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On an evening in Dartmouth...

23rd September 2020

The beginning has just begun when the sun goes down…on an evening…Except not in the Eternal City, but in Dartmouth. A late summer serata to start off September with an Italian evening of food on Saturday 5 September 2020. And little did my fellow guests know – but some Italiano fun too. But then, everyone needs a dose of la dolce vita, qualche volta.

Primo Secondo Dolce

As well as eating, Italians always love to talk about food. So, whilst adventures to la bella paese might be a dream for the moment in the on-going Covid-19 pandemic; as if we need an excuse, let’s re-live the evening and work up an appetite for dinner…

To the Primo - Mushroom Gnocchi. Or to get you in the mood-o, funghi gnocchi. A dainty dish filled with melt-in-the-mouth potato dumplings in a rich and creamy garlic and parsley butter. Comforting, carby (yes); but for this secret carbo-holic the hearty, earthy flavours were a treat. I scoffed the lot.

For Secondo – Rigatoni, Beef Shin and Chianti Ragu. Pasta for me is always the carrying case for the star of the show, the sauce, as generous meaty morsels of lovingly cooked beef danced on top of the penne pasta. Another menu nod to the forthcoming autumn, the side dish of butternut squash and crispy sage with parmesan and rocket, was for me, the crowning glory. A satisfying Italian equivalent you might say, of our meat, potato and two veg.

As a digestif, it was time for some edifying entertainment. Bring on the dancing girls. Almost. Fellow Italophile Ruth Green and I had plotted a quiz for the diners to find out how much they really love Italy with questions on Food, Culture, Geography, History and General Knowledge.

As a taster, would you know…?

1. Where was the Bellini cocktail famously created (and the two main ingredients)?

2. Name the Sicilian detective in the television series based on the novels of Andrea Camilleri.

3. Which Italian city was the first capital of united Italy?

4. Which important family sponsored the majority of Florentine art during the Renaissance Period?

5. Which Italian pudding translates as ‘pick me up’?

After revealing the answers, the winners stashed their bijou bag of Ruth’s homemade Ricciarelli - perfect for a midnight feast, perhaps. Because the next course was Dolce.

Another cunning Italian Scrabble word – Zabaglione, served in a slinky cocktail glass that was full of promise of an evening in Roma, of decadence and romance and l’amore! Naughty Italian custard – boozy and rich and seductive, and delving deep to the bottom, a treasure trove of brandy-dowsed dried fruits awaited us. In textured contrast, the homemade Hazelnut Biscotti on the side completed this delizioso dessert. The pudding-fication of a beautiful Juliet flirting with her handsome Romeo.

All that remained was to disappear two by two on that evening in Dartmouth…

But firstly, we must thank Hayden and team for a delightful dinner in which each course was an indulgence in itself. Thank you to Adey and the dining room team for looking after us and for their smiling service.

Finally, thank you to Ruth and Signor Mike for the bellisimi Italian decorations – the flowers (note the carefully chosen Tricolore colours) and the flags to match. And certamente, to the quiz mistresses who had such fun in the design and the delivery.

In case you were wondering:

1. Harry's Bar - Prosecco and peach purée

2. Montalbano

3. Florence

4. Medici

5. Tiramisu

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