During our visit in July 2017, we were honored to receive an invitation for an Italian dinner at Cristina’s parents’ home along with some family friends. We have seen many Italian movies where there is a mix of family and friends laughing and eating around a large table. This is something only Hollywood could create, right? Time would tell…
We spent a few hours before dinner walking through the cobbled streets of Montepulciano searching for gifts to bring to Cristina’s parents for hosting dinner. We settled on a nice bottle of wine for Roberto (Cristina’s dad), which we found in one of the many enotecas (wine shops) located throughout town. Only knowing a little about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the Nobile Wine of Montepulciano, we enlisted the assistance of a very skilled sommelier to find just the right bottle.
For Teresa (Cristina’s mom), we settled on a beautiful box of hand-picked chocolates from the local chocolatier in Montepulciano. We could almost smell the sweet aroma as we approached the shop. Walking in, we found ourselves in chocolate heaven. Choosing which chocolates would be a challenge, but fortunately the person behind the counter was very skilled and helped us choose the perfect confections.
Although dinner was at 7pm, knowing when to actually arrive was a bit of a challenge for us. We needed to respect the rules of “Italian-time” – not arriving exactly on time. For Toby, that was a real challenge. He likes to arrive at the movies an hour early to not miss anything. For David, it’s not much of a challenge. He would rather arrive right before the movie starts and skip all the previews, but he tends to lose this argument! As far as when to arrive to our first Italian dinner, Toby gave in this time, we arrived fashionably late…
When we arrived, there was a nice crowd of people. There was Cristina and her parents, Cristina’s sister Valentina and her fiancé Roberto, along with many other friends of the family. The dinner table was set on the back terrace that overlooked Cristina’s father’s garden. There was wine already flowing along with endless laughter. We were greeted as part of the family, not strangers moving from America. It was an incredibly warm feeling to say the least.
Cristina’s parents were very grateful for the gifts. We learned that Cristina’s dad actually makes his own wine, but he is always willing to try someone else’s just so he knows how much better his is!
We’ll get to describing the incredible food in a minute, but first up – the alcohol! From what we can remember, there was Prosecco, homemade wine, wine from Canneto – an amazing local winery, Vin Santo – a traditional dessert wine, and grappa – or as we like to call it…rocket fuel! Everything we drank was made locally in Montepulciano – much of it by Cristina’s dad. What a family!
As soon as we sat down, the food started flowing. There were crostini with fresh tomatoes picked earlier that day from Roberto’s garden. That was followed by plates of expertly prepared vegetables, also from the garden. Next up was homemade pasta served with truffles. The pasta was perfectly al dente in a light buttery sauce served with freshly shaved truffles on top. All we can say is this dish is something everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime!
The pasta was followed with two meat dishes. We were pretty apprehensive about this because we are just not big meat eaters, however, we didn’t want to insult our hosts. They wanted to prepare dishes that were Tuscan and very local and said they’d be so happy if we would try them. The first dish was cinghiale – wild boar. It was explained that this can be quite difficult to prepare, you have to know just what you’re doing. The second dish was venison, something that neither of us really ever cared for.
With great trepidation, we both put small amounts of each on our plates. A hush came over our new friends as they watched us take our first bite. It’s very unnerving to be watched as you are about to taste something for the first time. This could have gone very badly, but fortunately for us, it was quite the opposite. Both dishes were exquisitely prepared, but the taste of the cinghiale was heavenly and was our favorite. Everyone started clapping as we continued to devour the cinghiale and venison. We are still not big meat eaters but will bend the rules whenever we have dinner at Cristina’s!
Our first Italian Dinner was topped off by Roberto (Cristina’s sister’s fiancé) preparing a homemade crepe filled with Nutella. With amazing skill, he cooked the thin pastry to perfection, filled it with Nutella goodness, and folded it into a triangle for serving. So amazingly simple and yet a perfect end to a great meal.
Throughout the dinner, stories were shared and laughs were exchanged. At one point, we went around the table and each couple told the story of how they met their spouse. We were not too sure how we would be received as a couple, but when we told our story, it was met with cheers and clapping. Right at that moment, we knew we would be accepted and included in this beautiful extended Italian family…