Monday, April 4, 2011

A Return to Normalcy in Trieste

A great memory popped in my head this morning a trip through Trieste, Italy. We'd been back and forth to the airport a couple of times in the hopes that our lost bags would have arrived; due to my less than rudimentary Italian language skills, the only way to really be sure that the bags weren't there was to go see for ourselves. The strange thing was that I really didn't mind the hour bus ride each way to the airport, as the route went right along the Adriatic Sea, it was a gorgeous day, and everything was simply stunning. Each trip allowed me to notice something I hadn't before, and expand on my little mind-movies of what was happening in each gelato shop, every mechanic's garage, the sea below.

Nevertheless, this much back and forth after a trans-Atlantic flight and another from Rome (which, low and sunny over the sea with the stormy Dolomites in the distance was pleasant in its own right) was exhausting. The bags were not there on the second trip, which would mean another trip back in the morning, and more painfully important, I'd have to make the decision to leave my contact lenses in my already straining eyes overnight, or bite the bullet of soaking them in tap water overnight as nary a pharmacy could be found on this otherwise lovely Sunday. These thoughts were shoved to the back of my mind as we entered a sparse little cafe/restaurant called Buffet Clai on via Ugo Foscolo in Trieste. Immediately greeted with a carafe of red table wine, we ordered some food, so simple and so delicious and comforting after the long trip: Polenta e Baccala and Gnocchi con Goulasch. The food in Trieste really seems to stand with one foot in Italy, one foot in Eastern Europe with a good deal of Hungarian and Slavik influence. These two dishes were, like I said, so very simple: the salt cod braised in a ragout of tomatoes, maybe some cream rounding things out; the polenta cooked all day, then placed in a dish to cool, be cut into squares, and reheated; the generously sized gnocchi folded into a rich goulash of beef and tomatoes. The place itself was welcoming, too, but not in an extreme way--they brought us our food and wine, and went about their business. No pandering to the tourists, just making sure we were alright; as basic and loving as the food.

I'll spare you the story about what happened with my contact lenses; it's gruesome for sure. But let's just say that if you find yourself in Trieste like James Joyce (or other, more meager writers), take a spin around and find yourself down a side street that leads to places like this.

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