Adult Mac-n-Cheese, The Master of Gelato and Italian Slurpees!

Posted on May 22, 2011


Dear “Farm,”

This morning we left together and headed to visit a nearby “farm.” I never saw any signs of animal life and the kids went on their own little adventure while the adults read the paper in the shade on a patio outside the fancy restaurant. The children took a few breaks for juice and water under a large tree with hand-made wooden picnic tables only suitable for children under 4 feet tall. I didn’t mind the “break” while the children were led by their guide around the property. I read my book and engaged in a few conversations with the parents about our upcoming summer itinerary, religion and the end of my trip. Summer is going to fly by faster than anything I can imagine and I am extremely excited for the sea! When we discussed religion the topic was mostly about Catholicism. This family is also raised Catholic and S’s great-grandmother gave him the same advice that I believe all elders tell their children or grandchildren: “Do as the priest says; not as he does!” We had a good laugh and discussed other religions, death, other countries and weddings. All within a ten minute conversation while we went over “calendar” including and asking S about his schedule and marking official dates in all of our pocket calendars. It is nice to see T writing these things by hand instead of using her Blackberry! It reminds me of my own mother and her constant calendar-ing (can I make this into an adjective? I think I just did!)

When the boys finished two hours later we piled into the Jeep with the crafted “monsters” from recyclable items like yogurt cups, bottles, straws and paper. We drove a few miles farther and found ourselves being told where to park by a 10 foot  man dressed in a polka-dot striped suit! He was standing on hidden stilts but the kids were quite impressed and turned my chin to stare out the window as if I somehow missed this gigantic clown. After we parked we went through maze-like grounds with gardens, a pond and many flowers (flowers and pollen are totally kicking my ASS! I have the worst allergies I have had ever!) we found our group waiting for us at a reserved table. It was Guido and Pietro and their parents, their other friend and his parents and us: totaling a party of 12. This restaurant was gorgeous inside and outside with plenty are large parties for this gorgeous Sunday that it was. The name was Casette di Campagna which means “Country Houses.” This area was set up just so. A few “houses” created this country like atmosphere that was fancy and upscale yet still kid friendly. Complete with a park above the restaurant for the kids to run wild and even a “show” to entertain the kids and a “bounce house” made this “country home” complete!

I let the adults do the first course ordering and made up my mind of some pasta that I have been wanting to try: Cacio di Pepe. S offered me some pasta that the kids were having and I told him I wanted the Cacio di Pepe and laughed when 4 of the 6 adults raised their hand that that was what they wanted too! Cacio e Pepe literally means “pepper and cheese.” This simple dish is made of Pecorino Romano and fresh ground pepper; that is it! I love spicy and Pecorino is one of my favorites. The pasta choice was a new one for me. Sadly, I didn’t write down the name but it was like spaghetti on steroids! This long pasta was almost the size of pencils and cooked perfectly al dente. I could barely finish my plate after the first course of fresh ricotta, grilled eggplant, spicy cheese, crusty soft baked bread and some other tiny fried surprise that had a little kick to it! I sat at the kids end of the table and talked soccer with the 5 boys and helped feed Matteo when he got lazy. On my left sat my other favorite little kid Pietro. Seriously, I am in love with this tiny boy! He has the most adorable porcelain face, full red pouty lips, innocent shining brown eyes and thick chestnut hair. He is always excited to see me when I see him at school and his mother admitted to me today that she knows he is in love with me too! Later at the park she told me that I was “not” his babysitter and that I could go and take a rest from playing with him. I promised her that I didn’t mind and that she should take a break! I don’t see him everyday, I assured her, it was my pleasure to watch over him. I think he is only about 3 years old but he and I have great talks since our conversations are so “simple” and we exchange a few words back and forth. I was impressed that this little guy was so eager to feed himself and didn’t really make that much of a mess while the other boys (all except one!) needed help from an adult. Once the boys finished they wanted to run free but the rest of the table was still waiting on their plates. It seems all the other tables around us got served before us and I could feel the tension between the confused waiters. I sipped my white crisp wine in no rush and watched the staff open wine for other tables, take  dirty plates and argue with each other quietly. I think I miss the excitement of working in a busy restaurant! It is always a new crowd to please and the money is fair for the conversation and “free food” you get to enjoy in the back!

Once we finished our lunch it was time for dessert and coffee.  I was full but I couldn’t refuse lemon sorbet when it was offered so I said yes. The children became antsy waiting for their gelato and berries and I tried to keep them all together at the end of the table checking out Matteo’s Calciatori “book” with all his stickers of the players from all the teams. Together we would flip through each team and the sets of boys would tell me which ones they had or the ones that were missing. Even little Pietro, who is much too young to read knew the names of some of the players by heart just by placement in the book! He would say their name out and I was baffled that he knew their place in the book after he would point to a blank space in the book where their face would belong! Studying and knowing soccer teams obviously starts VERY young here for males! It is a lifelong commitment that begins when a child begins talking. I assume this much is true.

Tommaso and I had the limone sorbetto served to us in a champagne flute. It was like a fancy slushy! It tasted better than any Slurpee I have had in my life but I couldn’t help thinking that is what the cold texture related to! I thought it would be served like the gelato but their limone sorbetto was special. I offered a taste to Matteo from my spoon and he took it but made the “lemon pucker” face like it was much to sour for his taste. I laughed and he offered me the tiniest dip from his fastly melting vanilla gelato. His dessert and mine did not go together but he continued to offer me small bites and I gave him big bites of mine just to watch his face! He finally offered me a “big bite” and shoved the full tiny spoon in my mouth. I told him thank you and tried to offer him one more bite of mine before I picked it up to literally drink the remainder of my dessert. Full and happy I offered to go with the children up to the park so the adults could enjoy their caffe. I took little Pietro by the hand and led the kids up a paved path. I did take my boiling “hot-shot” of caffe with a pinch of sugar before escorting the boys. It was too late to head back for my sunglasses and as we arrived to the park I felt a sneeze attack coming on. I must have sneezed 11 times in 2 minutes no joke! A stranger that worked the Valet area of the restaurant even asked if I was ok. “Aller…(sneeze!) gia..” I replied trying not to laugh in fear that snot might fly out of my nose! He nodded with understanding eyes and excused me by saying, “salute!” I like that when you say this it is for clinking drinks and a sneeze. “To your health” is interchangeable with “God bless you.” We played in the park until it began to rain. In between sunshine the droplets were large and surprised us as we scrambled saying goodbye and headed to our cars. The adults were happy to have a “real” reason to get to leave without making any of the children cry since they were having so much fun! Tommaso even won some outside bowling contest and received free cotton candy as his prize. Which later made him more carsick from all the sugar and running around…

On the way home we stopped at the best gelateria Vice for some more dessert for at home. We each agreed on Pistachio, since it is everyone’s favorite in this household! S termed this flavor as “the master” of all gelato and I couldn’t agree more! Tommaso got out to help his father get the ice cream and Matteo threw a fit and wanted to get out the car too. The back doors are on permanent “child-lock” so from there we have no control over the windows or the doors. Even in the passenger seat the driver controls your window! T let Matteo out as he stomped on my foot and almost elbowed me in the face in his rush to get out. She led him inside and told me they would all be right back. I sat “bitch” in the car with all the windows down locked inside the center of the car. When they returned I was glad to be only a block from home. The backseat is not small by any means but between two “car seats”, two sets of elbows, four legs kicking me, four hands on me and four eyes on me at all times it gets a little uncomfortable. This is the stuff that I will miss most when I have to say goodbye to my boys…


Posted in: When in Rome