I remember the first time I stepped on Italian soil almost 15 years ago. There was a restaurant along the highway called Autogrill.
The first thing I saw was this incredible plate with this delicious spaghetti perfectly served on a plate like a bird nests. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Below a poster showing this incredible spaghetti mixed with eggs and pancetta, a guy was sitting there ready to burn his tongue and mouth in order to scarf down that identical dish.
When I heard my father suggest for us to go inside to have lunch, I became excited of the idea. My brain started to guess about the flavor. My taste buds were ready and my concerns of handling the fork and long spaghetti were vanished.
As we walked inside, I looked outside quickly. I turned my head while listening to what my dad was telling me, but the view I had seen captured my attention: the incredible Alto-Adige’s mountains.
I remember I was so enchanted by the mountains that I didn’t even hear when the waitress asked me for my lunch order.
My dad called my name, and the idea of ordering that pasta plate took possession on my mind and belly.
Before I go further, I would like to mention that my Italian was so bad. I was barely able to count till 10 or say “Buongiorno” or “Ciao”.
I tried my best with my thick Romanian accent, but the lady wasn’t able to understand. Now that I analyze it better, I think I was the one who didn’t have any idea of what that poor lady was trying to explain to me.
My dad left me to see if I was able to manage ordering the lunch on my own but…he came in to my rescue and explained that they closed the kitchen at 5 minutes to 2:00. Looking at my watch, it was 2:07. I was so disappointed as I was eating the fried chicken, the only thing they had left. All the drive back home I was craving that plate of pasta. In that moment, I hated that place and their cook. I was ready to spend even fifty euro in order to have that plate. I remember I wasn’t a friendly journey mate and the silence started to dominate the car.
The sad thing, or if we want to call it the coincidence, wanted me to not have that plate for a long time.
It took to me almost 9 years before finally having my first plate of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I remember that day I was visiting a small Borgo on the Apennines’s mountains back in Italy.
I was visiting this beautiful Borgo when I stopped for an Italian caffee ristretto in glass when I was talking with the owner of this small Trattoria. I don’t know how we started to talk about his life. He was narrating to me how he met his wife and their first pregnancy. After 45 minutes, I was ready to start a fake phone call in order to escape. The funny thing is that he wasn’t even a person who let you join the conversation and add episodes about your own life…
After other 20 minutes of talking (him) and listening (me), he got into the restaurant side and he started to talk about his steps of becoming a chef and his early life in Rome. I remember I was surprisingly interested and engaged.
He touched the subject of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Right away I confessed to him my early life experience in that highway restaurant. He jumped from his chair and exclaimed:
“Mo ti ci porto io in cucina e ti preparo il vero ed autentico piatto di Spaghetti alla Carbonara.”
He started the fire and put some water in a pot. Then he took out The Pecorino Romano Cheese (50 Grams), Parmesan Cheese (50 Grams), Pancetta (150 Grams), and 3 Eggs.
Then he started to watch me while he was preparing it. He knew what he was doing:
He browned the diced Pancetta in a pan with 2 Tablespoons of authentic Italian olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. He opened 3 eggs and beat them thoroughly, adding a pinch of salt, pepper and the Parmesan. He boiled around 350 grams of spaghetti with salt. When the spaghetti was ready (al dente) he drained the pasta and added it to the pancetta. After around 4 seconds he turned off the heat, and immediately poured in the beaten eggs, mixing it well. To top it off, he sprinkled with the Pecorino Romano cheese. Then he made that Spaghetti nest like the one from that Highway restaurant. I was crying and I gave him a hug…
Wait, I didn’t cry and I didn’t give him a hug. I tried not to be too excited.
“Ale, vieni qua li mortacci tua!”
We walked in the restaurant. He opened a bottle of Spumante di Franciacorta wine saying:
“La Carbonara va mangiata insieme allo spumante di Franciacorta! La Carbonara si fa solamente con la pancetta!”
I looked at him and I jumped on that plate. My tongue and my brain were crying and singing victory. I was the luckiest guy because I had the authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara plate.
Maybe not having that plate of pasta 14 years ago was the right thing. Maybe the destiny wanted to bring me in the right place where to enjoy the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Don’t you think that the things are happening for a reason?