24 July 2010


Carpaccio is an Italian appetizer of raw meat or fish thinly sliced, sometimes pounded thin, and often served with rocket salad (arugula) and a vinaigrette of oil and vinegar.  There are two slightly varying stories as to the genesis of "carpaccio." Whether at Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy, or at Savini Restaurant in Milan, Italy, in 1950 two women were told to by their doctors to eat only raw meat.  Apparently, it wasn't socially acceptable for women to eat raw meat; so the code name "carpaccio" was created.

In one story, it was named by the owner of the restaurant because the colors of the raw meat reminded the owner of the colors used in the paintings of artist Vittore Carpaccio.  In the other story, there was a painting on the wall by the same artist, and the waiter had to quickly think of a code name to call the appetizer so the woman could order the dish and be discreet.  Personally, I think, as the story was passed on, the details of the story became muddled, and that's the reason for the two versions of an almost identical story.

Regardless, my very dear friend came to visit me this week from another country.  We went to dinner at a place I enjoy that serves typical Florentine dishes.  Having read the menu and having made a decision, my friend exclaimed, "Oh, I love carpaccio.  I'm having that."  I asked her if she completely read and understoood the description as to what kind of carpaccio she was about to order.  She decided to be bold and try it even though it wasn't what most of us are accustomed to receiving when we order this dish, especially in the United States.

The photo clearly depicts the look of disgust on my friend's face when her dish arrived.

Instead of a vinaigrette, the carpaccio was served with salsa verde (a sauce made mostly from olive oil, vinegar, Italian parsley, anchovies, and capers -- mmm, delicious!!!).  But it was the carpaccio that had us in stitches.  Carpaccio di Lingua.  That's right.  Tongue!  Six slices of it.  From six cows?  One tongue for each language my friend speaks fluently?  Couldn't they have disguised it even a bit?  Throw some arugula on top so we didn't have to look at all those tongues?

Meanwhile, Mabel, my dog, was quite satisfied with the tongue carpaccio.  And where we were sitting was right next to the fiaschetteria (Work with me here.  A fiaschetteria is a wine shop where you can fill your own bottles of wine straight from the vats.  I don't know what you call the actual vats).  So we were at a table next to the vat from which patrons were served liters of house wine.  At the bottom of the vat, they had a large bowl to catch the wine drippings.  Mabel kept eyeing that bowl as if already drunk, wanting to take a drink.

We belly-laughed our way through dinner, but when I received a phone call, we had to abruptly leave for a meeting before completing our dinner or even having caffe macchiato (espresso with a splash of milk).  We're pretty certain the people working in the restaurant, aware of our giggling and laughing, believe we left because we were disgusted with her meal.

Etymology of fiasco bottle;  fare fiasco:  to make a bottle;  in English: a complete failure; a sudden collapse)

Our dinner ended up being a fiasco.

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Florence, Italy

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