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Slowly slapped with garlic

Wandered down a very quiet side street in Sorrento and stumbled upon an amazing restaurant today; the Inn Bufalito. [My wife had seen a reference to it in one of the guide books, so we weren't taken completely by surprise.] Incidentally, there has always been a joy in stumbling across things in the physical universe; the pleasure was not created by, nor is the sole property of, the digital world.

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The sign says “Italian Slow Food and Drink” and you’d better believe it. There’s nothing hurried about this place, it’s more poco piu largamente than it is adagio. Which is a good thing. Because the food there is absolutely brilliant, and does not deserve to be rushed.

We decided to have our lunch there. Here’s what was on offer as the “specials” of the day, the blackboard dishes:

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Given my predilection for different types of pasta with different types of ragu sauce, I succumbed and had a red meat dish for the first time in a fortnight, if you don’t count the odd slice of prosciutto. So I went for the paccheri al ragu di bufalo. And this is what I got:

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Superb. Paccheri pasta, the big broad firehose-section tubes of pasta you see above, served with a very very slow-cooked buffalo fillet ragu. When I say slow I mean slow. Cooked overnight. Bufalo (fillets of buffalo), piccolo pomodoro (small sweetish local tomatoes), cipolle (small fresh onions), lots of garlic, celery stalks, carrots, salt, pepper, olive oil, white wine. Cooked for at least 12 hours.

The meal also solved a long-standing problem for me, the reason why the pasta was called paccheri. I had originally been told it had something to do with smuggling garlic centuries ago, as suggested here. Which appeared to be true. But then I’d heard that paccheri actually meant “slaps” in Neapolitan, as suggested here, and which appeared to have nothing to do with the garlic story.

The chef at the inn solved it. The answer’s both. The word means “slaps”, apparently to do with the sound the pasta makes when you try and manhandle it with a fork and knife. So that answer is right. On the other hand, paccheri was invented in order to smuggle garlic; the expensive cloves were hidden inside the tubes, and the tubes were then transported across city-state borders in order to break up some monopolies and trade barriers. So one has to do with the origin of the word, while the other had to do with the reason for its invention.

By the way, the rest of the food there wasn’t bad either. Here’s my son’s gnocchi and my daughter’s lasagne:

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Cheap. Unhurried. Quiet. Good-sized meals lovingly prepared. And a fabulous taste. So if you ever happen to come by the Sorrento area, do pay a visit to the Inn Bufalito.

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  1. Jon Silk says

    Now that Paccheri looks like decent pasta. Have been looking for a way to get mouthfuls of dinner with a greater pasta:sauce ratio than Pappadelle for ages…



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