Lunch out is a fairly rare treat. Budgets, and all that! Actually, Scicily is pretty reasonable for most things and eating out is not the bank-breaking event that it would be further North.
We took advice from our campsite hostess and set off to the first recommendation. Sadly full to bursting.
The next, La Masseria, is some 5 miles from – well anywhere really. It is in the middle of a working farmyard with all the country smells that this implies. However, the restaurant is known for supplying all its own food including meat, so perhaps this was to be expected.
Our first attempt to get into the restaurant landed up in a fairly large cow barn surrounded by tractors. We did manage to find the right door eventually and were welcomed very warmly into the busy dining room.
The first thing that struck us was the long table with 30 people sat around it. Clearly this was a special family occassion for somebody.
The patrone was undertaking most of the menial tasks, like laying up tables and clearing away. It was apparent that although he was the patron, the actual running of the place was firmly in the hands of his daughters and other female family members. I guess he would have had a good day if he didn’t get too severely reprimanded for failing in his duties.
It was a set 4 course menu. How civilised the Italians are – note the line following the Antipasti section! Where else would they have such an understanding of the clients needs?
The non-smokers amongst you may feel that such a break is of no benefit but you would be wrong! By the time we had eaten the Antipasta, we would have been happy to call it a meal and leave – we were full. So a 15 minute walk around the farm yard was almost essential to prepare for the next three courses.
Antipasti included Bruschetta, Focaccia with tomato and with ricotta and sausage, cheese, olives and chickpeas. Then two types of pasta – with ricotta and herbs and Masseria sauce – tomato based. Then sausage and roast meat with a green salad, then the piece de resistance, Ravioli fritti di ricotta, sugary covered hot ricotta puffs with the taste of freshly fried doughnuts.
The atmosphere was wonderful. With diners ranging from great grandparents down to babies, there was not a cross word and the children happily ran around all over the place bringing everyone into the extended family feel.
The main party was celebrating the 80th birthday of this gentleman.
We did eventually finish our meal, after about three hours…
Then we came to pay the bill. I was handed a bill for €36 and I offered €40 to recieve a €5 note in change. OK, so they knocked off the €1 and I figured that €5 would be a reasonable tip so I pushed it back to the patron with a thanks.
He looked at me as if I were crazy and then realised that I was offering a tip and laughed. “No, we don’t do that here!”, he said.
I think we have just found the only place in Europe where the restauranteur tips the customer! We retired to bed for the rest of the afternoon feeling as if we could go several days without eating again.