Top Five Lunches: Part 1

Don Alfonso: Sant’Agata sui due golfi – Massalubrense Italy

Once a year, we spend a week somewhere in Europe with our friends, Doris and Ed. We all enjoy a good lunch and some of our favorites have been while we were traveling with them. A few years ago we decided to meet on the Amalfi Coast in Italy and spend a week in Positano. It was a nice enough place but all the restaurants were a bit touristy and after eating there for a few days we felt we had to try somewhere else. We decided to drive to the tip of the peninsula and without any plan in mind, we would stumble on some lovely little idyllic spot for a superb lunch.

We set out on back roads passing through a few small towns and enjoying the scenery when all of a sudden while driving through what seemed to be an innocuous working-class village, Sharon yelled out Stop! Ed slammed on the brakes in front of an iron gate on which some lettering in gold said “Ristorante Don Alfonso: with four gold stars beneath it. Through the gate was a small path leading through a garden to a neat little building surrounded on three sides by windows with flower-boxes.

We parked the car and entered through the gate to the restaurant. We sat down in a very bright sun-filled room, ordered a bottle of white wine and waited for our lunch to arrive. Shortly afterward, a very handsome sixtyish woman showed up at our table and introduced herself as the owner. She asked if, after our meal, would we like to tour the wine cellar and if we were, we could meet her in her office across the garden.

The wine arrived, the appetizer arrived, our lunch arrived, all at the proper time and all of it absolutely delicious. For the next two and a half hours, we sat by ourselves in this beautiful white room, enjoying the food, the wine and the soft gentile mood of the place. It was blissful, it was soulful, it was heaven.

After our coffee, we went across the garden to the lady’s office and she graciously showed us the property, including the gardens, the library, and finally the wine cellar. It was quite the cellar,starting out two thousand years ago as a roman well and now being home to sixty thousand bottles of wine. We walked down an old stone staircase for what seemed like forever passing endless bottles of wine stashed away in the sides of the stone walls in tiny little nooks and crannies. The place was musty, a bit cool, and covered with cobwebs. It reminded me of a scene from “The Casket of Montresour” with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre where they have this wine tasting contest in Vincent Price’s wine cellar. Only it wasn’t a movie set. it was real. The place was fabulous. After the tour we went back to her office where she graciously poured us some liqueurs and we sat for about an hour and chatted with her. She said that it was past season and that all her vegetables and foods were grown on their farm a few kilometers from there but perhaps the next time when we returned we could tour her farm. Right at the end, I asked her if I could take her picture and she agreed. This shot is of her relaxing in her office.

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