Headed up the Garden Route, destination Port Elizabeth and Portugal against Cote D’Ivoire, but not all soccer, also a bit of fun along the way. After all, the crowd included Pieter Ferreira, Graham Beck’s cellar master and gourmand of note, Adam Mason of Klein Constantia and Joaquim Sa who has not met a meal or a pool table he did not like. Also in tow were two Aussies: lovely Emily and her beau Alcino, like Joaquim a friendly chap originally from the Land of the Long Red Chorizo.
It’s like, freezing as we head-up on the N2 past Heidelberg and Mossel Bay and George and Knysna, and by the time we get to Plettenberg Bay we are hungry enough to eat a living hyena with a skin problem. And seeing as Plet is to be our base for the duration of our soccer venture, we jump right in and check out the local dining establishments.
Whoa! But the place is chic. All cottagey and clean and bright. Shops and bars and restaurants, walking along we smell salt and hear the sound of the ocean, and life is good as we prepare mentally for the next day’s trip to PE to watch the World Cup match. We have also had a few drinks, so amble down the empty, cold streets of Plet with joy in our hearts.
Italian food it shall be, so Ciccio it is. Set just off the road, Ciccio promises Italian hospitality at its finest as well as terrific trattoria type dining.
The place is cold and white and empty. The familiar hollering of a crazy Italian in the kitchen adds atmosphere, which is ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ temporarily ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ of the positive kind. It soon becomes clear that Flavio, or Luigi of Mario or Tontori or whoever he is, is two straws short of a strait-jacket.
He sees us and makes a jittery move towards the table, hopping and jiving and making those ridiculous stork-like arm gestures Italians are so fond of. Okay, we feel welcomed. Yes, we’ll stay. Okay, let’s watch the soccer on TV ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Paraguay against Italy ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ so how about we move the tables together so all six of us plus the Italian psycho can check it out.
The waitress takes orders: hey, how about the wine-list? Adam Mason orders two bottles of Vergenoegd Cabernet Sauvignon 2002. Killer choice! I am feeling adventurous. Tell the waitress to bring a table full of anti-pasta because we are ready to partake in fine Italian fare.
The wine is good. Firm. Robust. More flesh than juice. More blood than nectar. The Italian fare in anti-pasta form arrives and it is not bad. Freshly purchased from Pick ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ën Pay it consists of non-descript rubbery cheese, sun-dried tomato and some commercial salami which is about as Italian as a Masai warrior.
But hey, the soccer is playing out on television. The crazy Italian is screaming at the referee, telling the Azurri defenders how to handle themselves during the set-pieces and attempting to cook lasagne. All at the same time.
It is going to be a long night.
More wine is drunk and the Italian chef-owner uses an oily middle-finger to make a lurid gesture at the television and storms into the kitchen to make our food.
Paraguay scores. Cursing and the sound of clanging kitchenware emanates from the kitchen. Somewhere in the dark cold night, a cat screeches and a baby hollers.
Then the main-courses arrive. There is pasta and a couple of pizzas. The pizza bases had been pre-baked, like in the previous millennium when Mussolini ruled the roost, and hastily smothered with items. Somebody forgot the tomato.
I have a spaghetti vongole, which is spaghetti with clam sauce. Or supposed to be. There is spaghetti. There is some tasteless overcooked tomato stuff. Either the lunatic in the kitchen forgot the clams or he made them disappear. But they sure as hell are not in the sauce.
By now Italy have equalised and our Italian host is sitting in front of the television reciting Dante, making threatening gestures with his left pinkie and doing a rapid nodding jig with his head. Unfortunately he was not having a stroke, but encouraging the Italian soccer team to do whatever they were supposed to do and urging us to stay longer.
This was one crazy situation, so we paid the giggling waitress, leaving a tip and the number of a few competent psychiatrists before speeding off into the stormy African night, where snow had begun to fall on the mountains.
Tomorrow: The crew heads to Port Elizabeth and Fernando’s!
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