Estratto dallo scampolo di ricordi N.11 di Angelo Giorgio Mutinati


“Pepp de M’nginz F’lippe” was the owner of the Café in the Piazza, the main square, where there’s now the tobacconist with the lotto agency; it was called “café”, because the cold and banal word “bar” was unknown at the time. Obviou – sly, we have moved forward since then. Said “café” used to have (and still has) its entrance from the square, and also a door on Piazza Dante (a chiazze d’a Durle – te), where Peppe, during the main holidays of the time (Crist susprann – the Dying Christ, on the 12th of June – santa Lucigghie – Saint Lucy, on the 6th of July – and Santrocche – Saint Rocco on the 16th of August), set up a few tables, so that the more affluent guests could enjoy his inimitable (and, unfortunately, no longer imitated) spumoni. These spumoni were prepared with the help of the unfailing “Ualletto” (Neglia Romualdo, the dad of Alfredo, the owner of the botte – ga bearing his name) in a basement in Largo Piave with steel containers immer – sed in wooden vats filled with ice and salt of the kind given to cattle to lick. One of “Ualletto”’s tasks, by them already a sort of ritual, was the preparation of the coffee each morning (I have such a neat memory of that).

I must add that it was really difficult to source some true coffee in those days; at home, when you were lucky enough to have some in store, it was used at least three times: after the first coffee making the grounds were broken up and rege – nerated, and then reused. In every home, there was an implement called “coffee roaster” : it was a made up of a small frame of the proper size to be placed on a small barbecue; the frame was connected by way of a hinge to an oval container with small holes in a slightly slanted position, provided with a small door from where it could be emptied. This container had a handle. Once the coffee had been placed inside, the container was put on the barbecue and the handle rota – ted with great care, until the proper roasting had been achieved. But since most of the times there was no actual coffee, people would roast barley. How the times have changed! Now we go to the bar and look very posh ordering some barley coffee; back then, we would have felt embarrassed. Many people, trying to show greater respect for the guest, would mix real coffee grounds (that were jealously stored and preserved) with the roasted and ground barley: thus the brew resulted more similar to actual coffee.

Around 7.30 in the morning “Ualletto” carried the little barbecue to the hilltop that separates the “stradone” – Corso 20 settembre – from the “lungomare” – Via Nardelli -, with its boundaries marked to the north by “i culonn da chiazze” – the two pillars at the entrance of the “piazza” – and to the south by the “culonne d’a ville”- the two pillars at the entrance of the town park. After some short fanning with a postcard the fire would soon be lit (with almond shells), with the help of the wind always blowing in that place. At the right time, “Uualletto” placed the coffee machine on the fire, and when it was ready (after having turned it properly upside down) he would announce in a loud voice: “coffee is ready”. It was a ritual.