We left Omegna early this morning, around eight thirty. It was a pretty spot and a nice hotel and very nice people. My 5th grade English teacher told me never to use the word nice in writing. She was right. The one “unpleasant” thing about Omegna, and it really was not that unpleasant, was that the city was having the festival of San Vito all week. San Vito, a Roman era martyre from the Island of Sicily and the patron Saint of Omegna, was being celebrated with Sicilian street foods and loud, live music just behind the hotel where we were staying. Fortunately we had AC and the music stopped at midnight. So it was not all that bad. It’s funny that we left Sicily last year and the first town we come to in Italy, which is as far from Sicily as you can possibly get and still be on the same territory, was having a Sicilian fair.
This morning we drove about 3 hours south to the city of Cremona, of violin fame, to a hotel that is fairly close to the cathedral. By close I mean if you step out the front door and turn right and trip and fall 5 times, you are facing the cathedral as in the picture above. But it was hot when we got here. We went for a walk to find an ATM. We saw one in the cathedral square but it was in direct sun and could not be read. So we walked. Apparently in the wrong direction because we did not find another until we turned around and returned to the same area where there were at least 6 banks all together. By that time we were getting a bit hungry.
If you have ever been to Florence you understand how crowded that city center gets in the summer with mostly American and German and Chinese tourists. It’s hard to move sometimes no less to try to get a reservation at a decent restaurant. That is not the case here. This place is abandoned. There are people but very few and they all seem very relaxed and laid back. Very different from Florence. So Alice and I decided to get something to eat but did not want Italian bar food. I don’t like Italian bar food. Dry bread, dry pizza, salami, ham and cheese. That is about everything. So we went looking for a real restaurant. We walked, it must have been 100 or 150 steps, until we saw two gentlemen in white standing in a doorway. I asked if pranzo is ready and the answer was certo.
We have spent 10 months in France. Admittedly we did not go out to eat often. The ingredients we picked up at the markets were so good that we did most of our eating at home. When we did go out the quality of the cooking was not what I expected given the reputation that the country has. Even when we were leaving France and ate at a top rated restaurant in Tain L’Hermitage, the food was ok. Just ok. We ate cheap in Omegna so I can’t compare. This restaurant, which was chosen completely randomly, turned out to be the best place we’ve eaten in in over a year. Maybe longer. The service was also superb.
We started with a complimentary Baccala mousse that was delicate and flavorful. My appetizer was a braised octopus on finely cut tomatoes and mixed pit fruits. Delicious. Alice had a plate of prosciutto from local pigs that are raised free range their entire lives (stress free the waiter said) and the meat was aged 33 months. Again delicious. My main (we decided not to go the full primo, secondo, given the heat) was a risotto made with pumpkin, amaretti crumbs and Cremona mostarda. Again delicious. Alice had a fillet steak served on a broth of marrow and mushrooms. Again delicious.
Alice, being Alice, chose the menu item that had chocolate used the most times. It was called chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. It was made with chocolate. Mine was called Red Heart. It was a chocolate mousse with a heart of strawberry mousse. Again, really good. We had a Banfi Chardonnay with the meal that went perfectly with everything. Then we went and had ourselves a nap