September 1998

Nello's Addio al celibato

Topsham, Devon September 13, 1998 The Italian term for 'stag night' is rather endearing, if misleading: addio al celibato or farewell to celibacy. Now creative translation is something that I enjoy, but however you play with the words, it is still difficult to come up with a solution that could be remotely applicable to our dear friend Nello, who is and has been many things, but rarely celibate. Not to worry. Charged with arranging a suitable evening's entertainment, I, in consultation with others, considered various ways to commemorate this great event. Somehow traditional ideas did not necessarily seem to fit. Plying Nello with yards of ale, then transporting him by train, ferry and goat to an island peak in the Upper Hebrides where he would awake chained naked to a Pictish monolith certainly had its advocates. But we couldn't track down the goat (or be sure that Nello wouldn't cook it). Similar ideas were proposed, considered, but ultimately rejected.

In the end, it was agreed that Nello would like nothing more than to spend an evening with his best friends, eating, drinking, talking and having a relaxed time in preparation for the big day (or night?). And the venue? Where else but Nello's Ristorante... Therefore, last night fifteen of us gathered together to prepare a unique collective menù di degustazione, the intention to achieve a sort of gastronomic foreplay aimed to provoke, excite but not satiate through the procession of numerous small assaggi, little tastes only, a mouthful or two each, prepared jointly or individually by all in attendance, and accompanied of course by appropriate wines. The potential for too many cooks spoiling the brodo? Not at all (of course, it helps when your friends include Michael Caines, of Gidleigh Park, David Curley, fisherman and chef, late of The Galley Restaurant, and John Brandon, pudding maestro extraordinaire, not to mention the rest of us!).

After beginning the evening with the recital of a particularly apt poem entitled Addio by an obscure Italian theologian and poet, ex-Abbot Gadso (or Gadzo) da Vicenza (from a collection of verse published in the Seicento entitled La vita è una cena -- Life's a meal), we enjoyed the following outrageous feast which did not finish until 4 in the morning:

Homebaked focaccia (Ugo Evans)

Manstree Essling English sparkling wine; Champagne Blanc de Blancs


Antipasti erotici (Gal Crump and Kevin Philips)

Pinot Bianco


Tortilla española (Pepe)

Peperoni con aciughe e funghi con gorgonzola (Claudio Ferrari)

Bardolino Chiaretto


Pasta e fasoi (Marc)

Dolcetto d'Alba 1997 di Mario Fontana


Ballontine de foie gras with truffle salad and pain de campagne (Michael Caines)

Ch. Rieussec Sauternes 1986


Penne al salmone (Barrie Parsons)

Santara Chardonnay 1997


Grilled sea bass and seared diver's scallops with beurre blanc (David Curley)

Sancerre 1997


Salt duck with Cabernet and orange sauce (Marc)

Tignanello 1982


Caesar salad (Ben Leger)

Pinot Grigio del Veneto 1997


Formaggi italiani (Kevin)

Nebbiolo d'Alba 1995

Chateau de Meursault Beaunes Les Greves 1995 (Jeremy)


Bread and butter pudding and baked peaches stuffed with a sweet risotto (John Brandon)

Champagne Vve. Clicquot Ponsardin Demi-sec


Coffee and Anna's outrageously rich chocolate cake (Ugo)

Grappa (regrettably)



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