How You, Too, Can Get Invited To A Stranger’s House For A Meal In Italy
Not content with the haute cusisine and celebrity chefs that permeate the dining scene in New York, the NYT’s Frugal Traveler, Matt Gross, headed off to Italy to barge in on some local families for a few but-gusting sit-down lunches and dinners (oh yeah, they were also complete strangers), all without getting kicked out even once.
But not just any dinner, but a dinner prepared by ordinary folks whose culinary skills have earned them the right to be named Cesarinas by Home Food, “an Italian organization dedicated to, as its promotional literature states, ‘the protection and increase of the value of typical Italian gastronomic and culinary legacy.'”
Who cooked your last dinner party meal?
Restaurants are great, but they don’t give transient tourists much opportunity to establish a relationship with the people making and serving the food. No, if the family is the fundamental social unit in Italy, then family meals must be the fundamental way to experience Italian society. You just have to have an in . . .
Home Food seeks out exceptional home chefs, puts them through a training course and dubs them Cesarinas — little Caesars, emperors of the kitchen. Then, a few times a month, the Cesarinas host dinner parties at which they open their homes to strangers.
And how does one get invited to such an exclusive, authentic experience such as this? Easy, pony up a few dollars a month. “All an intrepid eater has to do is register with Home Food, pay a membership fee (3.50 euros for foreigners, or about $4.60 at $1.31 to the euro; 35 euros for Italians) and scour the monthly listings for a meal that appeals. Would you like goose-meat salami in Lombardy? Fried chicken bones with red chicory in Emilia-Romagna? Rabbit in a pot in Tuscany? All are part of dozens of meals on offer throughout April, with participation fees typically 34.90 or 39.90 euros per person.”