Thursday, May 03, 2012


On Monday to Friday and Sunday evenings I am incognita from 8 - 8.15 pm., for that is when it is time to listen to The Archers [BBC Radio 4] on the internet:  the phone goes unanswered, as does the doorbell and even the computer is switched off.  My other unmissable appointment with the media takes place on Thursday evenings from 9.10 - 11.30 when I am engrossed in a series called Benvenuti a tavola - Nord vs Sud on Italy's Canale 5.

The story takes place in Milan where two chefs, one local and one from Southern Italy, have restaurants opposite one another.  The Northern chef, Carlo Conforti [Fabrizio Bentivoglio], produces sophisticated food but always with respect for tradition whilst the Southern chef, Paolo Perrone [Giorgio Tirabassi], concentrates on simpler, traditional fare from his own region. Both chefs are helped by their families and  Conforti has the additional "advice" of his father-in-law who thinks that cookery should be exactly as it was 50 years ago.

We see some of the dishes as they are being prepared and I must admit that every episode makes me ravenous!  In addition, at the end of each double episode, each chef quickly gives instructions for a recipe and viewers can vote for the one they prefer, with a chance of winning a prize. [I haven't won yet but I'm working on it!]

But this is not just a story of two rival kitchens:  it is also a tale of two families and of the tensions between North and South. These are sensitively dealt with and stereotypes are avoided whilst the comic potential is retained:  Perrone's restaurant, for instance, is called Terrone [an insulting word, which can roughly be translated as "yokel",  used by some Northern Italians to describe Southerners] because Conforti played a joke on him. Perrone's two teenage daughters are having a hard time at school because of their southern origins and, unbeknown as yet to Conforti, his son, Federico,  is in love with the elder girl, Alessia.

One day, Federico Conforti shyly goes to buy tickets for a concert by the Neapolitan singer Alberto Selly in the hope of impressing Alessia Perrone.  When he finds that the tickets are sold out, he manages to obtain two from a friend of his mother's.  Alessia, however, plays hard to get at first and says she does not want to go to the concert.  When she changes her mind, Federico, to save face in front of his friends, says he is not interested in Alberto Selly so Alessia takes a friend to the concert instead. You can see part of this episode here.

There may be another love affair budding, between Conforti's beautiful, childcare-challenged waitress Pilar [who always makes me want to put a binbag over my head] and Perrone's cousin-in-law Cecio,  but this one could be more complicated.  And with Paolo and Carlo continuing to play tricks upon and threatening to kill each other whilst their wives look on in exasperation, complications abound.

Now we have, in addition, the Benvenuti a tavola book, written by Andrea Grignaffini and Pietro Valsecchi as if they were Carlo and Paolo and filled with photos of characters from the series and recipes .  It does not, alas, contain photos of the food.  Of course the test of any cookery book is whether the recipes actually work and I'll let you know about this as I try them out.

But right now I have to go as I need to publish this post, take Simi the dog out, catch up on The Archers and prepare supper before I unplug the phone, say "See you later" to my twitter friends and settle down to another two and a half hours of sheer joy at 9.10 pm.  Ciao e buon appetito!


Gledwood said...

How does it feel listening to The Archers in Sicily?... I remember picking up Radio 4 loud and clear as we drove through sunflower fields in central France. That was pretty amazing!

By the way I can't remember exactly how much you read but I might be turning into a woman because of my LIVER!

And that would be due to drinking too much. So much for heavy drinking being somehow "manly"..!!!!!!!!!

Say woof to Simi. In a high-pitched voice.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Gleds. Well, Ok, I guess. Have to listen on net though - something to do with the licence agreement. I didn't realise you were turning into a woman - will come over to read more! Simi says "Woof" in an Italian voice. x

Liz Hinds said...

That does sound good! A bit Capulet and Montague!

Husband and I struggling to learn Italian! WE need you to teach us.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Liz. I would love to - if only we were nearer.

Rowena said...

Of course you know that I love this show, but I disagree on the stereotypes being avoided...on the other hand they are in your face! Whenever Conforti goes "Tac!" I burst into laughter because he sounds just like my milanese father-in-law! That snobbish, know-it-all, sapientone tone and look - good grief (I won't name names in my extended northern family!).

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Rowena. Perhaps I should have said "negative stereotypes". Thanks for the tale of your family - I'm still smiling.


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