Italo-Australian – a conundrum of lifestyles?

Our Italo-Australian Sunday expedition began when we met the creators of D’Orica, Giampetro Zonta and Daniela at Vivaio della Rive, in Zulgarno at the edge of the foothills leading to the Pre-Alpes, just west of the Montegrappa massif.

Sunday lunch had been booked some 15 minutes away so, after driving up and down, round and about, in and out of villages and bosco for 25 minutes on roads that make Tuscan back-roads appear like the A1, we arrived in an anonymous street at a large fine rustic house. We were welcomed as the first lunch guests by a man of ‘a certain age’ wearing a casual outfit with a black shirt and a beaming smile. It is his agriturismo we have entered, ‘Ai Canifi’, where all you consume is home grown. We are in Molvena.

Parison Odone spoke to each of us and with some ease noted that my accent failed Italian grade 1. ‘Australian?!’ he said and leaped into a tale of his father and three brothers who emigrated from this traumatic region after the Great War that has left so many memorials on Montegrappa. He told the story of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 - an Italo-Australian joint venture – and of his father’s return to Italy a first time in 1937, when his money gave him wealth but poor advisors, and a second time some years later when his same money left him with little to live on. Memories of lawyer’s advice die hard. Yet he is a true Italo-Australian, accepting life and living it to the full.

It seems that there is not one person in the pre-Alps of Veneto without an Australian story, is this why I am drawn to this beautiful region and the many who share Italo-Australian style?

We sat on the porch, in the warmth that late spring gives before the afternoon storm, and were soon joined at the next table by two couples, the first saw a man at 90 years and his wife a few years less, the second comprised he, with a wink and spritely movement at 92 years, and his ’girlfriend’ about one generation younger.

Pranzo this Sunday is a fixed banquet of seven or maybe more courses of elegant home fare – a bit more than an Australian view of Italo-Australian pranzo. These stories we write are not restaurant guides or culinary critiques but humble recounts of days well-spent. Sufficient to say that at this time of asparagus, the kitchen did itself proud with hot and cold appetisers, risotto and pasta – perfectly al dente. To complement the water we chose a Refosco, sufficiently soft and not too heavy with wood. The formaggi con marmalade di asparagi was a taste to remember, the insalata with orange and walnuts was balanced to perfection, and this is not to criticise the other precursors, which left the five of us at our table in awe. I chose Anitra (Duck in Orange Sauce) for my Secondo and supported it with part of a second bottle of Refosco.

Frutti from the orto and home-made Dolce rounded off the repast some 3 hours after sitting and, before rising, we were blessed with pruno, grappa and an unknown glorious liqueur that derives from an obscure fruit while tasting a little of cherries.

I only had one reservation and that was that I had no reservation for la prossima Domenica. If you want to risk enjoying a Sunday lunch just too much, call Parison Odone at Ai Canifi and join him and his team for a wonderful afternoon of fine food and wine plus great Italo-Australian repartee. Take just a camera and your taste buds.