Had a great evening recently at the Trattoria da Ubaldo in Lucca.
It’s a quirky place which is found in the street that runs around the back of the perimeter of the anfiteatro (amphitheatre) dating back to Roman times.
I didn’t know what to expect at this restaurant owned by eccentric Frank Zappa look-alike, Ubaldo.
On arrival, I was delighted to be greeted by the host and taken to our table.
The restaurant is full of amusing references to horror. A coffin is suspended over the entrance and there are toys in various states of added or removed limbs, rather like Toy Story as well as skulls on the fridge, upside down Christmas tree and an array of cazzi (look that one up yourselves!). Oh by the way, it is usually full of local diners so you know you are getting a good deal!
Now, this restaurant is very meaty and not really very good for vegetarians but, as a ‘pescatarian’, Ubaldo had made some fish dishes for us to eat.
The first was a fish soup. Delicious and full of flavour and extremely filling. The second was an octopus sauce, spicy and for my tastes a little salty but still good and served with polenta. I also add that while I found this dish salty, my Italian friend found it very spicy and hot.
Now at this stage I was full to the brim but I forced down a pudding of pear and chocolate in a filo pastry.
We washed the meal down with a bottle of Ubaldo wine, and finished with coffee and limoncello.
The price was good for what we ate and yes I would go back.
This is a delicious tomato dish that costs very little, uses up some stale bread and is filling and warming.
- 300 g stale Italian style bread
- 800 g ripe tomatoes or tomato passata
- 1 lt vegetable stock
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 sprig of basil
- 1 tsp of fine sugar
- Extra virgin olive oil
Thinly slice the bread and bake for a few minutes at 200 degrees on a baking tray with baking paper. Set aside to cool.
Peel the garlic cloves and rub them on the bread and cut the bread into pieces.
If using fresh tomatoes, you should blanch them and remove the skin and seeds. Roughly chop them.
Warm some extra virgin olive oil in a pan and add the garlic used to flavour the bread. Add the toasted bread pieces.
Add the chopped tomatoes or the tomato passata.
Add the stock which should be boiling, so that it covers the toasted bread and ad a pinch of sugar.
Add some chopped basil to taste and cook over a low heat for 40 minutes gradually adding the remaining stock, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat when cooked and serve garnished with basil.
This dish is warming in winter but can be served at room temperature in the summer when it is a refreshing snack.
For more flavour you can soften some onion and celery before adding the tomatoes although this as a modern addition to the recipe.
The garlic can be removed if added whole or, you can finely chop it before adding it for a stronger flavour.
After serving olive oil can be added to the bowl to taste before eating.
The traditional Tuscan way of eating this dish is from an earthenware bowl.
One thing I have learned in all my years living here in Italy is that the Italians have a cure for everything. Food here is so important. Discussions can be heard about where you can eat well (si mangia bene) or not and if you don’t then that eating place is to be avoided at all costs.
You won’t be surprised to learn that at the slightest feeling of not being quite right, maybe a slight bloating, an unsettled stomach or just feeling out of sorts, then the Italians have a foodie cure. They resort to eating in white.
No, that’s not dressing up in your best white clothes for every meal. Eating in white means eating bland white coloured food. Bread or plain pasta with a touch of oil. Parmesan cheese, also white, is considered excellent for health so you can eat this with your pasta or alone for best benefits.
Things to be avoided:
Tea – it makes you agitated.
Peppers in the evening – they can’t be digested.
Too much of anything, the Italians are extremely cautious about eating and do everything in moderation.
Things to be encouraged:
Everything in moderation.
Bread and almost anything cooked in a wood oven!