I wasn’t going to write anything about our last night in Mestre, just outside of Venice, because we were going to find the best panini, have a beer and go to bed. Obviously that didn’t happen….
After wandering for an hour, we finally found a place near our hotel to grab a drink, and since it was too early to eat, by Italian standards, we just had a drink. We noticed during our trip that a great thing about the bars here is that they all put out food for everyone to grab from and eat and then you pay later. We ate a few meat and cheese stuffed fried pizza dough things that were great with our beers and devised a plan for the rest of the night.
This is when the night got exciting; two Italian women, old enough to be my grandmother, inquired as to where we were from and we explained that we were from Oregon. Both of these ladies had just met for the first time a 30 minutes earlier and only one of them spoke English. The ladies had though that we were from Australia but that conversation was interrupted when a gentleman with cheap jewelry approached us and, with the help of the two ladies translating, tried to sell us some goods. That sparked a conversation that got us an invitation to one of the lady’s apartments for dinner.
We couldn’t refuse the offer of Italian hospitality since everything that I have read about Italian culture is how welcoming they are. Before we went to dinner, we were introduced to a traditional Italian spritzer that contained Campari, soda water, white wine, and one other ingredient that I couldn’t understand. Shortly after that, we headed out to have a dinner of spaghetti and fish sauce at Elena’s apartment with her new friend and translator, Maja (pronounced Maya). We enjoyed a great meal and learned about numerous cultural things like how oregano doesn’t go into bolognese but cloves do. Dinner started with fresh reggiano cheese and a bottle of cabernet franc. The entree was served shortly after, which included spaghetti, fish stock, fresh tomatoes, and bay leaves. Once we finished our portions they force more onto our plates, which I didn’t argue with. After dinner I asked them about a fruit I had seen in the market called kaki. After looking at it, I realized it was a persimmon, and of course after asking about it, they insisted that I eat one. After the persimmon, Elena brought out a liquor made from dried fruit and a citrus resembling a tangerine. The tangerine looking citrus was actually a cross between grapes and mandarin oranges. I didn’t believe them at first but once I bit into it, there was in fact a remarkable resemblance to grapes and oranges. This, to me, was Italian hospitality at its finest and was one of the best nights of our trip.