This summer is going down as the one where we did some serious eating from one meal to the next. Let’s see…bbq with the neighbors at our place on August 15th (Ferragosto holiday), Slow Food dinner in Bergamo’s alps 2 days later, that gelato obsession of July, and just when I thought there was nothing else to dig into, here come the alpini (italian mountain brigade) with food, drink and fun at their annual Festa Alpina. We’ve been to only one of these gigs in the past but I can tell you this…if there is any dining experience to be had that is real value for the money and run with spot-on efficiency, I would bet my vintage Mickey Mouse watch that Alpini do it BETTER.
This festa was organized by the Alpini of Sogno. We had a quick bite to eat (above image) on Saturday night, then made reservations for the following day when they were having the alpine Sunday lunch! Click on the menu at left – 20€ for a whole lot of food with room for seconds if you could manage it. There were plates being brought out that weren’t even on the menu such as nervetti e fagioli and insalata russa. Pitchers of both red and white wines kept reappearing as soon as they were emptied. Old-timers were singing, young alpini brought out the victuals, and at one point (actually more than once), a really ancient-looking guest with a beard abruptly stood up and shouted Viva gli Alpini!!!
Wine, nervetti salad and a 12-inch plate (for each person!) covered in both cured and cooked prosciutto, pancetta and salame. All of it scrumptious.
Casoncelli alla bergamasca and risotto with porcini. The casoncelli are stuffed with a mixture of bread crumbs, parmigiano, beef, pork, parsley, raisins and amaretti. Served in melted butter. So incredibly good, and they even offered second helpings.
Thin slices of stuffed roast beef/beef roll. The stuffing was an omelette with herbs and there were more plates coming out with just roast beef. French fries came as a side dish. I admit that my american tastebuds missed the Worcestershire and ketchup at this point.
Next came a huge plate of assorted local cheese and finally the sweet finish – gelato on fruit salad with a wafer cookie. Throughout the meal, a brass ensemble swung into a lively gig for “intermission” (how else are you supposed to stretch it out to a 3-hour+ meal?). No eating and running with these guys. And you must drink grappa to authenticate the experience. Funniest thing heard when more roast beef was being offered to elderly alpini seated next to us: Mangia! Mangia! E’ un ordine! Eat! Eat! It’s an order!