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January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - ,, No comments

Amelia, Umbria: La Misticanza

by Catherine Schofield Segin

Two of my classmates, Lauren Cattey, a criminologist, and Katie Ogden, an art historian, and I were sitting at one of the many shiny metal bistro tables on the patio of Bar Leonardi overlooking the Piazza 21 Settembre, the large open space outside of the walls of historic Amelia. As students of ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in Art Crime Studies, we had by then survived three weeks of lectures, five days a week, five to six hours a day. Our course time had cut into prime grocery shopping time that on Thursdays in Amelia meant from about 8 a.m. to about 1 or 2 p.m. when the stores closed for the afternoon and the evening. Drinking espresso drinks and prosecco, nibbling on potato chips and nuts, we watched the Italians around us, smartly dressed in various hues of purple, the men with their man-bags which held their cell phones and cigarettes, the women who that summer flagrantly displaced purple or leopard bra straps. We considered our options for dinner – inexpensive pizza from the shop across the park – and then we ran out of ideas. We’d eaten lunch at Punto di Vino, as usual, and could return since it was the one place that always remained open.

Our counting of purple outfits – we often reached double digits – was interrupted by a tall man who exited from a car in a parking space in front of us and ambled over with a piece of paper. In either Italian or English, likely the latter as that is why he chose us, he asked how he could find La Misticanza. We were baffled. We'd lived in Amelia for more than three weeks and although it was a small town and we were always discovering a new food market or shop -- and sharing the information as to when they were open -- Porcelli's was closed on Tuesdays, Cansacchi was closed on Wednesdays and Le Colonne was closed on Thursdays -- we hadn’t heard about this Misticanza. The fair haired man, now we were guessing he was German, claimed that he was meeting friends so in helpful desperation I recalled a pretty sign with a floral motif outside a bar door across the road from Bar Leonardi and directed him around the corner to the left.

This bar we had sent the newcomer to seemed to be deserted during the day and yet attracted a boisterous crowd in the evening but we'd never been inside the open doors nor had we seen a menu. So, as soon as it grew dark, we crossed the piazza, stepped into the sit down area of a brewery and walked up to the cashier and then peered into a side door to find a crowded dining room overlooking the Porta Romana. Using our rudimentary Italian, we ordered what we thought was one plate of salami and cheese only to receive three large platters of antipasto. We were laughing by the time the pizza arrived but didn’t turn down what would become one of our favorite pizzas, the caprese, a puffy crust covered in slices of tomato and mozzarella with basil and drizzled with olive oil.

We would return a few more times, very careful to order just pizza, as the gregarious and talented chef could be creative with the menu and the bill. Many long evenings were spent in the place we came to know as “Crazy Johnny’s” where nothing is predictable except the excellent quality of the food.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight Porcelli’s, a pizza tavern inside the historic center.

Top Photo: View of the Porta Romana from La Misticanza
Middle photo: The dining room of La Misticanza
Bottom photo: Caprese pizza