I awake from my dream and stare up at the frescoed ceiling…my first night in the little apartment in Ovada. Although I live in noisy NYC, and have heard trucks thundering down 7th Avenue South towards the Holland Tunnel for years, I am awakened by the sonorous peal of church bells and the delightful sound of an alto sax playing “Stars Fell On Alabama.” Goodness…it’s Mr Duggles getting an early start,playing his horn in the main town piazza, in front of one of the churches. Little old ladies and men are gathering on the benches to hear him and a beautiful cafe waitress brings him a cappucino with a heart stenciled in cocoa. That’s my wake-up call, after a restless night. I’m not used to the church bells pealing at all hours -do I really need to know it’s 2:30 AM? There’s also a bar downstairs whose clientele spillls out into the street. You’d think I’d be used to it…but there’s clearly a different rhythm I need to adjust to QUICKLY.
Dressing hurriedly, I explode onto the cobblestoned streets, heading for the music and in time to catch a few more tunes from Mr. Duggle’s alto.The church opens onto the main piazza of the old section of Ovada and people are gathering in the cafes for their morning cornettos and cappucinos. The Italians don’t seem to be big breakfast eaters at all, preferring to save their energies for later meals. Very wise. One thing you do see quite ofter though, is the cornetto…the Italian version of the croissant.There are some clear differences: the croissant is made with fresh butter and is flaky & savory while the cornetto is sweet and usually made with …(ugh)margarine. Of course putting Nutella on the cornetto probably helps…but aside from the Spremuta Di Arancia, the glorious fresh squeezed orange juice, I would just as soon skip directly to lunch. In any case, I sit in the sun,enjoying the music, and when we reach the civilized hour of 10 AM ( 10 peals of the church bell) we head over to Cinzia and David’s to see what they think about this breakfast business.
Things are moving gracefully and slowly at Casa Gilbert. La Signora sends us out for freshly baked foccaccia, while she prepares her famous coffee frappes.OK…now we’re talking MORNING MEAL.
Navigating through the narrow throroughfares of the old town, we find the special Panificio, or rather it finds us, as the warm,yeasty smell of fresh bread and rolls positively envelops and ropes us in off the street.
There are choices of other extremely enticing looking pastries…but we settle on the focaccia di cipolle, topped with cooked onions,the regular stuff which is just olive oil,salt and herbs, and one more…a stuffed focaccia with a cheese filling ( You had me at….”formaggio”) The cheese is called Prescinseua, a cow’s milk cheese,and it is well known in Genoa. The flavor is a bit sourish, reminiscent of yogurt and sometimes has a little sugar mixed in. We buy all three,and then hurry home in time to see La Signora pour a frothy,icy, potion from her magic blender. This is another of her concotions made from strong espresso that she has put into ice cube trays and frozen.
Then she puts the espresso ice cubes into the blender, along with milk and sugar (or I guess any substitutes you might want to experiment with…soy milk, Splenda,vanilla syrup, non-fat milk, agave syrup,etc) The resulting cafe au lait colored mixture is a frappucino without all the shit and chemicals. Bravo!! PLus twice the caffeine. On the table goes a plate of perfect peaches,the sliced foccacia and beautiful crystal goblets of foamy frappe.
.On the stereo goes Nada, a marvelous vocal group, singing “Another Bossa Nova” and the morning has begun. 01-another-bossa-nova
We eat with perfect appetite,enjoying the sun ,the music of the morning and the clatter and commerce of the street rising up to our balcony. Today is market day….
more to come……Miss Eydie