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December 31, 2009

Buon Anno! Tanti Auguri! Let’s eat lentils like the Italians do for the New Year, to bring in a Golden Year of Prosperity, Good Health, and Joy!

I’ve had lots of memorable New Years Eves in Italy with my husband and friends, all revolving around spectacular meals…There was one in Rome that started at Ristorante Tullio, near the Piazza Barberini, where we ended up walking from fountain to fountain until the wee hours of the morning.

There was one in Paestum, in the agriturismo of the wonderful Baronessa Cecilia Bellelli, where we’d joined Arthur Schwartz’s culinary tour, and made a timballo to add to the feast—where we dined, danced and celebrated with Cecilia’s friends and family.  There was

welcoming the New Millenium in Venice, watching the fireworks over the Grand Canal!

And there was the unforgettable first New Year’s Eve in Italy, where we happened to be in Florence, without a dinner reservation…Yikes. It had snowed, our pensione was badly heated, we were wandering the streets getting turned away at every ristorante we approached–(I’ve learned since then to reserve well in advance!). We finally found a table, in a dull, dark restaurant near the Duomo…tough veal was served, and when I got up the gumption to complain in my then shoddy Italian, a cranky chef emerged and asked me in English, “Do you want PIG?”  I fought back tears, my husband escorted me out. We were about to call the night a wash, when we found ourselves by the Arno, in front of the Grand Hotel. We peeked inside, and saw fancy Florentines sitting there as if they were watching paint dry–a scene as sorry as that awful veal. But then, blessedly, across the way was The Excelsior…where we opened the door to music (American jazz), fashionable Florentines foxtrotting…and two empty seats at the bar…

We toasted with prosecco, had our first Italian New Year’s Eve lentils, and danced under the golden chandelier to “Georgia, Georgia…” A night saved, a magical Italian New Year…a golden time.

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