In 2007 we visited the medieval town of Randazzo in Sicily. We were there to celebrate my 50th birthday year. I’m only thinking about this now because we plan to travel back next year to celebrate my 60th birthday.
Dave and I were there for about a month. The first part of the vacation we celebrated with our kids, friends Dave, Tricia and Irena. After they left, my sister Paula and her husband Paul joined us.
Throughout the entire stay we had a glorious time with great food and wine. But this story is not about one of those times.
It was towards the end of our stay in Sicily. We drove to the town of Randazzo, our name sake. It is a beautiful medieval place at the foot of Mount Etna. We found a great B & B, atop a wonderful shoe store. Paula was in heaven. Matteo, the owner of the B & B and the shoe store was a great host. He made suggestions and told us to use his name whenever we stopped somewhere in town.
On one of the last days in town, we were wandering around. It was getting late (by late I mean noon, when everything closes and people go home for lunch and naps) and we were hungry. We didn’t plan this very well.
We were tired, hungry and a wee bit whiney. Paul complained about the lack of civilization. Which promptly got my back up about what civilization is and this was it. While we were debating this point, Paula had slowed down to look in a window of a taverna. Before we knew what was happening, a small four foot tall crone, dressed in black, grabbed my sister and dragged her into the bar. We sped up to follow. The crone kept saying in a witchy kind of voice, ‘Entrare, entrare. Hai fame?’ She was offering us food. We looked at each other and thought ‘ok.’
She took us through the bar into a banquet room. We were the only ones there. The signals were loud and clear from the get go… a little witchy crone, an empty place… could it get worse? Yes.
I was the translator, using my very basic Italian. She, of course, spoke no English, ‘Pasta? Ziti al forno? Vino rosso?’ I translated, “pasta, baked ziti and red wine.” I asked for ‘insalata’ – salad.
She brought us each a serving of baked ziti, which I swear was 3 weeks old. It was crusty, dry and terrible, possibly rancid. The red wine came next. It was home made in a plastic bottle that use to have some other liquid in it. Not sure what. Dave poured the wine. It is hard to describe in words the sound that the wine made as it poured. It was a thick, glub, glub kind of sound. It sounded solid.
Nope, nope, nope. I did not drink it. Dave and Paul tried. I think Paula poured hers in the plant behind her.
The insalata was not so bad. It was pomodori e olio d’oliva, tomatoes and olive oil. I ate some of that.
Next the crone came back and offered us funghi? I looked at the faces around the table. ‘Would you like to try some mushrooms?’ No one really said yes or no. So I ordered the mushrooms.
The crone came back a minute later and put a plate on the table. I swear to god it looked like slugs. Big, black, slimy slugs. Paula was positive the crone whipped them out from under her arm pits.
There was no way we were going to eat that. Okay, there was no way that Paula, Paul or myself were going to eat the plate of slugs. Dave, always thinking he’s being polite, tried one. I could barely hold on while I watched his jaw work and gag reflex kick in. That was the highlight of our lunch.
We were done. He was really done.
We got our bill. Not surprisingly it was the most expensive meal we had on our entire trip. Dave barely survived. He spent the rest of the afternoon at the B & B, sick and out of sorts.
We forgot to mention Matteo’s name. Though I’m not sure if it would have helped us with the crone.