Monday, July 07, 2003

Inside The Well

The culinary gods must have been in good humor this weekend. For Friday, when I popped into the hot kitchen of Il Pozzo (The Well - an established bar and restaurant here in Macerata) to beg the opportunity of taking up the chef's offer of observing a night of prep in his kitchen, he nodded and said, "Yes, see you tomorrow."

I arrived Saturday night just as the kitchen was beginning to heat up. While the pizza chef taught me to make dough, I chopped eggplant and zucchini for Tagliatta, one of the night's specials, and then sliced tripe for a simple Maceratese dish.

After helping portion and roll the dough for pizza, it was time for the staff to eat. Without asking, they set an extra place for me. We ate good food and talked of good food (a delicious combination) as the owner uncorked a second bottle of wine.

From various corners of the kitchen, I got to observe all three chefs at work, cooking cassually but attentively. Just by watching their movements and their pace, it was easy to realize that the main emphasis of their dishes was flavor, not frilly presentations or shocking breaks from tradition or even the burden of serving an entire table's food at the same time.

At the end of the night, as I untied my apron and thanked the kitchen staff again and again, the head waiter pulled me and the pizza maestro aside. A few quick words and it was decided. "Come back Monday," they said.

It was an incredible night, to be sure! Just the memory of it makes me hungry. A rolling stomach...perhaps the best offering to the culinary gods.



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