Now where did we leave off? Yes, it was capodanno or New Year's Eve and we were in Puglia. Most of the restaurants were offering il cenone or 'big dinner' for the occasion, which usually meant big crowds, mediocre food, silly hats, entertainment and well, high prices. We weren't really interested. Instead, M invited us to his family home for dinner. We were honored and thrilled.
His parents and younger brother warmly welcomed us to their beautiful home. His mother in typical Pugliese tradition really outdid herself in the kitchen.
We started off with homemade foccaccia with tomatoes and a Pugliese torta filled with olives, onions and anchovies.
An assortment of local fresh cheeses: mozarella, ricotta, stracciatella and I can't remember what else.
Oriecchiete con cime di rape, or 'little ears' pasta with rapa, a local vegetable. This pasta dish is synonymous with the region of Puglia. The pasta was handmade by mum herself.
Dario could not resist a second helping.
A second primo or first dish of spaghetti with scampi. Really good. I was already full from the appetizer but this was impossible to resist. Plus, I wouldn't want to offend our hosts!
We were so lucky to be there!
Picture with the family. The stove and sink is actually in a little corner behind the wall on the right of the warm fireplace. It's tiny but obviously works as M's mom kept bringing out delicious food.
We looked up at the clock and realized it was almost midnight! M jumped to action bringing out the firecrackers.
The last couple minutes was a frenzy as the guys tried to figure out how the firecrackers worked while running around trying to decide which terrace to set them off from. The volume on the TV was turned up high so we could hear the countdown.
At the stroke of midnight, the explosion of fireworks went off all around us. It seemed like every family had their own set of fireworks. Some were really LOUD and others quite elaborate and colorful exploding high up in the sky. In the distance we could see the fireworks going off in the neighboring town of Bitonto. I was quite amazed by the display and noise. This went on for quite a bit. Buon anno! Auguri!
We also all had a plate of lenticche or lentils, an Italian tradition to usher in good luck in the new year. Their round shape is reminiscent of coins, so bring in the wealth!
A champagne toast for the new year!
And last but not least, M pulled out his stash of cigars and for a celebratory puff. What a night!