Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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.

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photo: internet

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?

WORK SETS YOU FREE – ARBEIT MACHT FREI Dachau Munich

 

60 years after the inhumane imprisonment of one hundred and eighty-eight thousand inmates and the execution of almost thirty-two thousand, a young (me) crossed that “factory” line. The line in which:

 

  • A person loses all rights but one: to beg the warders to execute you.
  • Your father is no longer yours, and your mother cannot hug you or dry your tears.
  • All your posessions will feed the expenses of the bloody war machine.
  • You go to sleep without having dinner, and instead “enjoy” a peace of old, moldy bread or simply water as a meal.

 

I remember I walked in a prisoner’s dormitory and my body started to sweat cold and I was shaking. I was afraid, even knowing that the days of pain and misery were far from that day. I started to loose my balance and was walking backwards and my internal compass was spinning at a dizzying speed. I was losing my equilibrium, and I could smell the urine and sweat of the prison floors. The tourists around me had vanished. I was alone. I was still stepping backwards and my hands were reaching for something to stop me. Moments later, my hands rested on something cold and damp. I regained my senses and I had control over my body once again. As I looked behind me, I found that my right hand was leaning on that bench.

the-bench

That bench with the stick of punishment, one that the Lagerordnung (Disciplinary and Penal Code written for Dachau) was inviting the SS warders to use in order to punish the workers with no names. They were called people (the trend between the Lager’s prisoners was more or less 100 pounds). I jumped when I saw that bench. I was scared. I started walking towards the door to outside and I could smell myself. It was a mix of pee and sweat, and my black and white long-sleeves were dirty. I turned my head to the left and I caught a reflection of my face full of wounds and I could feel my back was painful and red red bloody. As I ran faster, the dormitory door started to close. Behind the door started to illuminate and the dream looked like it was vanishing. I knew I didn’t belong to that day, moment, or time of history. As I was running, the handle of a gun punched me in the face and I felt myself passing out. I fell into four bony arms that stopped me. I could faintly see on their wrists 102456 and 102475. I didn’t even have the time to realize what was happening and I was kneeled with bare chest exposed, blood dripping from my face. I heard Ein (one) and felt a sharp slap with a wund (painful) stick on my back. My skin swelled up in the area where the stick hit me. Then I heard Zwei (two), again the same pain but 10 times harder. I started saying the first words of “Our Father”…Drei (three)…

Once I opened my eyes, a brown haired woman was throwing water over my face. Lots of tourists from all over the world were watching me with worry. None of my classmates were there. I was lucky not to pass out in front of them. God knows how many times they would make jokes on me.

 

Yes, the life gave me the opportunity to travel and visit this place…

 

15 minutes after that episode, I finally was able to convince the lady that I was fine. I was finally free to go out and breath in some fresh air. I was walking towards the bus parking. It was early in the morning, around 10:00 AM and it was February. I remember even now after several years, how I wasn’t able to handle that cold weather. It was fogy and wet. The jacket my parents bought for me for that school trip was really warm but it didn’t matter.

 

The walk towards the gate of freedom was tough and the remorse was killing me. My fellow classmates were taking pictures around the memorial and by the wall of inscriptions, enjoying the day trip and laughing. From within the fence, my imagination could see around me these young and old prisoners, in their black and white uniforms, watching me with sad faces. I was disappointing them. I was giving up. I was weak, but they knew something:

 

I was there with a mission…

 

As I’m writing this article I understand why they were all watching me with sad faces. They wanted me to write this article and let the world know what happened to them and other people during that war.

 

Through me, that small part of the world that doesn’t know about all these humanitarian injustices, can now know more.

 

I hope that one day, every single person on this planet (Mr. PewDiePie included) will finally understand that we cannot trivialize what the war atrocities have brought to our planet.

 

Outside the fence, I turned around and read the words over the gate: ARBEIT MACHT FREI – WORK SETS YOU FREE

 

All those 188.000 people who stepped into that place were there with a hope. Working hard, one day, will set them free again.

 

Everything was a lie

 

I decided to return back and step by step, I walked every single centimeter of that camp. I saw the showers and the crematory. I saw things that, to imagine what they were used for, would make you vomit.

 

the-crematorium
Crematory

 

gas-showers
Gas Chamber

Two hours later, I began walking back towards the gate. The sky now was becoming blue and the sun was coming out. Those sad faces were sunny and they were happy. The children and their parents now were wearing their époque clothes and they were greeting me. They were walking with towards the gate to freedom.

 

I wasn’t cold anymore and my heart and soul were strong. I came out of that Lager more me; I came out of that camp more human…

 

Our society has learned a lot from these errors and has changed a little bit since then, but we still have a lot of work to do. Are we going to learn from our mistakes? Let’s begin to write a non-violent history and bring freedom to all those who cannot defend themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The streets of Maastricht were humming Ave Maria

 

The life has been really generous with me and gave me the chance to raise my head above the crowd to see how the world truly is.

A long time ago, I visited one of the pioneer electronic music festivals, driven by teenage curiosity. Everybody at the time was talking about these amazing electronic music festivals being organized around the country.

Ave Maria and electronic music collide…

Soon you will understand the connection between the Netherlands – one of those countries you have to travel to if you want to experience the most authentic and original music innovations – and the song Ave Maria.

Ready to hear what happened to me during that short trip to the Netherlands, and how much it influenced my life?

I was driving en route back to Italy, when I realized it was the very first time in my life being in an amazing country like the Netherlands, and that it might also be the last. I would like to think of the Netherlands as an amazing country because they truly really are. Everything positive you might hear about the flat country Nederland, is true. I am quite sure it might be really hard to find a country like that.

Before visiting the House of Orange-Nassau Kingdom, I remember all these Dutch students who were coming to Italy for a week to stay with Italian families (thanks to a high school student exchange program). I was amazed by their good English and their sunny disposition all day long. I can recall even now, several years after graduation, their narrations of their exchange programs. I was convinced, and still am, that the Dutch mentality is innovative, bringing with it many revolutionary ideas to the world.

I would like to further explain to all of you why I realized the Dutch People are revolutionary.

 First of all, they love their country, and their country loves them. While the world is worried about politics and their Bloody GDP Growth (Gross Domestic Product) , the Dutch people’s toughest problem is choosing between Italy or Spain for their next summer holiday. Exactly! Their country loves them by giving them the opportunity not to worry about their jobs.

Secondly, they bike everywhere which allows them to breathe in the fresh air and live a healthy lifestyle. Because of this, they don’t need a vacation to escape to, because they live in the best place where to enjoy your fresh and clean air.

Thirdly, when the rest of the world was still thinking of ways to produce fossil fuel, most of their houses were already powered by green and renewable resources.

Well, while I was driving, the idea of leaving the country (with only with a music festival and some pictures from the highway) was killing me. I was thinking to myself:

What if I will never be able to step back into this country…would I be happy with this experience?

It was in that moment that I exited off Highway A2 (towards Belgium, then France, then Italy) and drove to the nearest town. The sun was still strong and I remember the amazing roads they had. The cute and tidy houses made of bricks or stones, were accompanying me towards downtown.

After 5 minutes I wasn’t able to drive anymore. I needed to park and continue my adventure on foot. I left the car and was walking among other people, as I listened to music on my smartphone at a high volume.

Once I arrived at the sign indicating the City Centre, I decided to grab an espresso.

Taking off my headphones, I realized the streets of Maastricht were humming the song Ave Maria

Holly tomolly, my skin was full of Goosebumps and I couldn’t control it, not even with my (insanely expensive) espresso. That song flooded my ears with a melodic tune. I was able to recognize the various instruments. My first thought was feeling happy at not leaving the Netherlands without a final stop in this beautiful city.

In my broken English, scattered with plenty of Italian words, I asked a blond haired woman, “What is happening this evening in Maastricht?” And of course, she answered me in perfect English that night the city was hosting one of the Billboard Top 25 Tours in the world. That night, destiny gave me a huge present and brought me to the most important concert that Andre Rieu organizes every single year in Maastricht since 1988.

What? I was born in 1988, have a love of music, and I’d never heard of Andre Rieu before.

After the coffee, I kept walking through the downtown and the music grew stronger and even sweeter to our ears.

My travel buddy had his camera with him and we still had our Press Badges (which sometimes allows you not to pay for expensive events).

Guess what?

 

Yep, we snuck in and got two free tickets as free press journalists. Smart, I know!

Within minutes, I was amazed as we listened and watched this huge stage (I found out from an Italian tourist who was there that evening that Andre Rieu’s stage that year was one of the biggest ever to go on tour). There was an amazing audience with flags in hand from all over the world.

I remember my childhood orchestra concerts in my town were nothing like that. He was winning the people’s hearts (mine too) by adopting a very simple technique: He was providing a happy and smiley atmosphere with his orchestra, not a serious and somber one.

I remember when I was younger, going to an orchestra concert and I couldn’t laugh or cough without somebody from behind me touching my back and asking you to show respect.

This man was doing what a Dutch person does. He was revolutionizing the orchestra. He was surrounding his stage with youthful and enthusiastic musicians.

He was winning the attention and the heart of a young man (me) who, until that day, knew Electronic music was his favorite music. That young man was wrong.

In 1987, his revolutionary idea of creating the Johann Strauss Orchestra was really smart. Twenty years later, he was winning me, a young and musical ignorant man. With his 1667 Stradivarius violin and his 100+ musicians behind him, he was giving to the old Waltz music a perfect revival magic. The classical works were played in such a way that the chords and the sounds of the instruments were winning my ears and heart.

That night, the two times award winner of World Music Awards, Andre Leon Marie Nicolas Rieu, an ‘’old guy’’ (born 1 October 1949) was my Orchestra DJ. On that day, I was learning something else: the importance of traveling.

Traveling gives you the chance to see how everything works from multiple perspectives.

Traveling can change the person you are and sometimes for the better. Meeting people of different cultures teaches you a better way to interact with others.

Through experiencing cultures that are different than our own, we can find a way towards an international peaceful cohabitation.

Pleasantly stuck in a Tablao Sevillano

 

Stop me while you come across and ask me to tell you a reason why I love and appreciate our amazing world, and this might be my response to your question: Because I was lucky to have the opportunity to live multiple Flamenco experiences.

How did the opportunity that you’re calling “lucky” happen?

I was younger and culturally ignorant when I decided to fly to Sevilla, España (located in Andalusia, the southern Spanish region which is considered by Spain as a continent of its own). The main reason I decided on that destination was mostly because of the cheap flights, cheap food and because our holiday consultant (Google) was linking on my computer screen to a place where you can find seas and lands to explore.

What was it instead? That trip was a lot more than what I just wrote. That mini vacation completely changed my life. Sevilla made me a better version of myself by sending me home with a huge luggage full of cultural, artistic and historic memories. Memories, that after more than 6 years later, I still vividly remember in my mind and heart.

It was the first time I was happy not being in the most famous local music club. I didn’t realize I was slowly falling in love with Andalusia. I was considering myself one of the locals (well, honestly this might happen in all the Spanish places you will visit, they have this effect on the people) and I was enjoying that sensation. They love making you feel part of that place and the most amazing thing is that wherever you go, they will always share the best quality food and drinks, the same they have on their dinner tables.

Yes but how did you find yourself Pleasantly stuck in a Tablao Sevillano?

After enjoying some early afternoon tapas (small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar) and an amazing Estrella beer (served in a frozen glass) I decided to walk through the Plaza De Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla (the arena where they challenge the bulls to death) to see how it was inside. Honestly being in the middle of that arena, trying to imagine a public and a bull in front of you, makes you sweat and be nervous even if the only thing there with you is the wind blowing arena sand in your face.

After the Bull Arena I thought: And now what?

I remember walking through Paseo de Cristóbal Colón and at some point I heard (I’m always attracted to the music) a kind of music I’d never heard before. It was something like the music in this video…

 

(I apologize for the advertisement!)

As I walked in, my body already full of goosebumps, I payed $40.00 for the next show and a complimentary glass of wine.

The colorful room, full of Andalusian and Arabian architectural style, was crowded with people from all over the world. I knew I kinda liked the music and nothing else. At some point the show started and I realized I was loving that glass of likely Spanish red wine, so I asked for another one (I couldn’t watch the show without having a second complimentary drink).

Now here comes the best part

Three black suited guys, wearing black shoes and white shirts, walked in and sat at their chairs. All three men were preparing their guitars. The moment they started playing their instruments in an different way than I was used, I wasn’t the same man. I became the new me who understands the beauty of the world (me less ignorant). I transformed into a better person who appreciates those people with a hard mission (spreading the beauty of culture and the arts).

When they started to mix the sounds of the guitar chords with their masculine voices, my body was compulsively dancing. And then when the women walked on stage with their beautiful and colorful dresses and started to dance with those sensual body movements, I was amazed. Every single strong step on that floor vibrated to the depths of my soul. Their soft yet serious face while moving their arms and flowing skirts, made my feet dance on the floor. It was then that I saw a Japanese woman taking pictures of my feet. I started to laugh.

And the even sweeter part?

At some point, a good-looking man in his 50’s entered and immediately took possession of the stage with a non-stop 30 minutes of Cante (singhing), Baile (dance), Jaleo (vocalizations), Pitos (finger snapping) dance. I was amazed how he was able to dance without easing up for even a second. After his sweaty performance, he started to dance with the main female dancer El baile de la pasion. My level of happiness was at 100 % and I was whistling and applauding along with all the people.

That night was one of my best nights ever. That night I learned something new. I knew what it truly meant to love the culture and the arts. Since then I never stopped suggesting Sevilla with its Flamenco culture to whomever asked me about an amazing place to visit.

Later that night I found out amazing facts on the Internet about Flamenco that you might like to know:

  • Many flamenco dancers do not hit their peak until their thirties and will continue to perform into their fifties and beyond.
  • The young people are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende (soul) of the genre.
  • The oldest record of Flamenco dates to 1774 in the book Las Cartas Marruecas by Jose Cadalso.
  • The genre originated in the music and dance styles of Andalusia and includes: Cante (singing), Toque (guitar playing), Baile (dance), Jaleo (vocalizations), Palmas (hand clapping), Pitos (finger snapping).
  • Tuesday the 16th of December 2010 by decision of Intergovernmental Committee of Unesco Intangible Heritage, Flamenco became part of the representative list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

I hope you will have the same luck to visit Sevilla and go to a Flamenco show. If not, I hope the passion in these words allow you to live vicariously through my travel adventure!