The plan was to go to the market in Porto Azzurro to pick out our dinner for the evening. We traveled in style. Luciano owns a 1952 Fiat station wagon in mint condition. He drove us in it to the market.
The car, older than I am, is a real throwback – it doesn’t even have seat belts. Unfortunately, on our way to the market, the rain got steadier.
We arrived to find that there wasn’t much of a market due to the weather. There were a few vegetable stands and some food trucks. One of the food trucks had a beautiful porchetta, which I got to taste -mmm.
Manuela met us at the market and brought along their golden retriever, Iola. She bought some favas and artichokes.
We had a caffe at a bar. I enjoy coffee, but don’t typically drink it. In Italy, though, I can’t resist it. It is wonderful anywhere one goes. I have come to start drinking a caffe latte in the mornings and an espresso after lunch. Here, I had a caffe latte. I have balanced the coffee by drinking plenty of water with fresh lemon. The lemons of Italy are wonderful and when drunk with aqua frizzante, it is like drinking a limonata, only slightly less sweet.
Since there were no fish vendors at the market, we walked to the port, where Luciano brought us to a pesqueria, a fish store. There we had a number of fish to choose from. They had fresh anchovies, seppia and we chose a grey mullet and a John Dory.
We left the fish there and went outside to check out the special island wide automobile rally taking place. Porto Azzurro was a base of operations and there were plenty of colorful cars lined up and moving around. The cars would drive all over the island, but only certain roads were part of the actual race. They would be timed driving through these points and their cumulative times would count towards the results. The rally continued throughout the day.
We all got together in Manuela’s car and drove to Rio Marina, a lovely seaport town where we stopped to have lunch at Ristorante Grigolo, a small restaurant occupying the corner of a building close to the port. Luciano knows everyone and everyone seems to have great respect for Luciano. We sat down to what turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip so far.
The chef/owner, Flavio Denio, prepared a feast for us.
We had a look at his kitchen where marvelous things were happening, like the octopus in the photos above.
We started with marinated alici (anchovies) with rucola. The anchovies were pristine – flavorful and firm. They had just the right level of acidity.
The meal was washed down with mineral water from Elba with a label featuring its most famous one time resident…
…and a nice white wine.
This was followed by incredible stewed octopus with potatoes. The octopus was wonderfully tender and the combination of ingredients seemed like they were always meant to go together.
Salted/dried tuna with tomatoes was rather tasty.
Vongole and cozze were absolutely perfect representations of the sea. Of course, we used bread to sop up some of the delicious juices.
We weren’t finished though, as Flavio prepared spaghetti with mullet and tomatoes. The spaghetti was so delicate and delicious, made with real finesse. This was such an unexpectedly wonderful meal.
After the meal, my son went with Manuela and Iola for some gelato and a walk. Luciano and I sat and chatted for a while. He is an incredible free-spirit living a wonderful island life. He has a job that he enjoys, makes a little money, has access to a boat and eats and drinks very, very well. He is in his late 70′s, smokes and has diabetes, but looks like he is actually in his 60′s. He is spry and has a wonderful mind. Our approach to life is actually quite similar minus the cigarettes. He is an irresistible personality. Manuela is only slightly older than I am. She was born in Florence (actually in a building in the Piazza della Signoria), while he is native to Elba. Luciano spent about 16 years living in Munich, where he learned to cook. He ultimately returned to Elba, started his restaurant and the rest is history.
My son came back from his walk with Manuela, then he and I went for a walk along the port. Rio Marina is a beautiful town, a quintessential small Mediterranean seaside village. We drove back to Luciano’s car, where we dropped him off and continued back to Capoliveri with Manuela.