Recently, I took a trip with my triathlon team, Full Throttle Endurance, to the Campania region of Italy for four days of intense cycling. The goal was to cover about 250 miles with assorted daily elevations ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 feet. No small feat, to be sure, but we're FULL THROTTLE AND WE'RE HERE TO TRAIN!!!
Or at least that was the "joke" of the trip as we all attempted to win vacation.
I decided to document the trip from the food perspective. What did we eat? What DIDN'T we eat would be a simpler question, as we certainly left no stone unturned in our search for calories. Luckily, Italians as a people are incredibly accommodating about feeding their guests. So accommodating, in fact, that I'm sure we all made up for our expended calories.
By far, my favorite meal of the trip was our accidental lunch at Hotel Parsifal in Ravello.
Having just swished down the curving pathways of the Amalfi Drive and eeked ourselves up the 5 kilometer climb to Ravello, we were hungry. Famished. "Abbiamo fame", as they say in Italian. We stood doubtfully by some road signs momentarily and contemplated where to go.
Luckily, one member of our group – Benji – took the proverbial bull by the horns and conversed with the natives to get the low-down on what was happening for lunch. He insisted that we go to Hotel Parsifal where we would be assured impeccable and copious amounts of local fare, expansive views and friendly waitstaff.
Could nine people in sweaty spandex impose upon such an establishment to partake in all these wonderful enticements? They sure can. And did!
The staff at the Hotel Parsifal was incredibly accommodating and tolerant of our questionable hygiene. We sat on the porch (to air out AND take advantage of the view) while we dined on a specially prepared sample menu prepared by the kitchen staff.
Note: Our server suggested we have the "light" menu because we were cycling. We insisted on the "heavy" menu, as we had no desire to count calories and wanted to stuff ourselves as full as possible in order to propel ourselves back down the mountain all the quicker.
We began with a pasta sampler of housemade ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms and a pasta topped with local pesto, made with sun dried tomatoes instead of basil. Both pastas were freshly made and cooked to perfect al-dente proportions. More than that, they seemed light as feathers, melting in your mouth with every forkful.
The stand-out pasta for me was the fresh tagliatelle seafood pasta. The mix of muscles, octopus, clams and shrimp had just been wrangled out of the ocean that day, and the pepper tagliatelle circled it all in a salty, brothy web. I felt I was eating right from the fisherman's net.
Following that we were served platters of meat which included veal, sausage and beef, and a fish sampler featuring giant prawns, lake fish and the most flavorful tuna steaks known to man-kind. I jest you not. I thanked them profusely for whatever they did to that tuna (grazie mille!). Buttery, well seasoned and perfectly rare – both in tenderness and likelihood of me tasting such a thing again.
Unless I go back to Hotel Parsifal..