Ca Mea

November 9, 2006

Badalucco 0184.408.173

If you just happen to be driving in the mountains, six kilometers north of Taggia (there is really only one road north), stop if you see a large cement mushroom. sign.JPGBehind it is a restaurant so good, that even if you aren’t in the neighborhood, it is more than worth the 45-minute drive from Nice. Park and walk across the bridge over the Argentina River. Then put yourselves in the capable hands of the staff. Sit back and enjoy curse after course of good home cooking, washed down with their own red table wine. Obviously, it is better to make a reservation (they are closed on Monday) than to just stumble in.

The day we went, the two dining rooms in the restaurant proper were full and there were some tables in the covered terrace to the side of the main building. Since there were only a few tables occupied, and we were immediately directed up to the main building, we assumed that the people who were eating there were probably drivers for the diners in the other rooms. But more likely on a slow day, it was the dining room of the extended family and friends of the owners. The four of us soon found the unmarked door to the restaurant, and entered the former olive oil mill. This front room was full of people laughing, eating, talking and just plain enjoying themselves. interior.JPG

So we walked into the back dining room with is vaulted ceilings and stone walls and were directed to a table in the corner. Out first were two mushroom dishes, one of raw ovulo with slivers of ground, raw veal, and the other, cepes with a wonderful vinaigrette. Having just came from the market in Ventimiglia, we recognized these ovulo for an expensive (80€ per kilogram) variety so we were delighted to be able to feast on them without guilt. Nothing was left on that plate but we used restraint and didn’t finish the cepes, saving ourselves for what was to follow. A rather bland porcini frittata was not worth much room in the already filling stomach. Then a creamy glob, scooped out of what looked to me like an old enameled diaper pail, but which tasted divine. It must have been fromage blanc with an onion cream, with no mushrooms lurking anywhere. The potato and mushroom gratin, with some cream, was rich and worth every bite.

Just about this time the lights went out, but nobody worried. There was a lot of clapping when they went back on a few minutes later. We contrasted the pasta with mushrooms to the risotto that followed and decided that the risotto was a much better vehicle to hold the flavor. The earthy mushroom taste totally permeated the rice, and may just be the best ever. More to come? Of course. We had a choice of beef or lamb and all chose the beef which was garnished with thinly sliced mushrooms (Portobello?), lightly breaded and then fried. They melted in our mouths. During this course we had two more lights-out with a little less spirited clapping after their return. Three desserts—an authentic version of tiramisu, a superb home-made lemon gelato and fresh berries with vanilla ice cream—were accompanied by a carafe of grappa. Coffee, naturally. All this, including three bottles of the house red, which just keeps coming, and the total tab for four people was 130€! It now goes to the top of our list when visiting friends want to have an authentic Italian lunch, but one that is unlike anything you would find anywhere else.

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