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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

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Page 4 of 16: Food in Bergamo: These are a Few of our Favorite Things

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Polenta e Osei pastries in Bergamo

On our second day in Bergamo, we had an absolutely perfect lunch outside under the loggia of the Bar Donizetti -- a plate of delicious cheeses and cold meats typical of the region. Accompanying the cheese were marmalade and blueberry jam, which made a unique and very tasty combination of flavors. With a nice Nebbiola wine, our total bill was €31.50. We got to chatting with our neighbors at the next table -- a couple of grandparents like ourselves, with a rather romantic story. They had first met in high school in Iowa, gone their separate ways to different lives, both been married and widowed. At a high school reunion their paths crossed again, this time to join for a very happy "second chance." They remarked that they felt this second marriage was successful because they shared "good old-fashioned Iowa values." (I have a particular reason for mentioning this story, which will become clear later.)

Before lunch, we'd been in need of a morning pick-me-up, as breakfast at the B&B wasn't its strong point (mostly cello-packed pastries). So we had our dessert before we ate lunch -- we couldn't resist sampling one of the Bergamo special "polenta e osei" pastries that fill many of the bakery windows. It's supposed to look like polenta with little brown birds on top, but it's actually a delicious confection of almond-flavored sponge cake, topped with jam and chocolate.

For happy hour, we recommend the Bar Tasso in Piazza Vecchia. We passed a very pleasant hour or so there outdoors under the umbrellas, enjoying the passing scene in the piazza while sipping prosecco and munching on free olives, nuts, crostini, and chips.

Our dining high point in Bergamo was Trattoria da Ornella, via Gombito 15. Wow! what a great meal! We started with insalata mista, and then opted for the house specialty of polenta. (This was the real stuff made from cornmeal, not the pastry version we'd snacked on earlier.) Two varieties of polenta -- plain and cheese -- come to the table family style. You spoon some on your plate, while the waiter brings the polenta toppings in sizzling iron casseroles, one by one, so that you have time to sample each one piping hot before the next arrives. First come mushrooms with wine sauce. Next chicken, and finally rabbit -- each cooked in its own savory sauce. We were happily stuffed, with just enough room to finish up with a caffè corretto. The Bergamo grappa went down a treat, with no raw edge. Total for the meal, with house wine, was €61 -- very well spent.

Sated and happy, we strolled back through the lively Friday night town, to the accompaniment of a rock concert somewhere down in Bergamo Bassa. We could still hear the music thumping, even though it must have been a mile away when we got back to our B&B, but after all the ground we'd covered that day, it didn't keep us awake for long.

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