Italian “fast food” ?

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We had argued in the car about why we never made it to the highway and towards the destination of the day.

No matter where we saw signs for the highway it turned out that the persistent voice of the woman living inside the GPS told us to turn right or left and nowhere towards the highway. We were both hungry, severely annoyed with our conversation limited to a minimum when a sign for Greve in Chianti showed up along the small country road. The name rang a bell, had I not recently read about it in The New York Times?  I knew it was not from the labels of the red wine named Ruffino poured into round bottomed bottles partially covered in woven camel grass that I had seen hanging from the ceiling of Pizzerias in my youth. Should we turn off for a detour or not?  Lunch time was fast approaching and I knew that low blood sugar made me grumpier than normal, so we agreed that it was worth a short detour…

Manoeuvring  the rental compact into a parking lot some 20 minutes later in Greve, I was getting really hungry.  We trundled towards the main piazza where the statue of the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano stands tall. I knew where I had heard that name as he have lent his name to a gigantic bridge in New York harbour, the Verrazano – Narrow’s bridge.  We surveyed the piazza from the foot of the statue like the true lost navigators we were not even being able to find our way with modern day GPS technique. We had passed the first place that looked like a run of the mill restaurant when an old dark green tuck caught my eye.  As I approached I also noted the folding garden chairs and tables under the white canvas canopy on what could have been a parking lot. This looks different we observed. The tables were filled with what appeared to be paper cartons and plastic utensils more reminiscent of a fast food place than an Italian food establishment.  A busy server roamed around the tables and another came through the door with a chopping board full of meat layered crostini. Hmm this is different and appeared somewhat contradictory with the old truck saying tradition and the white containers saying modern concept. We ventured inside to find a very large and modern butcher shop with hams hanging from the ceiling and busy butchers behind the counter produced thinly sliced salami and prosciutto sandwiches by the dozen nicely presented on wooden cutting boards. The wall in the first room was also filled with wine and olive oil. We could choose a bottle of wine or buy a sampler card (to be charged with any amount desired). We opted for a 10 Euro sampler card and were asked how many glasses we needed. We said two but could have probably gotten six, had we asked to try the different wines in different glasses. The card was credit card sized with a programmable chip used in Europe for small purchases and parking meters.   She went for the  “Al Prosciutto Saporito e pecorino fresco” (a tartar of cured ham with pecorino cheese) whilst my eye had caught “Grandma Beppa’s L’Arista di Maiale” (oven baked pork roast with cooked apples).  With that settled we stuck the wine card in one of the three multi bottle dispensers giving us the option of a taste, a serious sample or a glass full.  She a lover of red stuck to that whilst I opted for a white Chianti.

Glasses in hand we ventured outside to find a table and embark on the wine tasting. This was not fast food but a very fresh way of serving high quality Italian meats and cheeses accompanied by a great selection of wines from the local Chianti’s to Montepulcianos, Montalcinos and beyond.  As my dish was served hot it took a few minutes extra but it was well worth the wait. The servings were not huge (a relief) but tasted so good that we ordered another plate of “Il Prosciutto e pecorino” crostini’s. With the aromas from the kitchen lingering off the empty paper boxes and cutting board we still had a few Euros left on the wine sampler card and she won out (as I was the designated driver)  for another glass of red. Enjoying the balmy Italian summer in the shade of the canvas we finished our lunch with a walk through of the store. The grand butcher shop is part museum filled with old slicers, scales and other tools used over the nine generations of the family business founded in 1806.  Under a vaulted ceiling in a downstairs 15th century cellar pecorinos are aging to perfection. The shelves are stocked with the best of Italian meat and salami from free range pigs raised on the family owned farm. With full bellies and grumpiness gone we walked away with a package of prosciutto destined for tomorrow’s lunch over a ripened melon.  We agreed that the detour was well worth making.

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  1. Your writing made me felt like I was along for the ride. You seriously should submit this quality of writing to Travel and Leisure and Conde Naste Traveller magazines. OUTSTANDING!

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