As mentioned in my previous post, we met our friend Simone our first week in Ascoli Piceno and ever since he has been our tour guide, companion, and family. In Italy, family is a very important construct. The culture accepts those from every generation at every function. At three in the morning celebrating the victory of their neighborhood in the Quintana, I was with people from the age 12 to 70. It is much different from the American culture where during get togethers we tend to stick to those in our age groups. In Italy, there is no divide between generations, everyone is capable of talking to those of any age.
Simone’s parents own a small cheese shop right off of the main piazza, Piazza del Popolo, called Casa del Parmigiano. They sell everything from their homemade sauces, cured meats, pickled vegetables, and cheeses, to dried pastas and breads. When we first met Simone, we did not realize that we already had met his parents. He invited us into his home for a home-cooked Italian meal by his parents. Our first course was the famous olive all’ascolana, which homemade are a whole different monster. Lightly coated in flour and breadcrumbs and friend in olive oil, this olive all’ascolana dish was much lighter than those I’ve had in restaurants. Simone’s parents, sister, and Simone himself spent hours in the kitchen before our arrival making the entire meal. We were seated in the dining room and they did not sit to join us, but instead continued to cook and insisted that we began eating. The second course was another classic ascolani dish, pasta with tuna and olives in a red sauce. Not being much of a fish fan, I was weary of the dish, but after tasting it realized how well the flavors blend together. The final course, and the largest, was about 5 varieties of homemade pizza. There was spicy salami, caramelized onion, porcini, speck, vegetable, and sausage pizzas. His mother brought out two massive trays of pizza, and we were not shy about finishing both. Each devouring at least 6 slices, she ran into the kitchen to grab another tray. Of course this was followed with “mangia, mangia”. I essentially had to be rolled out of their house. The meal was completed with a frizzy red wine as well as a rosado wine. To end the meal, of course espresso was served.
The overwhelming hospitality of the Zunica family made me feel so at home in a country so far away. Creating a home away from home in Ascoli Piceno has become a much easier task to conquer than I ever thought possible.