A spontaneous dinner among friends

(October 8, 2015)  Bill and Shelly Trowell, my friends from North Carolina, hosted their first guests in their new home here in Spello—Steve and Carol Wallin. When their guests were enjoying their last evening before parting, Paola and Leonardo had the idea to host a quick potluck dinner the night before, so we all contributed to the dinner, and in only a couple of hours had quite a feast to celebrate the visit of Steve and Carol.

Crusts of baked Parmesan cheese, with a bit of hummus filling

Crusts of baked Parmesan cheese, with a bit of hummus filling–and a small quiche

Thin slices of speck with ricotta filling, arugula, lemon

Thin slices of speck with ricotta filling, arugula, lemon

A common sight--someone photographing Paola's offerings (Bill)

A common sight–someone photographing Paola’s offerings (Bill)

Crostini with liver pate',

Crostini with liver pate’, dried Umbrian sausages, and pane di pizza (like cornbread with cheeses inside)

Paola is a wonder—given only a couple hours to prepare, she just comes up with so many wonderful ideas, and her small kitchen is the birthplace of some really great antipasti, and pasta sauces, too. We decided on the dinner, all (like boxers) went to our respective corners to quickly prepare our contribution to the dinner, and then we met up at 8 p.m. with the results.

Zucchini with tomato sauce

Zucchini with tomato sauce and cheese

Our table of "happy campers," minus Leonardo (taking the photo)

Our table of “happy campers,” minus Leonardo (taking the photo)–Steve and Carol, Bill and Shelley, me, and Arianna and Paola in the foreground

Our honored guests, Steve and Carol Wallin

Our honored guests, Steve and Carol Wallin

Pasta carbonara, with eggs and pancetta

Pasta carbonara, with eggs, pecorino cheese and pancetta

Oven-roasted tomatoes

Oven-roasted tomatoes with olive oil

Shelley's spinach salad--a new way for Italians to eat spinach

Shelley’s spinach salad–a new way for Italians to eat spinach

Arianna, younger daughter of Paola and Leonardo

Arianna, younger daughter of Paola and Leonardo

I swear that there is no finer table to pull up a chair for dinner than Paola’s—and our small contributions were pale by comparison to hers. The best ingredient, we all agreed, was the company of all of us together, having a wonderful time. Slowly, the Trowells can speak and understand more and more Italian, and Leonardo and Paola have begun to understand and speak more English. We meet in the middle, and the room is full of laughter and fun, and some wonderful things to eat.

My contribution--tarte tatin, with apples in caramel sauce over puff pastry

My contribution–tarte tatin, with apples in caramel sauce over puff pastry

Paola serving dessert

Paola serving dessert

Not complete without vanilla gelato on the side

Not complete without vanilla gelato on the side

Over the moon (me) for this pear cognac--MUST take some home!

Over the moon (me) for this pear cognac–MUST take some home!

At the end of the evening, we’d all had a very memorable time, just celebrating together and enjoying what would be considered a “light meal,” by Paola’s usual standards. Again, it was not just the great food, but the great company made it an unforgettable (“indimenticabile”) evening.

Our friends together--at the end of our dinner

Our friends together–at the end of our dinner

One more shot, with Bonnie!

One more shot, with Bonnie! (Thanks, Steve–the photographer rarely get into the photos!)

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