Monday, March 12, 2007

Oddly Italian

It's very easy to forget you are in a different country when travelling these days. The transitions between cities are so quick and easy, the lines of communication so solid and reliable that it's only the hours sitting in the waiting room like metal tube of the aeroplane that lets you know you are moving at all. So, it's always a beautiful surprise to realise that the people around you see things differently. They see other cultures differently, they prize slightly different things. Experiencing that, seeing things through others eyes is a part of travelling that is still undiminished.

A few days ago I met up with Sam and Cookiecrumb for dinner in The Castro at a restaurant called Incanto. I'd been promised a stunning Italian restaurant boasting an daily changing menu with a great line in all things offal. Any regular reader of this blog will know this is something of a favourite topic. What I hadn't anticipated was something of a culture shock, something surprising and wonderful. Stunning Italian food as seen through the lens of California. It was simple, it was refined, it was utterly delicious. It was Italian food, then somehow it wasn't.

The salumi's were all made in house and were a joy, the duck ragu on my pasta starter was some of the deepest, most savoury and satisfying I've had. The lamb's neck and creamy polenta was an "oh fuck" moment, the first forkful a moment of happy blissful contentment. Others enjoyed the Monty Python-eseque cockscombs and ducks tongues. This was Italian food removed, a slight ontological shift, deeply authentic yet giving of something else, a sense of where it was. This really shouldn't be that much of a surprise really. Italian food, though seemingly rigid when looked at in one isolated spot, flowers, grows and mutates as it travels, changes utterly as the geography changes. Miles make it shift and writhe like a chimera, yet it is always recognisable. The food at Incanto and the red sauce cooking of my mother are genetically linked, but like all families, there are some things that are never agreed on, some things that can never be reconciled.


Barbara said...

There's not a lot of good Italian food in New Zealand because we never had the Italian immigration. Australia has much more to offer because they did. But I had a particularly bad Italian meal on my last trip to Perth...and I was in the company of my Italian uncle and it was one of his favourite restaurants. I think his tastebuds are ruined from the cigars.

Sam said...

Your lamb & polenta was also my "oh f***" moment - that would be "oh f*** why the hell didn't I order that too?"

Krista said...

missing your gorgeous photos--am sure you have taken loads!