FLORENCE, Italy—Three of us took a long walk down the Arno River last week to a part of Florence we had yet to explore. If we were going to listen to one suggestion from a friend who spent a semester here, she made it clear Ristorante Il Profeta needed to be it. Awaiting us was a meal we have longed for since we began our adventure.
For the first time in two weeks we actually made a reservation, a sure sign of our enthusiasm. We were late and nervous we had lost our spot. Frantically, we rushed inside only to be greeted by a tranquil and hospitable elderly man eagerly awaiting our arrival. He proudly introduced himself as the owner who was there to serve us the best meal. We sat and watched in awe as he greeted each customer by name and made sure the young girl next to us left with a souvenir.
The restaurant was small and quaint. The walls glowed with a simple cream palate with hand drawn paintings in neutral tones. The placemats matched the napkins in a deeper shade of rustic yellow. It was modest-looking and comforting. I was instantly brought back to my grandparent’s table, anticipating the spaghetti dinner my grandparents cooked in the kitchen.
When the owner approached the table, he made a point to ensure we understood the vastness in our options for dinner that night. He went though the entire menu with such distinct detail that left my mouth watering. We decided to begin with the bruschetta coated with what he said was Italy’s most pristine olive oil and tomatoes. He gave us one tomato-less piece so we could savor the flavors of this olive oil. After treating us to far more samples than my appetite was ready for, my main course meal came out.
I followed the directions of my friend and ordered the “John Travolta,” almost despite its name This was not technically its name, but rather its description ever after John Travolta licked his plate clean twice after eating the meal.
The thick, homemade noodles were soaked in a puree that he proudly stated has been secret recipe for 34 years. Unable to decipher the flavors, I became content with knowing that this food experience was unique to any I have and will experience in my life.
I ate slowly allowing the flavors to introduce themselves individually. When my meal was complete a large pile of the delicious thick puree remained on my plate. To my surprise and basket of freshly baked bread was placed in front of me, permitting me to scoop up what was left of this unique sauce.
The owner spoke frequently of the commonalities we shared although we were from different countries. He explained how we all speak a number of languages but don’t know it and each time we use certain expressions we are conveying the same concept. So as I sat there scraping up the last of my meal, he stated that I “made scarpetta,” and Italian expression literally meaning I am scraping the remains on the plate like a little shoe. This was a great compliment to the chef and my only way to ensure to him that he had certainly served me the best meal.