Year of Grace, Day 6. Simple food

One of my favourite foods is spaghetti with a seafood sauce, and although Bonn has many fine Italian restaurants, it was not until this year that I finally found love at first bite (sorry, I just couldn’t resist). Tuscolo is more noted for its pizza, but it’s their spaghetti al frutti di mare that I  look forward to and always order. It was so good the first time I had it that for the first time in my life, I surprised myself by finishing it all. And the helpings here are enormous. What I love about Tuscolo is that I can rely on them to make this dish unfailingly satisfying each time. The taste is not always the same, probably because they have different cooks, but it is unwaveringly superb. The seafood is absolutely fresh and the sauce, made from fresh tomatoes, light enough not to overpower the prawns and squid. The squid includes the tentacles as well, so squeamish diners might be put off. But I relish squid, tentacles and all. Just a mere suspicion of rosemary, a few sprigs of rucola, a sprinkling of parsley and garlic, plus the enticing smoky scent of grilled prawns on al dente pasta. Simple and honest perfection. And yet, in all these six years of searching for the definitive seafood pasta in Bonn, it is only recently that I have come across it.

Spaghetti al frutti di mare at Tuscolos, Bonn Zentrum

Spaghetti al frutti di mare at Tuscolo, Bonn Zentrum

It isn’t really that complicated to make, and were I to make it, this is the way that I would want my seafood sauce to taste like, though without the rosemary. It is not an herb that I would have thought of including with seafood, but the one or two almost imperceptible snippets of it do give just the right kind of lift in Tuscolo’s sauce.  I do appreciate being surprised by what seem to me as improbable combinations. It surprises me how such a simple dish as pasta partnered with a good seafood sauce has eluded many Italian restaurants here. I found that most often the tomato or cream sauce they use is a stock sauce that they use for everything, and a stodgy one at that. I am really thankful to have found one perfect pasta dish at last! Long may Tuscolo continue to excel in making one of my favourite dishes.

While I am quite adventurous where food is concerned, what satisfies me most is honest food — made from fresh ingredients, simply prepared, and cheerfully and graciously served. Yesterday, Tuscolo delivered as expected, and the waiter was charming and not at all obsequious, speaking mostly in Italian. “Prego, signora!” he said as soon as he presented the menu. Although Saturday is their busiest day, he never lost his smile or good humour. I am also thankful that I didn’t have to wait long. Within a few minutes, a lady brought my rosé wine and then, even before I’d had two sips, my steaming pasta, cautioning me that the plate was extremely hot. It was most delectable and went very well with the Italian rosé. When the waiter came to take away the plates, I didn’t even have to ask; he seemed to have read my mind: “Espresso, signorina?”(I wonder what made him change from the initial ‘signora.’) It was the perfect meal for a lovely, warm not-quite-autumn day. I thank everyone who’s had a hand in making my wonderful meal: from the fishermen to the farmers and vintners, the olive oil and balsamico producers, bakers (there was wonderfully chewy bread for sopping up the wonderful sauce, greedy me 🙂 ), the cooks, and last but not least, the lady server and my engaging Italian waiter.

I am enormously grateful that a simple, well-prepared meal can bring me such a feeling of well-being and contentment. And I didn’t have to  wash the dishes :-). Thank goodness for that!