First Sagra of the Year and a Guide to Attending Sagras
We are so excited! Our favorite time of year is starting, sagra and festa time.
Sagras or festas are local events. Some are held as fundraisers for the local youth sporting centers. Many are held at the playing fields. The events are run by volunteers, usually held at the same time each year and usually just about the same menu each year too. Some events celebrate a local special dish or local produce or a local athletic contest of some sort. Some are just for things like pasta or pizza. Some have been going on for 30 or 40 years. Some were just started. All are a great way to met and interact with local people who are very proud of their community and what it offers.
The important sentence above is ‘the events are run by local volunteers.’ That means the person taking your order and bringing your food is not normally a waiter or waitress in a restaurant. It means a 10 year kid might bring you your bottle of wine but you will have to wait for her dad to come along with the opener. It means the menu might not have ‘special diet’ choices. It means that unless you speak up at the beginning your steak might be over or under cooked depending on your point of view. Some times there are real toilets and sometimes there are porta potties. In other words, it is not a night in a 4 star restaurant, it is a night of fun with the folks who really live here. Once the season gets in full swing from June through September we will go to at least one a week. We always invite our guests to come along and urge them to look for other events when they are out touring.
All festas and sagras pretty much run the same way (there are of course exceptions). For dinner (cena) they usually don’t start serving until 7:30 or 8:00, Sunday lunch around 12:30 or 1:00. The majority of folks will arrive in a tight time frame of shortly after 8 until 9:15 or so. So if you don’t want to be in the crush and have to wait, get there around 7 or after 9. There is usually a separate bar that you can have a drink at while you are waiting or checking things out. Most sagras or festas have menus posted near where the cashier is. Study the menu. Foods are usually grouped, starters, pastas, meats, side dishes, desserts, wine (which is usually by the bottle or may be by the glass, 3 to 5 Euros is usually for a bottle not a glass) Ask questions if you don’t understand. Sometimes there are preprinted order sheets which you can just check off what and how much you want and then hand it in to the cashier. Or sometimes you just tell the cashier. Try not to go with a 50 Euro bill. Try to have some 20s and 10s.
So you step up to the cashier, order, pay and the cashier gives you a slip of paper with what you ordered. Find a place to sit. A volunteer wait person will come, there might be some questions about what type of wine, white or red, and what type of water, natural or fizzy. And this is the time if you are having steak to declare how you want it cooked. The volunteer will write your table number on it and then scurry off to get everything for you.
If you are new to reading this blog, all of this is an introduction to what you will be seeing for the next few months. So here is the first one of the season…
Festa della Rocche in Guazzino.
We learned two things about the festa this year. It is two weeks after Easter and Rocche means bobbin or spool or something to do with wool production. This festa runs for about 10 days. There is, on the last day, a contest between the three neighborhoods or districts of the town. On the main street of the town, two very strong, athletic young men pull a chariot or cart that has another young man standing on the back of it. Using a lance, the standing man tries to spear a ring that is hanging out over the street. The group that gets the most rings in the best time is the winner. We have seen the contest before and chose to go on a different, less crowded night. We were there to eat STEAK!
Here’s the menu. As you can see, not a good place to bring a vegetarian to. The choices are the Tuscan antipasto platter with ham, salami and things spread on bread, steak cooked over a wood fire, side dishes of beans, salad or French Fries, water, wine (only red this year and my friend was not there to hook me up with a white. Note to self: bring a bottle of white next year and leave it in the car in case you need it), coffee, biscotti with aged wine (dessert). You could, if you thought the regular steak would not be enough, order one by weight, costing 3.50 for 100 grams. (1 pound is approximately 450 grams so a 1 pound steak would cost 15.75 Euros. 4.50 X 3.50)
Sometimes there is a ‘fixed’ price all inclusive menu which might offer a savings. (above ‘O’ means or beans OR salad OR French Fries not all 3 for that price)
The very good antipasto platter, chicken liver crostini, locally made salami and prosciutto (like country ham) tuna crostini, spicy tomato crostini, local cream cheese with chopped peanuts crostini and then a chopped herb crostini.
The STEAK! Really good this year.
Okay, now you know how to handle a festa or sagra. In another post I will write about how to read festival or sagra poster. And anytime you want to find one, please look at Ben’s (my husband) blog. He has a list of what we know is happening. A link to his blog http://moving2italy2.blogspot.com/