job very seriously. I've been eating tons and tons of pizza, pasta, gelato...every Italian food you can imagine. My quest was simply to find the best. Well, today I found it. It is at the DeRobertis' home in Pistoia!

Nino and Betty, and their daughter Annalisa, are the most gracious people in all of the world. And, the best cooks as well! After church in Prato, we went over to their house in Pistoia for dinner.

Nino is the Branch President in the Pistoia Branch. I guess President & Karen go to that branch quite often and decided to go to Prato this time. Nino was very upset by this, he wanted them at his branch. He kept saying that it wasn't safe there! It was very, very funny.

Jeff had met Nino on his mission 30 years ago. The Acersons visited them in Italy a few years ago. Nino and Betty also visited Utah once. He is an artist and had drawn a beautiful picture of Joseph Smith. It had taken him years to complete. Michael Ballam was once looking for a place to stay in Italy, so Karen & Jeff gave him DeRobertis' names. They helped the Ballam family find a place to stay and got to be great friends with them. He saw the un-finished picture and told Nino that if he finished it, they would find a way to have him give it to President Hinckley.

So, Nino finished it and he came to Utah and stayed with the Acersons. He went up to Salt Lake and had an appointment with President Hinckley and President Monson, where he presented the original drawing to the prophet. You can tell that it was one of the highlights of Nino's life.

In the living room he has pictures of all the important people in their family's lives. Included are pictures of Nino and Betty with President Hinckley and President Monson. He has a copy of the picture of Joseph Smith. There are pictures of Michael Ballam and his gorgeous daughter, Vanessa, who was Miss Utah a few years ago. And, there are a few others. This is the funny part though... Along with all of those pictures, are pictures with the Acersons.

Unlike the other more formal pictures of everyone else, their pictures are blown up snapshots of their trip to Lake Powell. Karen is mortified that she is in a swimming suit without her hair done and make-up on, while President has some facial growth, wearing swim trunks and a faded t-shirt. Keep in mind that this is the room they eat in and they have missionaries over for dinner every week! Karen doesn't think it is very funny at all, but we all thought it was hilarious! (Look closely at the picture above. It is not my fault Karen...I was just simply taking a cute picture of you and your sister missionaries. I didn't notice the background...I promise!)

The missionaries who have served in Pistoia all talk about the DeRobertis family and the great memories. There is always reminising about the amazing food. When the elders & sisters in Rome found out that we would be eating Sunday dinner there, they smiled and were so excited for us, but they also offered some advice. "Never, ever, sit next to Nino; or even close enough that he can reach your plate. Also, never let your plate be completely empty, always make sure there is a little bit on left." I followed their advice and I did pretty well. Nino did catch me a couple of times and would say, "Mangi, mangi!" Which means, "Eat, eat!" and he would put more food on my plate. I had to learn the words, "Molto buon," which means "Very good!" I was more full, after this meal, than I can ever remember being .

I'm actually quite sad that I didn't take very many pictures of the meal, I was too busy eating everything in sight. There were a lot of courses. The first course was an assortment of breads and crackers with prosciutto (a type of cured ham) and lots of cheese (check out that hunk of parmesan on the table). The second was salad, which is usually a later course, but I think they were trying to please their American guests. Third was favorite. Nino had made a Bolognese sauce (red sauce with meat) the day before to go on the pasta.

Betty and Annalisa made this incredible cheese tortellini with a butter sage sauce. I was in the kitchen when they were making this, so luckily I learned how. All they did was melt butter and simmer some fresh sage in it for a while, while the pasta was cooking. Then they just pour it onto the tortellini and add some fresh parmesan on was fabulous! I have fresh sage in my herb garden and so I have made it a few times since coming home.

Fourth course was amazing, but I forgot to take a picture of it. She had roasted veal (which I normally don't eat, but I had some) with some rosemary, it was probably the tastiest meat I've ever had. Then she served that with these amazing roasted potatoes. She first sautéed them in butter and olive oil until they were translucent, then roasted them in the oven until crisp. Wow. Oh, there was the yummiest mushroom risotto (like rice) somewhere in there...I don't remember what course that one was.

Then, there was fruit & pastries and then the final course was gelato.

This is Nino serving it up (look closely behind him, that is the picture of him with President Hinckley). He kept making you have more and more and more of everything, but especially the gelato! I think he made President have like 4 servings! Although, I don’t believe President wasn't complaining.

Acersons gave the DeRobertis family a sign that hangs in their living room, along with all the pictures. (Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it.) It says, "Si mangia bene alla casa DeRobertis sia temporale che spiritoso." Which means, in English, "You eat well at the house DeRobertis, be it temporal or spiritual." How appropriate.

What an amazing day with their family. We were so happy to have met them and really happy to have eaten in their home. When we were pulling out of the parking lot, we saw them waving to us from the balcony. They waved the entire time we were driving away. It reminded me of when my parents come out of the house when we leave Moab and they wave the entire time we drive down the road. Isn’t that just so sweet?


Stacey said...

The food looks so yummy, will you ever be able to eat at Olive Garden again?

Morkthefied said...

I'm crying right now at that image of them waving. Friends in the gospel across the big Atlantic. What a small, wonderful world! My parents wave too, and I want to keep that tradition for my kids as well. I think eating homemade Italian food with an Italian family would definitely be the highlight for me as well.

Carolyn said...

Beautiful pictures! I think I will invite myself over for dinner soon :) for some yummy pasta now that you are an expert.