What you don't get it? How old are you?
You see his most famous film was La Dolce Vita which means The Sweet Life but dolce in Italian also means dessert so I was making a play on ... oh never mind.
Anyway as I was saying before I interrupted myself, on menus in trattoria - or osteria or bars or restorante for that matter - Dolce is the dessert. It seems that after an anti-pasti, a primi and a secondi with side dishes you are expected to have room for a dolce or at least fruit. Because of the gluten thing I tend towards the fruit myself and I don't think I've ever in my life eaten as much pineapple as I have in the past three years. I'm wondering what they did for a frutta before the nice people at Dole started importing into Italy?
Often when you ask about the dolce the waiter, with a slightly glazed look in his eye, rattles off the standard list: Panna cotta, tiramisu, crema catalana, torta di Nonna, tartufo, sorbetto, gelato or frutta. And as I've discovered lately, one of my favorites, affogato seems to be there for the asking but just never mentioned.
There are meals where the dolci are as ordinary as the tone in which they were recited and then there are Dolci:
Sometimes the closest the torta di Nonna (Grandma's cake) has come to a Nonna is that the factor owner's grandmother may have visited it once; and then there is the Torta di Nonna served by Lorenzo and Bibo at the Bristolino in Pesaro. Not sure if they actually use their nonna's receipt - every nonna has her own and every one is special - but it is buttery, moist and redolent of lemon and pine nuts. And in this case its served between the secondi and the dolce just in case you need something to fill the gap while you're waiting.
And their green apple sorbet is a great finish to a big seafood meal. Sorbetto here is more liquid then we think of it in North America. Whipped frozen fruit essence perhaps with a bit of egg white beaten in and sometimes a lacing of prosecco or vodka but always served with a spoon and a straw
Then there is the ubiquitous pineapple:
Staying with the Fellini theme, the Grand Hotel in Rimini serves their pineapple as a "carpaccio" - thin slices of pineapple piled up and topped with a Florentine cup filled with creamy pineapple gelato and garnished with fresh berries. Mr Dole would be proud.
Not to be outdone, the marvelous Osteria Piazzetta dell' Erba in Assisi serves theirs as a topping for a ricotta filled canolli perched in a pineapple puree.
And their whipped vanilla Yogurt mousse was studded with chunks of juicy pineapple and slices of kiwi.
Then there's gelato:
Again Stefano at dell' Erba knows that presentation is as important as taste so for his sampling of fresh fruit gelato each scoop is topped with a slice of the source of its flavour. That evening it was baked fig, pineapple, green apple, ground cherry and kiwi. Though honestly the tastes were so intense that no visual reminder, as pretty and tasty as they were, was necessary.
The odd time you will get sorbetto served in hollowed out lemon or orange. At the lovely terrace dining room of Hotel Umbra, hidden in an alley way off the Piazza del Commune di Assisi , they've adapted the presentation. The chestnut, plum and banana gelato were served in a chestnut shell, a hollowed out plum and a tiny banana skin. Lest I make it sound like presentation was everything the gelato was delicious. It was the perfect end to a meal that had started out with the best eggplant parmigiana I have ever eaten.
And back at dell'Erba, being so close to Perugia and because apparently there are people out there who like the stuff, they had to have something chocolate. So how about a sampling of profiterolle, chocolate custard, chocolate gelato, white chocolate mouse and a white chocolate semi-freddo. And keep in mind this was meant for one person - though extra spoons were given just in case peer pressure forced you to share.
And I've become convinced that all of these things are miracle diet foods - after all I've lost weight since I came here and I rarely end a meal without a dolce!
10 settembre - San Nicola da Tolentino