Twenty Nine: The Italian Slob

The venue: Italy – Sorrento, Amalfi, Rome.

The Sunday dinners: Pasta, pizza, more pasta, more pizza, a bit more pasta.

The price: From 5 – 170 Euros.

If you thought I’d given up on the Sunday Dinner Diaries, you’d be wrong. Look. I’m back. I’ve simply been away, exploring the culinary delights of Italy, or Italia, if, like me, you’re fluent in the language. 

And, now I’m home, sinking into a post-holiday/pre-return to work depression of epic proportions, it seems appropriate to share some highlights, especially for those who didn’t suffer the pain and boredom provided by my hourly Facebook updates.

Mr Jus had just returned triumphant from the Transatlantic Way bike race – numb of toes, hand and penis. He’d cycled 2,500km in seven days, sleeping an average of three hours a night. I’d managed the same, through worry, so was pretty tired myself, although didn’t have saddle sores. His achievement was impressive, finishing sixth out of around 90 competitors, in a gruelling challenge that left him exhausted. I captured him as we began our journey to Sabrina’s homeland, proving himself to be a lively and engaging travel companion, chatting animatedly to me during the taxi ride to the airport…

On the plane, he continued to wax lyrical, full of excitement and stories of his cycling adventures, while I took the time to marvel at just how sweaty my face was as I pumped myself full of wine and Diazepam. La Dolce Vita, guys.

Upon arrival, we rushed to board a train into Rome, whereupon my ticket was promptly gobbled up by the validation machine. To cut a long story short, we were met at the platform by police, who pushed and manhandled Mr Jus as we protested our innocence to the two surly officers and the miserable cow of a conductor. During the altercation, Mr Jus’ expensive phone cover was torn, and I burst into tears. I doubt this kind of shit happened to Coogan and Brydon, let alone Palin and Chalmers. We were off to a wonderful start. 

We spent the first evening in Rome, where I discovered that I’d packed the dog lead and collar, but not enough pairs of knickers to see me through twelve days. Thankfully, I’d included Ripley’s poo bag dispenser too.

The following morning we travelled by train to Naples, clutching our tickets for the duration, where we then took a ferry to Sorrento – our first destination. We stayed for four nights at Esperedi Village on the town’s outskirts, chosen because we wanted somewhere with a pool that was less than £300 a night. 

It was here that I began my earnest quest to annoy the fuck out of everyone back at home. 

Mindful that colleagues wouldn’t have had their dinners, I cleverly and thoughtfully cut out my sagging tits prior to posting. Not literally, as my swimwear wouldn’t have fitted anymore – I simply just cropped the photo. 

That evening we enjoyed our first romantic meal in a charming restaurant, but I can’t remember the name of it because I’m the shittest food blogger that ever lived. We’ll not do a full review of the place because of that. I wanted a porcini risotto that night, but had already thought of a Facebook photo caption earlier in the day, which I believed could warrant circa 30 likes. My attention-seeking behaviour and desperate need for acceptance is more important to me than rice and posh mushrooms. Here it is:

See what I did there? It received 37 likes – shout out to Laura McDonald – which really softened the blow of the mediocre sauce I was served. If you’re ever in Sorrento, I’d advise you to give it a miss. If you can identify it from this photograph, that is.

Final score: 19/33

CYCLING INJURY UPDATE: You may, or may not, feel a rising of bile in your mouth when I take this opportunity to update you on Mr Jus’ numb body parts. I’d wager it’ll be the former. Let’s just say that one of his injured sections thankfully returned to being ‘al dente’ that evening.  Carpe diem, folks. 

Mr Jus managed to stay awake long enough one day for us to visit Pompeii. Here he is, demonstrating his ‘Running Away From Vesuvius Face’. Too soon, my friend. Show some respect. 

We left Sorrento the following day and made our way to our first Michelin starred restaurant of the trip – Don Alfonso 1890. Here’s a collage of some of our dishes and a display cabinet of grotesque ornaments.The figurines put me right off my bread sticks. Anyway, you get the drift. Now then, I do enjoy fine dining, when I’m not feasting upon tinned stewing steak, oven chips and peas. I’ll have previously mentioned how I love the whole theatre of the experience. I savour each cleverly constructed dish, I relish in how attentive the staff are, I enjoy the delicious wine, and I try, with all my might, to block the extortionate bill that’s heading my way from the forefront of my mind. 

We had a lovely evening, but the food wasn’t as flamboyantly, deliciously memorable as I’ve enjoyed at other restaurants. I’m fully aware that portion sizes are smaller in these establishments, but during some courses, you could barely scrape the sauce up from the plate to taste. Highlights included eel mousse and the spaghetti with mackerel. They had fancier titles, of course, but I don’t have the energy or inclination to look them up. I’ve included a link if you’re that fucking bothered. 

Final score: 23/33

We received a 25 Euro discount at the small, family-run hotel that night, after almost boiling to death in our room due to air conditioning restrictions. We’d been wide awake from 3.30am, and Mr Jus moaned to the hotel porter, who I believed had killed and would kill again and was a little cautious of. This was very reasonable of the proprietors I felt, as a surge of guilt and shame ripped through me, as we’d both pissed in the pool the day before with gay abandon. AH, SHADDUP A YA FACE.

We checked out and headed for the bus stop to take the coast road to Amalfi. We’d booked an AirBnB apartment for our next three nights. What an amazing journey for those who love narrow roads, hair pin bends on cliff edges and the ever-present risk of death. I found it utterly fucking terrifying. The bus was crowded, and I spent the first 30 minutes standing in the aisle, shaking and feeling sick.

We found seats, and Jus assures me the views were spectacular but I only saw the back of the chair in front, the inside of my eyelids, and my life flash before me. Tears rolled silently down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack. I took the Diazepam I’d reserved for the flight home in a failed bid to calm the fuck down and without water, so for a time had it lodged in the back of my throat, and believed I’d choke as I hurtled off a cliff. I even stopped caring that a box of Tampax had cost me 4 Euros for what essentially turned out to be a day of mini pill spotting. They were those Compact posh ones with plastic applicators, but even so. Anyway, it didn’t matter any more. Fuck the 4 Euros. I just wanted to live. 

When we finally arrived in Amalfi, I sobbed uncontrollably into the glass of wine I immediately ordered. I wanted my mum and to never venture from sea level again. Unfortunately, we had to take a second bus up a mountain to our accommodation, so I started crying and shaking again. I think Mr Jus must love my adventurous spirit. He paid little attention to my tears – he’d just been charged six Euros for a double espresso and was livid. A few days later I heard him telling some American tourists about it, such was his lasting outrage. He’ll get angry again when he reads this paragraph. 

Finally, we arrived at our apartment. Here I am, relaxing on the balcony, the journey’s trauma merely a fading, distant memory.

Here’s a better photo of the view, sans semi-naked Oompa Loompa. 

On Day Two in Amalfi, I tried to book Da Adolfo in Positano for lunch, recommended by Skeletor’s lovely Australian girlfriend, who he is extremely lucky to have landed. I often wonder if he’s confiscated her passport and she’s here against her will, such is my incredulity that she tolerates, and perhaps even loves, the little shit. I’m looking forward to being back at work with him tomorrow. 

I’d read it was notoriously difficult to secure a table, but wasn’t to be put off. Here’s a snapshot of my attempts. Imagine if you were a lover who scorned me and not just a fish restaurant I wanted a table at. It just doesn’t bear thinking about. 

I didn’t get through, but we took the small boat with the red fish over to the cove regardless. There, I used my northern charm to secure a table for later that afternoon. It’s not much to look at, to be fair, but I trusted Julia’s recommendation, if not her taste in men. We laid on the shingle beach and drank wine with peaches, culminating in a swim and alcoholic dehydration. Here’s what was on offer, fodder-wise. I found the menu quite scribbly and difficult to read, while arseholed, as most alcoholics would: 

The food was really tasty, but the ultimate highlight was the mussels, served in a rich tomato and garlic sauce. We loved them so much that we ordered a second bowl after Mr Jus polished off his obligatory tiramisu. Just look how wonderful they were and how garish my cover-up thing is. 

Mmmm. It came as no surprise, due to alcohol consumption, gluttony and sunstroke, that I puked everything up, minutes later, in the toilets. You may think it was a waste of money, but I had a great day that was also calorie neutral. A sure fire win/win.

What made the day even more memorable was when a thousand pebbles fell from my swimsuit’s gusset back at the apartment, scattering all over the bathroom floor. I didn’t even mind I had to sweep them up, because you have to sort of be tidy in an Air BnB. It was definitely the best meal of the holiday so far. I even like to think I brought a little bit of Da Adolfo in Positano back with me, you know. By that, I mean I’m sure there are still bits of shingle stuck up my cervix, because it burns when I have a wee.

Final score: 27/33

Our final day in Amalfi saw us relax leisurely by this shithole. 

After paying three Euros for a glass of water, I cajoled Mr Jus into sneaking supermarket Peroni, sandwiches and crisps. We opened the beers with my lighter and hid food in the beach bag, like the hardened criminals we were becoming. Pissing in pools and pissing off the police was just the beginning.

Our final destination was Rome. We headed back to the scene of our original crime via ferry to Salerno. We could have taken a bus, but I took an executive decision and said ‘FUCK THAT’, following my earlier harrowing experience and lack of medication. 

Rome is justified and it’s ancient. The architecture is amazing. Its age and scale and beauty is ridiculous. Mind-blowing, in fact. I don’t understand how they did it back then. Our bathroom took almost two months to complete in the year of our Lord 2017 and they made a right fucking fuss about getting the bath upstairs. Two thousand years ago, they were dropping pillars and columns like I spit rhymes. Which isn’t a good analogy as I can only do a poor karaoke version of Ice, Ice Baby. 

Yes, I walked around in constant fear that my handbag would be snatched, but I was so impressed with the city, its patrons could have taken my Marlboro Gold and the extortionately priced tampon it contained as payment for their forefathers’ brilliance.

We spent a lot of time with our mouths open – mine gaping in awe at the age of the buildings, churches, bridges and to pour wine into, while Mr Jus’ gob constantly remained open wide enough to shovel in ice cream, like it was about to be outlawed. He kept calling it gelato, which obviously pissed me off, but I chose not to end our relationship because of it. This time. 

Here’s a photo of us at The Vatican. It’s number 475 in a series of 682 updates I posted to Facebook. It hasn’t even got a filter on it. That’s actually the colour of my face. Ridiculous. 

Yet I’m still sunbathing in the garden now as I type this. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Let’s move on and review our final restaurant – All’Oro. Here’s another collage:

Now this was more like it. If I’m going to piss money up the wall, this is the kind of bullshit I want to see. We chose the nine course tasting menu, what with being greedy bastards, and I, for one, was reasonably delighted with many of the courses. Here’s what I really liked: the broth-bursting ravioli, the tiniest of tacos, chicken WITH CRISPY SKIN, mash and gravy rocking up, those really cute little brass saucepans, the surprisingly pleasant basil macarons, the giant wine glasses, the salty, cheesy, crispy bruschetta. Here’s what I didn’t like. The pre-dessert presentation for starters. Here’s a reminder of how it came:

It was called ‘Sleeping Beauty’s Apple’. I’m just pleased I didn’t get the mirror’s magnified side because I was already aware that my moustache and beard had started sprouting and didn’t want to look at my whiskers close up while eating. I let it pass, but then the bill arrived. 

Yes, it came stuffed under the middle cushion of a miniature sofa. Mr Jus thought they were “playing with their heritage in a fun, witty way”, but I wasn’t amused. I can’t stand it when my bill arrives in a tobacco tin. Seeing one shoved inside a piece of furniture from Tiny Tears’ living room doesn’t make me want to laugh and clap with appreciation. Especially when I see the bill’s total. It’s a moment for quiet reflection and regret, not a thing to try to jazz up, with a scale model of a DFS couch. 

But, as I said, it wasn’t all sofas and mirrors at All’Oro. I really enjoyed it. Here’s what Mr Jus had to say:

“It had a great interior. Although I don’t know how I felt about the youngsters playing cards. I feel lucky to be able to experience restaurants like that, and when people don’t respect it as a treat, I don’t know why they are even there. It’s rude and crass. The food was really nice, but it’s hard to make a pasta dish really exceptional and beyond what you’ve tasted before. Yes, there’s refinement in the sauce, but a pasta in a local trattoria is of a similar quality and it’s hard to justify the extra cost. The food was gorgeous though, but pasta is pasta… (42 similar paragraphs redacted – I have no idea what sparked this ramble).”

Final score: 27/33

So there we have it. My guide to creating your perfect Italian holiday. Just remember to take your own tampons, ladies and gentlemen. CIAO FOR NOW. 


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