Teverina Follies: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

My mother always said: If you can find a patch of blue big enough to mend a hole in a Dutchman’s britches, it’s going to clear. I keep finding patches, like this one, but it doesn’t seem to work. Pretty soon a big, dark, looming cloud rolls over and cancels out the blue and then it starts to rain again.

The ground is sodden, the rivers are swollen, in some places dangerously so, and even though the first forsythia and daffodil blossoms are emerging, the poor little things look drenched and dripping, their heads bending over in the omnipresent flood.

So Easter was a wet one. I slogged along the muddy path to the Antolinis to share the Easter feast. Theirs was unusual compared to years past. We had the farm-made salumi and prosciutto and the crostini neri (crostini with a chicken liver paté on top) that are part of every feast in this valley, but then, instead of the typical pasta al forno or lasagna, Maura served crespelle, an Italian version of crepes, piled like sheets of pasta over a spinach-ricotta filling and dressed with a cheesy besciamella.

You can’t have Easter without lamb, of course, and it was delicious, roasted in the wood-burning oven, but the surprise factor was the bistecca alla griglia, cooked right in the fireplace and perfectly done, rare in the middle, crisp and brown on the outsides.

Torta della nonna might have been the dessert in days of yore but Maura served a sumptuous tiramisu instead–she makes it in the classic Venetian manner, with mascarpone and coffee and lots of bitter cocoa powder, but it always seems odd to me to find this delectable sweet in a Tuscan farmhouse. I first had tiramisu back in the early 1980s at a restaurant in the Venetian lagoon where it was billed as “il famoso tiramisu del’isola di Burano.” I’d never heard of it but it enchanted me and I wrote about it in Cuisine, a great food magazine edited brilliantly by Pat Brown and Anne Mendelson. The magazine bit the dust shortly after, in a power play with Conde Nast, but the recipe went on to greater and greater heights. Now you find it all over America and even in a Tuscan farmhouse where, we agreed, Maura and I, it bears a relationship to the Tuscan stalwart zuppa inglese–due cugini, we said, two cousins.

I didn’t take a picture because you don’t take pictures at your neighbor’s table, but believe me it was a rich meal.


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