Friday, January 29, 2010

Bigio L'Oster

Buffet-style appetizers
January 21st, Thursday. It's foggy and cold in the Bergamo area.
By car we drive along the main road of Seriana valley, and at Albino we start the ascent up the mountain. The feeling is that we took the wrong way. Also the GPS system looks like lost - could it ever be possible that in the wild valley full of vicious beasts there is a Jazz cafe? Look! There's a restaurant! Can it be this one? Uhm... on the sign the name is different. Wait, i'll go inside to ask.
The restaurant is empty. A man with buck teeth and a black cape stands behind the bar, revealing a scary smile that tells me we took the wrong way: Bigio's pub is 25 kilometers from here. He stares at me with a mean look and a drop of fresh blood falls from his mouth.
I shake myself and understand that my imagination is playing a bad joke. The guy, actually a cordial man with very normal front teeth and a jolly face, smiles to me and tells me he was joking about the 25 kilometers. He shows me the curve nearby, not more than 100 meters ahead. "There. Bigio L'Oster is right behind that bend". In fact hidden behind it there is a huge parking lot

Stockfish on polenta with tomato sauce
full of cars (i suppose that during the day it fills up for the visitors of Altino Sanctuary). Nearby a building that looks like a dismal factory, but inside it appears more welcoming.
A little "kitsch" with a lot of stuff all over the place. Old agricultural tools hung on the roof and walls, last century radio sets, statues caved in wood. Even brass musical instruments smashed and hung like laundry drying under the sun.
When we enter it's about 8pm, the pub is already quite full. We ask the waiters for our reserved table, then we seat ourselves and soon after go back to the counter to get our buffet-style appetizer, all of which are very good local products.
According to the schedule the show would have been on just after the appetizer, and the dinner at the end. Mmmh.. unusual!
Instead, as it was more logical, after the appetizer they brought a plate of casoncelli (local stuffed pasta), followed by gnocchi, and after that stockfish on polenta with tomato sauce. As a dessert there was apple pie, then afterwards coffee and a digestive. Water, red and white wine from Valle del Fico were available on the tables. Everything was good and genuine, and almost everything was "zero-kilometers".

The really exceptional thing was the show after the dinner. Bobby Watson and

Bobby Watson and the JW Orchestra
the JW Orchestra played an unpublished jazz repertory through african atmospheres for which the leader Marco Gotti is fascinated (the title of the show was "Africa Jazz Traveling"). The formation of the band is also extraordinary. Above the alto sax of Bobby Watson, guest star, another thirteen brasses (two alto, two tenor and one baritone saxes, four trumpets, three trombones and one bass trumpet). A wonderful rythmical section (contrabbass and drums) completes the set, along with a piano that combined all the sounds. The show was more than one hour, and at the end we went away after the first encore, already late in the night, considering it was weekday. Unforgettable experience.

The environment of Bigio L'Oster is very informal, where one ends up chatting with the other guests seated nearby in the long communal tables.
I was already expecting to enlarge the list of tax evaders here on this side, but instead i was pleasantly surprised when they gave me the fiscal receipt without even asking. Good of you, Bigio!
The price was 35 euros each. Inexpensive, considering both the dinner and the show.

Maddie and Mr. Bentley, although offended for not being allowed to come along, had been enough cooperative, succeeding in not destroying the house.

Bigio L'Oster
Via Santuario di Altino
Albino (BG)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Story of the kingdom of Centenaria and his enlightened ruler

In pretty long post i tell a story about my vision of the problem of growth of population. This is the italian version.

Friday, January 15, 2010

San Pietro al Monte

Maddie, Mr. Bentley and me
January 2nd, the first excursion of the new year.

Weather was wonderful although there was a strong and cold wind.
At the exit "Civate-Oggiono-Lecco lake" of the highway SS36, you follow for Civate and pretty soon you meet the brown signs directing to "Abbazia di San Pietro al Monte". At a certain point you drive on via del Pozzo. At the hairpin

Lake Annone-Oggiono
bend, the straight, narrow road (at left) becomes forbidden for non-residents. After the curve there is plenty of space to park your car.
Here the hike starts on the residents-only road, signed with trail marker #10. After the last buildings of the village you enter the forest in an area named "Valle dell'Oro" (the reference is not to the precious metal ["Oro" in italian means "Gold"], but it comes from the latin "oris", or water-source, in fact there are some fountains along the path). The path is well kept, paved with stones, and it is very easy, if not for the annoying wind and for being a little out of shape.
At the end you reach a slope a little steeper, where you can already see the walls of the abbey.
Over here you find an incredible place: it looks almost extraordinary that they wanted to build such a building right in this spot.

There are written proofs of the existence of the abbey till IX century, although it looks that it was built much before. The complex is composed by the

wonderful St. Peter church and St. Benedict oratory, right next to a meadow that invites you to lay down in the warmth of the sun. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the church was closed (it's open 9 to 12am and 1.30 to 4pm). In the facade of the church there is a beautiful portico that opens on a view of mount Resegone on the left and lake Annone-Oggiono on the right.

From this point the trail follows, uphill, entering the forest again. We, instead, after a stop for some photos, traced our steps down the same path.
One of the first houses encountered going down is an attractive restaurant, "Il Crotto del Capraio" that was unfortunately closed. It looks like one needs a reservation...

  • Time: 1:02
  • Distance: 2.81km [1.75mi]
  • Difference of level: 345m [1132'] (364m [1194'] uphill, 19m [62'] downhill)
  • Altitude: 323m [1060'] to 696m [2283']

  • Backward (on the same path):
  • Time: 0:51
  • GPS track of the excursion.
    A: Start point of path #10; B: Crotto del Capraio; C: San Pietro al Monte abbey

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Happy birthday

    At left, the "plateau des fromages" (from left, clockwise: Nocciolino di Ceva, Caciocavallo Podolico, Castelmagno d'Alpeggio, Epoisses, Pecorino di Farindola, Holzhofer, Salva Bergamasco; in the middle: aged Stilton).
    At right, the "dead bottles" (left to right: Cerasuolo di Vittoria Valle dell'Acate, Nero d'Avola Zahir Santa Anastasia, Lessona Tenute Sella, Chianti Classico Castellare, Notarpanaro Taurino
    That's life, a few days ago i turned 45. My birthday happens to fall on january 6th (in Italy we celebrate the Epiphany, a day in which the Befana - a kind of good witch - comes to bring coal or candies to kids if they behaved good or bad). And this coincidence of celebration had always meant tons of obvious jokes.

    This year we organized a nice party at our house. We invited some old friends for lunch, those which we don't meet very often because of the distance. We were 10 people.
    I was surprised to see E. had grown so much. She is 11, now, and it's three years she has been studying to play piano.
    I was listening with pleasure and emotion to her playing my piano that i haven't touched in years. It reminded me of my experience with that instrument, and i made a resolution to put my fingers back in shape with some musical exercises.

    Maddie in her b-day hat
    Besides the animated political discussions (all the opinions anyway from the good side), that happened to start after the second glass of wine, we kept up to date about the news in our lives.

    The menu was very easy. Some snacks with the aperitif, tomato sauce pasta and some cured meats. But the very main course was the plate of cheese (that we bought at La Casera at Verbania Intra and at La Salumeria di Elena Debiasi at Trieste), which was a big success.
    In the end, obviously, the birthday cake, baked by R: a cheesecake and a hazelnut and chocolate torte.

    Maddie of course was playing the role of the spoiled dog, in exchange for plenty of snuggles, while Mr. Bentley was not as bad tempered as usual. He even accepted some treaties from the "enemy" hands of my mates.