December 11-16, 2016: Dinner Party at Professor Cavina’s


I had one of the best nights I’ve had in Bologna. Notwithstanding the fact that I came down with something, I had a great time at Professor Cavina’s dinner party at her palace. We were under no obligation to bring anything, but I didn’t want to show up empty handed. I asked Sofia if it would be appropriate to bring a panettone during the holidays, and she suggested the brand Tre Marie. Except they didn’t have that brand at my local grocery store. So I just bought a random one as a backup and then went to another store and found the Tre Marie there double the price. I kept the cheap one for myself and brought the good one to dinner. And she was very impressed. It’s the best brand of panettone from Milan. She said she was going to bring it out when her family comes to visit her for Christmas and think of me.  I’m glad I didn’t go with the big Ferrero Rocher. Though I think grandma would love the big Ferrero. She cooked a lot of food for us. It’s very impressive. She must’ve been working all day. I arrived first. That is, I was on time. She said that is very unusual in Italy. Sometimes people show up the next day. But Professor Matthijs and his girlfriend showed up soon after. I don’t have that many pictures cause I felt kind of awkward taking pictures of someone’s house…

Courtesy of Frits

Professor Cavina’s apartment is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is a first floor apartment on via Parigi. First floor apartments are always the most decorated because the most important families lived there. The city center of Bologna was spared in WWII. So the old 15th century building still stands. The decoration is 18th century. The doors are all decorated, the ceilings are painted. She has an antique piano with Chopin’s face on the stand. It’s allegedly out of tune, but she has another piano in a room we didn’t get to see. She has books everywhere, not just on the numerous shelves that line all the walls but under tables and in stacks everywhere. It is very much a professor’s apartment. And an art professor’s apartment, so there is artwork everywhere too. We were processed into the formal dining room, a wide open room clearly meant for hosting dinner parties. You could tell that in the aristocratic days, they’d open up all the doors and host big parties. It was literally like something out of Downton Abbey. It has couches like in the kinds of museums that you’re usually not allowed to sit on. The windows are handmade and there is a view at the head of the street. She told us a story about when her son threw a chair out the window and broke it. They were very expensive to replace (she also totally plays favorites, she has a “best” child”, her words). Her flooring is like the floors under the porticoes outside. She has these gorgeous chandeliers. Everyone was talking about just hiding out in a closet, you’d never be found and could totally live in there. We only saw a couple rooms of this place, but she definitely at least had an upstairs and a downstairs in addition to the main floor because her staircase went both ways. She made us spaghetti and gramigna and spinach and artichoke quiche and tomatoes and braciola and salame. The highlight for me was the homemade tiramisu and chocolate cake. She had so many of the same dishware that she clearly has hosted parties before. We had prosecco from her husband’s vineyard. They own a vineyard. Her husband’s family is very rich. They were pioneers in neurosurgery before anesthesia. Her husband is a surgeon too. He wasn’t there.  He was either in their place in New York, or their place in the countryside, or somewhere else. Professor Cavina is just the coolest. She has pictures with Umberto Eco in her apartment. He has been in this apartment for dinner. They were friends!

I went to a cooking class with the Gastronomy Club on via Pratello. I had signed up early, but then they cancelled it last minute, and then it was back on. We made tagliatelle al ragu, veal in a balsamic vinagrette and tiramisu. It was a very traditional Bolognese meal. I was expecting it’d be like we all get a station and watch at the front of the class. But it was really the teacher telling us what to do as a few people helped him at a time. I thought it would be interactive. My job was cutting the raw veal. I must say, I did a good job. I had an enormous knife. I don’t think I’ve ever used a knife that big. It was also a really long class. I don’t think I ate until 9:30, 2.5 hours after we arrived. It wasn’t very well planned. Also, fresh pasta is just a pain to make. It takes so long and it’s so difficult that it’s just not worth the trouble.

I saw my first of many protests in Bologna. They happen all the time at the university but I can usually avoid them because you hear the yelling down the street, but we walked right into this one. It was very organized. The police in full riot gear closed off sections of the street methodically as the protest moved across the city. They’ve clearly done this before. It happens all the time that they’re professional protesters. The city knows how to handle it. I was surprised that anything in Italy could be so organized. Everyone had flares and were yelling “no fico” which I later learned was referencing the incoming Eataly World. They think Eataly will kill all the small businesses. But I think Italians have too much pride in their food for that to happen. They’ll last. I think it’ll be more of a tourist attraction than anything. Also, how dare they protest the greatest thing that will ever happen to Bologna?

I was too late taking out my camera to get the protest, but look at the pretty portico!

And of course, this would happen to me. We had a gas leak in our apartment. The gas people came to check the meter, but I didn’t know who it was, so I didn’t answer. They left a note saying I could take the reading myself and give them the numbers. So that’s what I did. When I opened the closet door to look, I kind of smelled some gas. But I wasn’t sure if it was normal or not. I told Salvatore and he said it’s fine if it’s just a little bit of a smell. He came the next day to take a look at the thermostat because my reading was really low. There was nothing wrong with it. I was just stupid. I read the time as an oft fluctuating temperature. It’s the biggest number, so I assumed it was temperature in Celsius. But anyways, I had him look at the gas and he took a lighter to it and found the leak. Yeah, he just went straight at it with a lighter. We’re just lucky it didn’t blow up. We got a new meter and now everything is good.


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