Gnocchi

One morning as I got on the bus, there was an older Italian man standing in the bus doorway checking everyone’s bus tickets.  He was tall and tanned with a handsome face and a thick head of graying hair. I showed him my monthly pass and proceeded down the aisle to a seat on the right hand side of the bus so I could watch the sea while we traveled to Amalfi.

He followed me to my seat and sat down next to me.

Dovete riempirli destinazione ed il vostri nome e compleanno (You have to fill in you destination and your name and birthday)”, he explained.  No one had ever mentioned this to me before.  He removed a pen from the pocket of his blue shirt and handed it to me with a big smile. I dutifully did as he asked. Then he took the ticket out of my hand and examined it.

Siete cinquantotto (You are 58)!” he said with a nod of his head.  “Sono cinquantotto anche (I am 58 also),” he beamed.

I just sat there and smiled sheepishly.  I think he was trying to pick me up!

Alessandro was draining a huge pot of steaming potatoes when I entered the kitchen.

“Today I teach you to make gnocchi,” he said.  He loaded the potatoes into the ricer by the sink and instructed me on how to use the machine so I could take over.  The potatoes were strained through a sieve and looked like mashed potatoes (without any lumps) when they came out the other end.

We cleared off a section of the wooden counter top and dusted it with flour.  Then Alessandro looked at my hands and pulled two disposable gloves out of a box labeled “small” sitting on a shelf above the counter.

“Put on,” he instructed.  “Is very messy.”  Alessandro scooped potatoes onto the counter, sprinkled them with flour and punched a well into the top of the mound.  Then he separated eggs and put the egg yolks, salt and pepper into the well.  He let me mush it all together, adding more flour until the dough was stiff.  He kneaded the dough until it was smooth and then sectioned off a portion and rolled it into a long rope.  Using the bench scraper, he showed me how to cut the rope into little “pillows” to make the potato dumplings.  Then he told me to finish shaping the rest of the dough into the gnocchi for the restaurant.  It was going to be used that evening for a dish with onion, bacon and fava beans as the sauce.

Today, I got off early and there wasn’t a bus scheduled to leave for Positano for a couple of hours.  Alessandro was taking his break and offered to drive me, but he only took me as far as the bus stop at Priano – the town before Positano.  I didn’t know how to tell them that I’d still be stuck there until a bus came along, so I just thanked him and decided to walk the rest of the way.  I’d forgotten that the roads were sloped – what a workout! My face was sunburned, but I made the 11 km walk in only 1 hr 45 minutes!

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