The often inexplicable vicissitudes of life found me on my own for dinner last night in Lecce.
And honestly, that suited me just fine. I ate a pizza and drank a beer at 8 p.m. and was in bed by 9:30, just what I needed on the night before the night before I head home to Texas.
It seems that every one of my Italian sojourns includes a dinner for one in a workaday pizzeria. And I always look forward to it: it reminds me of my years as a student here, when a pizza and a beer were a treat that aligned with the economic outlook of a hopeful Italian scholar.
At the pizzeria around the corner from my hotel, tee gee OO-noh — the evening news on the RAI1 national television network — was blasting. The owner graciously offered me a table for one, with a view of the televisore (the correct word, btw, for television set in Italian).
Things in austerity-era Italy are really rough for average Italians. And they’re only getting worse: once again driving his own agenda (this time, his bid to nullify his tax evasion conviction, which was upheld by Italy’s highest court), Berlusconi is forcing the Italian coalition government to collapse.
In our exhilaration of all things Italian, we often forget that these are extremely trying times for average Italians — grape growers and winemakers among them.
As one grower noted during my trip, the only ones surviving (surviving, she said) are those who sell their products outside of Italy.
Cum granu salis… sprinkle some extra salt on your pizza tonight (a napoletana, with capers and anchovies), I thought to myself. Remember the bitterness.
In other news…
Where would we be without her? Rest in peace, Marcella Hazan.