It still means something here in Le Marche Province. It means “that is the only way we do things here—the right way.” Tonight we visited an Antichitta—basically an antique shop—and looked at several pieces that ranged from 150-400 years old. They were beautiful and very useful. Not museum pieces, but items of everyday living that people have been using for centuries. The prices were not astronomical. In fact, Massimo, the proprietor, told us that the 300-year old, $1,400 walnut chest we looked at would have cost $6,000 some 6-8 years ago, but the market is not what it used to be.
From Mass’ place, we went to ArredoTenda, a small shop/factory/ “laboratorio” that hand-makes beautiful furniture. Stefano Belfiore, who’s owned the place with his brother Gianni for 30 years, gave us a tour. “If there are two ways to do something, I will pick the harder way,” he said. I liked him right away. (That’s a leather blind he’s holding. “Very inexpensive,” he said.)
The way they do things is… bellisima. It’s starts with beautiful Italian design, adds in high-quality ingredients and ends with meticulous, caring, artful execution. The result is… well, it just confirms that there is a place in the world for people who care deeply about what they do and insist on putting something of themselves in every single piece they produce. While the Italian economy is not exactly robust, the market for high-quality goods has not sagged. People here may own just one or two suits (and not five or seven), but they’re hand tailored and locally made. We were trying to find the equivalent of a Goodwill store to take some unneeded household items. Our friend told us there’s really nothing like that here, because people don’t really get rid of things. High quality materials tend to stick around.
(Mechanics aren’t the only ones with calendar girls.)
The evening ended, of course, with a lovingly crafted meal at Casa Mia. There were only two occupied tables in the romantic place situated in the castle walls of Tolentino town. All of the ingredients came from within a few miles of where we sat. That’s not trendy; that’s just the way it’s done here. Always has been. As we were about to leave, the proprietors, Palmira and Paulo, talked to us for a long time about the restaurant and their customers… Paulo said he’d much rather have a few loyal customers who appreciate what they do than to have a whole lot of transient diners who didn’t really give much thought to what was put before them.
Just before we headed for the door, Paulo went to the kitchen and brought back a treasure to proudly share with us: white truffles, kept in a mason jar like an 8-year old’s secrets. I’ve never seen a whole truffle—only shavings of them. Here were three plump, fragrant bulbs probably worth hundreds of Euros, bursting with flavor and care and promise. He was so excited to show us these ingredients foraged by a local friend and supplier. This intoxicating aroma triggered in me olfactory memories of earlier, incredible earthly delights that I won’t mention here. I envy the diners who will enjoy them in the coming meals.
Craftsmanship. You can see it, feel it, smell it and most certainly taste here in Le Marche