Not quite hidden on a small side street Osteria Teatro Strabacco is owned by the rather Bohemian looking Danilo. Once through the narrow door you're greet by one of those eclectic looking spaces with wooden tables and benches and a wealth - depending on your point of view - of bric-a-brac.
Far better guidance was given by the chef who greeted us and led us to a corner table near a very attractive Betty Boop lamp. Within a few minutes Danilo, the bearded, slightly bohemian owner of Osteria Teatro Srabacco bounced up to the table to take our order. He did a little double-take and said that he remembered us from last year and welcomed us back. I'm not sure what we did to make our brief visit last August memorable (I know the police weren't called – that time!) but it was a nice touch. When I mentioned that I had a problem with gluten he assured me there would be no problem, he had corn pasta. I am finding that more and more if I mention it in restaurants – even our lunch local – they will work around it for me.
Opened in the 1978 Strabacco is a restaurant, enoteca (wine shop) and performance space for jazz concerts. The walls are covered with photos of Danilo with various celebrities (though I must admit most were unknown to me) and murals by Lombardi artist Aldo Tuis. It personal, its homey and the food is wonderful.
For a Wednesday afternoon it was busy - several tables of regulars who exchanged banter with Danilo, the waitress and the chef; a group of French tourists and a work party celebrating the upcoming holiday. Across from us were a father and his little daughter. She was perhaps 8 or 9, they both spoke French but were practicing their Italian. Like many of us they were having problems with the "c" "ch" "cc" sounds but this very sophisticated child - she had done her own ordering, no adult interference for her - was patiently explaining it to her elder. What could have sounded impertinent was actually a very charming little exchange between father and daughter.
We both went for a simple meal – antipasti for both, primi for me and secondi for Laurent. And everything was a good as we remembered it.
Laurent says that all it takes to make me happy are potatoes in any form and he may be right. This frittata di patate was simplicity in itself. Lumpy (but perfectly cooked) mashed potatoes, mixed with mozzarella and rosemary then fried in a bit of butter and olive oil. Spud splendor! His cod carpaccio was thin slices of cod dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and sesame seeds.
Lemon juice showed up again in my fusseli as a dressing for the fresh anchovies, wild fennel and pine nuts and corn pasta. Laurent went for a more substantial portion of lamb chops – perfectly pink on the inside, charred slightly on the outside – and a healthy serving of spinach saltate.
I had two glasses of a rather nice white frizzante from the Dolomites – well they charged for two but the open bottle was left on the table so make that two and a half. There was not room for dolci and we still had an hours drive ahead of us so we settle for coffee, the very reasonable bill and Danilo's wish that we come back again soon.
13 agosto - Santi Ponziano e Ippolito