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Gordo, riot police, Yoda, white wine and mushrooms

The Fat One does a food safari in Italy: Chapter One

Published on July 19th 2010.

Gordo, riot police, Yoda, white wine and mushrooms

The last couple of times Gordo visited Italy, he didn’t much like it.

Louise, an ex-Playboy model with a figure that could knock pylons over if she spun round too fast, spent the next two hours reminding Yoda that she wanted a swim, and wild mushrooms, not necessarily in that order. Farhad kept asking when he could have a go at driving the car.

The first was to watch United get thrashed at Juventus in Turin. Gordo got a much bigger thrashing on the way out of the stadium from the Italian riot police who took umbrage at an irritated Gordo who wanted to get out and find a bar: the police smashed his kneecap with a riot baton.

The second was when Gordo found himself two hundred metres off the beach in Forte dei Marmi, a very up market resort on the Italian Riviera. Gordo is a strong swimmer, but didn’t reckon on being caught in a ‘sink’ on a beach as flat as Blackpool. Being dragged under three times for four minutes each stretch was pretty tiring; then of course there was the thrill of doing ten knots towards a certain death, interrupted by the Italian equivalent of Bay Watch, three hairy Italians on a rescue boat.

Gordo still knows the Italian for “stupid fat t**t”.

This fresh visit was with the weirdo that is Chris ‘Yoda’ Johnson, owner of the Confidential favourite, Ramsons, up in Ramsbottom, a restaurant that has won the Good Food restaurant of the year. The trip was to visit some of Chris’s Italian suppliers, dropping into Rimini Airport and driving cross country over three terrifying days to Rome.

The flight, via Liverpool Airport and Ryanair (Chris likes a bargain) was uneventful, apart from the landing. The pilot had started the day off having a row with the missus who stormed out with the credit card. Slick, the Pilot, had to bring along his son, who was on school holidays. The kid, for a giggle, had been allowed to land the plane, at such speed that Gordo’s back was nearly broken in the process. Rimini Airport is about the size of Woodford, with a much shorter runway.

The Italian family, having lunch in their back garden looked as unnerved as Gordo when the wing tip nearly knocked the chimney off their roof on its turn round.

Chris, with his chef in the ‘Hideaway’, Louise, and her trusty sidekick Farhad, the sous chef and trainee from Tehran, were on a mission to look for more Italian dishes that would suit the authentic ‘rustic’ Italian dining room that lies underneath the fine dining that is Ramsons.

Guido 1946, Rimini

Crazy, but Chris decides that we should dispense with the Italian equivalent of Betty’s Hot Pot cafe and have lunch in a one star Michelin on the beach called Guido 1946. The four intrepid travellers took on the seven course ‘raw fish menu’, which sounded much more inviting in Italian. Gordo was a bit startled to discover that the owners and chefs of one of the UK’s finest Italian-inspired restaurants in the UK hadn’t bothered to learn one word of Italian. Blimey.

Louise, an ex-Playboy model with a figure that could knock pylons over if she spun round too fast, spent the next two hours reminding Yoda that she wanted a swim, and wild mushrooms, not necessarily in that order. Farhad kept asking when he could have a go at driving the car.

The food was stunning; as we aren’t reviewing in its normal sense, the pictures will be enough. But, the find of the afternoon was the Villa Bicci white wine, the reserva, 2006, (www.villabucci.com). This was a fabulous wine, with a young winemaker taking on the property and over time, developing a drink with Burgundian characteristics.

Yoda stocks the wine at Ramsons and so this gaff wasn’t quite the random choice that it seemed to have lunch. Two more of the wines turned out to be stocked at Ransoms, a Vivaci from the Pignoletto grape, ever so slightly sparkling and really good Pinot Niro (Noir to us) that drank beautifully.

Gordo loved this place, the service and the people. A forty something couple came walking in, the lady wearing a straw hat with wild flowers in the brim; she was cute as Christmas, sexy as hell.

Did Gordo tell you about the bread? It smelled of bread. It tasted of bread. It’s the way you tell if a restaurant is capable of stardom and this was. One of the dishes was called ‘memories of a cocktail’, a play on prawn cocktail, with fat prawns fresh and clean as matron’s apron; they were served raw with flowers as garlands, have a look at the picture, delightful.

Walking out of the hotel in the evening found Farhad and Chris fighting over who was going to drive, with Farhad winning. It turns out that the restaurant that Chris had booked had closed for the evening, so Louise had used an IPhone App to find a ‘pizza place’ for supper. With wheels spinning on the gravel, we set off, Gordo gripping the handle above the rear door with grim determination, missing an awesome sunset with his eyes tight shut.

Trattoria I Maceri, Cesena 05 41 37 46 12

The restaurant, in Cesena, about twenty five miles from Rimini, turned out to be a family run trattoria of charm and great food. Louise, not shy of making her demands known to Chris, spent the first twenty minutes of the meal mentioning her second love, wild mushrooms. Chris ordered the menu of the day, adding on two fillet steaks with wild mushrooms to keep the mitherer at bay. Farhad wasn’t saying much, apart from muttering about autostradas and tight mountain bends.

The first course arrived, three different types of pasta sharing a plate, each one better than anything eaten in the UK. Big, banging flavours that shouted at Gordo, trying to get his attention. The fillet steak was pretty awesome, off a beast with some age, as opposed to our cattle which have to be slaughtered within thirty months after the scare over mad cow’s disease. It had flavour. The pudding had an average panacotta ruined by a chocolate sauce out of a squeezy bottle, whilst two tarts, one fresh figs and the other apple, should have been in the Miss World contest. One of them would have won.

I watched a little girl eat a plate of grilled mixed fish, then a bowl of freshly dressed lettuce. With pleasure. This is why the English kids are getting fat. They eat crap all day long. I haven't seen an overweight Italian youngster yet.

We were told here that family restaurants maintained quality by giving the son who was the best chef the restaurant to ensure that the family kept the place busy with discerning locals. The rest are sent to the UK and the USA.

Gordo asked why they didn’t offer black pepper mills.

“This is for English and Americans. They seem to think that Italian chefs don’t know how to season dishes. They are stupid.”


Next week; Pedroni and the best Italian dish Gordo has ever eaten.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

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