Friday, April 17, 2009

The Dampness Won’t Dampen Our Plans and Matzah Milanese

The last weekend of March provided a doozy of a downpour. But rather than stay inside all weekend (well, with the exception of Saturday afternoon), we decided to brave the storm and explore more of Genova and Milano. After buying Martello some pants that actually fit, we treated ourselves to a romantic dinner (a belated Valentine's Day meal, if you will; we're slow) at Enoteca Tiflis, a cavernous wine bar and restaurant that's tucked behind Piazza del Erbe and looks like it stepped out from medieval central casting. Unfortunately, the ambiance bested the meal (there was a weird Asian-spice and kebab thing going on), but the wine Trofie Wife selected (a Sangiovese from the Marché region) was divine.

After dinner we skedaddled home so that we could awake along with Euro Daylight Saving Time and make our way to Milano on the early train. Our main goal was shopping for Passover staples coupled with some sightseeing. Of course, the rain persisted, but we trudged on, easily navigating the Milano metro to reach Eretz, one of the city's kosher grocery stores far from the city center. It was quite small but packed with folks of seemingly various levels of observance greeting each other as they shopped for the upcoming holiday. The store had a good mix of products both familiar and new, with most of them coming from either Israel or France (too many of the Italian products weren't Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish)-friendly, sigh...). There were no Streits or Manischewitz products in sight (a welcome change), and Martello was in awe of the kosher salami selection (while I was dubious of the faux, fatty beef proscuitto). We carefully curated a selection of light, non-perishable, and "necessary" items, as we would be forced to lug around everything with us all day. We stopped into the adjacent kosher bakery for a donut (Trofie Wife) and teensy tuna and egg sandwiches (Martello), but Trofie Wife shunned their (non-Lavazza) coffee machine for the output of a proper espresso maker elsewhere.

We made our way back to the city center so we could tour the famed Duomo and imposing Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Due to the rain, we didn't scale the Duomo's roof, but we will be back in order to do so. The pictures really speak for themselves, but the Duomo soars into the sky and all the sculpture bedecking it is intricate and impressive.

Within the Galleria, Martello spotted a sign for a beit midrash (Jewish library) curiously situated above a McDonald's (unfortunately, we couldn't get a good shot of them together in one frame).

Our Sunday brunch was eaten at Obikà, a chic mozzarella bar that recently opened its first New York cafe. We had a sampler of three types of buffalo mozzarella, and Martello enjoyed the lighting fixtures while Trofie Wife was fascinated by the automatic kitchen door that opened and closed with perfect timing (we're a couple of simple pleasures).

Obikà is just one eatery within a giant food court situated diagonally behind the Duomo. Security stopped Martello from taking pictures (likely because we'd use them to open our own trendy food court), but among the ridiculously overpriced grocery items was a limited-edition bottle of Bling H20 (sadly, an American product out of LA; the company decorates frosted glass bottles with Swarovski crystals, pumps in purified water, and then sends the crass item to market) decorated in honor of President Obama and priced at 300 euros!

In the afternoon we attempted to attend a Magritte exhibit at Piazza Reale, but it was the last day of the show and the line was hundreds of people long, though you have to give folks a lot of credit for waiting outside in the rain on a long line to see art; I doubt that happens often in the States. We ended the day with a quick stroll through the Brera neighborhood, a bathroom break at the Castello Sforzesco (maybe we'll go back to actually tour the castle next time), and some excellent gelato at La Bottega del Gelato (pignoli ice cream!). Trofie Wife should add that during our Brera stroll we ran into some animal rights activists. I accepted their flier and read and translated it later in the week, learning all the Italian words related to the importance of spaying and neutering a pet (Martello has taken note of my innovative method of learning the language via protest literature). It's funny, because I remember watching an episode of The Dog Whisperer some years back which featured an Italian man and his Standard Boxer who had moved to Southern Florida. Cesar Millan (ha! Sorta like Milan!) explained to the man that the dog really needed to be neutered if he was going to be properly socialized, and the man insisted that it's just not something that's accepted in the machismo Italian culture. I don't recall where in Italy that man was from, but there's definitely a larger movement abreast here to control the domestic animal population (which includes shipping a number of cane randagi (stray dogs) home with me).

Upon boarding the train for home, Trofie Wife realized that we had arrived and were now departing from either Binario 20 or 21 (21 was the infamous platform (its history soon to be chronicled in a station-based museum) from which Italian Jews were shipped to concentration camps during World War II). If it was in fact 21 on which we traveled, oh the irony that it was now being used as a means of transport to kosher for Passover goods!

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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