Chris Glibertson, Lucca Italy
A Quest for Food Purity Which Lead to the Discovery of Lardo & Ducati’s
with Chris Gilbertson………..
I have known Chris for many years, I guess about 17 or so…..wow, many years! As I moved from Minnesota where I knew him from, I lost touch as I lost touch with many folks. Such is life I guess and I am a strong believer that people come and go into your life and the ones that spring back are usually important, Chris is one of those folks for me. Like many stories that begin with, we lost touch as friends and got back in touch through Facebook! I was living in Tel Aviv at the time and Chris in Lucca, Italy, this was about two three years ago I guess and since each of us were basically lollygagging around the Mediterranean for work, we began to take interest in each other’s lives. I am sure he like me noticed that not many of our friends and acquaintances were spending a lot of time traveling and by traveling I mean living aboard, even for short periods of time like Chris and I had been doing, he in Italy and I in Israel. Now I cannot say the same for him, but I suspect he like me has often felt the loneliness of being this kind of person, one who loves witnessing firsthand what the world is offering and experiencing it all in the flesh by actually submersing ourselves in it. Because not many do this, we tend to not have too many friends or family members who want to or can do this with us, so people like us, just go alone. But it gets lonely despite the great experience. I believe this is one of the main reasons Chris and I began to communicate and share our experiences with each other. We felt a comradery of sorts in the people we were allowing ourselves to be. Through this communication I live vicariously through Chris when it came to the Tuscan region of Italy. I learned a great deal and got to witness from his photos and descriptions how amazing Italy was. I had never had the drive to visit Italy until seeing Chris’ photos and hearing about it from him, seeing his life in Italy. I had told him repeatedly I was going to come visit but since work was not related to Italy, it was not so simple. Then this summer I decided as I was risking everything, by trying my luck full time with my culinary center and being in debt and having a new career ahead of me, I would go to Italy and I would have Chris show me his world. Of course Chris who is in Italy for his love of motorcycles really, is working with Red Bike Tours, a company specializing in tours of Tuscany for those who love the thrill of motorcycles, namely Ducati’s, and didn’t have a lot of free time, which is why I had decided to go to the coast for the first portion of my trip, which worked out nicely as the film crew we are working with for the TV show came along too! But I arranged to spend a few days in Lucca to see Chris, experience his world and know a little bit about Tuscany. I will get to the food part soon, but first I have to say that I had no idea what an amazing city Lucca was/is. This amazing old cobblestone and brick town, built with walls around it was quaint and delightful by all means. In retrospect I wished I could have spent more time there for sure!
Now in my What My Friends Are Cooking Now feature of my blog I showcase recipes or ideas that my friends are cooking, but as many of you know me, I tend to not box myself in too much and that is why I am so excited to tell you about how Chris decided to feed me in Italy. He didn’t cook for me but he took me to one of the best restaurants of my life. I’m not sure if it was the food, the atmosphere, the party of like 30 people next to us cheering salute all night long or if it was the wine or the company I kept that night. Certainly the quaintness of the place, the lovely staff and owners and the lardo didn’t hurt a damn bit.
The restaurant is Rusticanella Trattoria, and the owner Luca a lovely typical Italian guy refuses to give us any recipes, and honestly I am okay iwht that because despite the recipes, the real taste is actually being there, experiencing the local produce, spices and herbs, meats and cheeses first hands. The recipe is irrelevant if you don’t have the quality of goods that they use there. The restaurant features local traditional dishes prepared with traditional methods and showcases the quality of ingredients with actually little cooking. The menu is simple and isn’t bogged down by a multitude of choices. Their real contribution is in their consistency of bringing you dishes that are cooked simply and perfectly every single time, offering up the most fun loving service anyone can offer and the best part is that it is always a fair price. Not jacked up prices here which can exist in Lucca for sure. The owner of Red Bike Tours, Joe Charity, brings a lot of people from his tour to this place and he also happens to live across the street, so we were treated to a pretty elaborate but still typical meal with some really amazing house wine which I felt like went on and on forever!
Here is the scoop on What My Friend Chris is Cooking Now! (And by cooking I mean showing us this magical place!) It was truly one of the most exquisite e and memorable meals of my life, I often dream of the lardo T-Bone, the beans, the cheese and all of it, wishing I could have more! Thanks profusely Chris for the meal and the inspiration to be out there in the world regardless if we are alone of not, as we both can attests we are never really alone are we!!
Tagliere di salumi – (a mix of sliced hams) prosciutto toscano salami toscano, finnochiona (a salami with fennel) and malpressato
Selection of local Pecorino Cheese these differed according to the period of maturing from fresco (fresh) to stagionato (aged), plus a few cheeses that are wrapped as they age with various flavorings: (vine leaves, pepper corns, flowers etc) The cheese was served with local honey and mostarda, which is like an Italian chutney, with preserved fruits like figs and apricots and flavored with mustard for a kick and honey and wine and citrus!
Focaccia Vuota which is a basic thin, crispy focaccia bread (flour, olive oil, water, salt, a small amount of yeast)
Tagliata di Manzo literally “sliced meat”. This is of course a grilled, thick cut, T-bone – traditionally from ‘Chianina’ cattle – cattle reared on the Chiana plain south of Arrezzo. The meat is grilled on a open flame with seasonings and then served with various toppings such as ‘pepper and rosemary’, ‘grana (parmesan like cheese) and arugula, or the local version which is ‘lardo’ – basiccally the cured fat from prosciutto, we had the version with fresh rosemary and one with lardo, both had lemon wedges for granish and both were truly and I do mean truly UNBELIEVEABLE!
Local Beans Roasted with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil, cooked in the oven
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