Meet Boni Luigi.
Boni makes aged balsamic vinegar in a miniscule acetaia buried deep in the foothills of Emilia Romagna. Boni is a bit of a raconteur. Never married, he is continually making the rounds of the local “agrico” or farm-to-table trattorias. When we visited him last summer, he joked with us that he only eats out 13 times each week. (He takes Saturday night off.) We chuckled, then begged him to show us the magic tortellini place he’d been raving about. “BEST in all of Italy!” he exclaimed, “and only 7 kilometers from here.”
Maybe he meant 70 kilometers?
Many miles of dirt road later, we arrived tired, hot, and hungry. Over bowls of tiny, hand-formed tortellini floating in simple, clear broth, we chatted about the merits of local cows, where to get the best parmesan, and why natural wines are popular with the twenty-something-year-olds. In the heat of the afternoon, amiable grandfather figures began to emerge – drawn to the porch for a friendly game of cards. The sun was intense that day, but not so oppressive that we skipped dessert. Enter Squacquerone di Romagna, a soft, cow’s milk cheese often served with Amarena cherry preserves.
In a world of never-ending box stores, overtime, and fast food, it’s good to experience life from a different, slower perspective. Boni Luigi and other Old-World artisans serve to remind us of the simple pleasures that lie just beyond the bend (or the next bend, or the next in this case.) Of fresh cheeses and playing cards on the patio with friends from childhood. And of the great pride we feel in our hearts when we create a thing of beauty.
Thank you farmers. Thank you cheese makers, bread bakers, butchers, chefs, and vignerons. Thank you for the sweet respite you bring to our days, our weeks, and our lives.
Just two spots left in each of our Loire Valley and Italian excursions. Ditch the autoroute, meet Boni, and come bake with me.
2322 NW Kearney Street
Portland, OR 97210