Eating out... at a circolo
An IMPORTANT tip about the Italians: they define themselves and the world they live in by their associations: place of birth, family, The Church and politcal party. Inviolable. Solid. Back in the Good Ol' Days when the Italian political world was simpler, their world was divided as so: Christian Democrats, Socialists and the Communists. There were others but of lesser import and with fewer adherents: Republicans, Progressives, Liberali, etc. The Big Three garnered most of the glory and money. The parties did a lot with the money too. Faucet flowed from the Italian State. Each party had their own TV and radio stations, newspapers... and clubs. The last called circoli. Circoli are still in every city, town and village. A place to hang one's political cap with others who wore the same cap. They can be small store fronts for playing cards or reading the party's daily to complexes with game rooms, clinics, bars and restaurants. Important in Italy to be guaranteed a strong espresso and a robust meal. You don't have to belong to, say, the Commies, to eat in their restaurants. You might have to fork over some Lire for a tessera di aderenza... a club card... for a plate of ravioli but, mostly not. The Times have since changed but only superficially. The BIg Three Parties are no more. But their circoli infrastructures lives on!.
Another cogent tip about the Italians: when the thermometer brushes high double digits or even triple and the dinner hour approaches with a hankering for home-made fair, they think to eat in the cool and head for where that is, up in the hills. Coincidentally, the hills are covered with circoli. Circoli with restaurants.
Mouth-wateringly close to Pietrasanta is one such place, Casa del Popolo. An ex-Commie circolo still functioning as such yet, with the firm traces of its Communist past. Ecco... Mr. Che Guevara in prime position.
Now, Communism may not be everyone's plate of pasta but don't shove-off the idea that you can't sit down to a friendly and tasty meal at one of their tables. Old on to your pants, the Casa del Popolo can put many other eating establishments to shame: tordelli, large half-moon shaped ravioli filled with meat and hinting of marjoram, bacala' graced by a succulent sauce of pomodori and spices, a melanzane compot sending you towards ectasy and a block of creamy mouse decorated with a light chocolate topping. Wine, wine and more wine to chase it all down.
So, remember these tips.
Casa del Popolo, left to right from the top left: bar... Ho-chi-minh, for cryin'out loud... table set for a party of 14... Mr Che Guevara, man of a moment long ago... simple table settings and bread to get started with... game room with coat rack... table and artwork... outside after dinner.
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