I do love to sleep in on a Sunday morning — or rather, that’s what I tell myself. The truth is probably more like … I would so love to possess the right amount of self discipline to wake up early on Sundays and thus make the most of it but that rarely happens. I don’t particularly like to cook on Sundays, either. And for some reason, we are always out of something or another on a Sunday morning — which obviously makes me someone who is just not very good at shopping FOR Sunday. I wonder what a psychologist would make of this … Anyway, last Sunday I found out that, as usual, we were out of milk and bread, and that the easiest thing to have for supper would be a steak. The weather was vile, grey and drizzly and not at all conducive to outdoor promenading but needs must and off we trotted, my husband and I, towards the centre of Frascati. We stopped to buy the mandatory Sunday papers and then went straight for our first stop, Ceralli’s.
“Ceralli” is the oldest food store in Frascati and in its fourth generation now. It’s been going since 1920. It struck me, out of the blue, as something quintessentially “descriptive” about the Italian way of life … this handing down of small business from generation to generation … even though this way of life is unfortunately on the wane. Even so, I thought to myself, how many places in the world can you actually WALK to from where you live in order to buy some fantastic bread and good quality meat on a late Sunday morning, and be greeted by smiles and back-chat and innuendo? I suspect some people think me a snob for eschewing the advantages (to me highly ‘dubious’ of course) of supermarket shopping — but pray, explain to me: what’s NOT to like about giving business to families who work their backs off doing what they do and treating you as though you made their day?
As mentioned, it was drizzling and the calendar says that it is January. The temperature, however, was not at all what I would call ‘cold’, not even for someone like me who hates the cold. The automatic door opened and, literally just behind it, stood Mrs Rossana Ceralli at the cash desk. She is born the same year as my mother, 1926, and indeed they were in the same class at school (she tells me they were both not very good pupils and were always getting into trouble). As I espied and greeted her, I noticed she was wearing a hat that would not have looked out of place in the middle of a terrible Winter in Siberia and exclaimed: “Oh my goodness, you look just like an arch-duchess. You are the arciduchessa di Frascati!”. She though my comment was a hoot and it had her rocking with laughter. We exchanged pleasantries and banter and she told me what a character my grandfather Riccardo had been and what a nice lady my grandmother was … etc etc etc … tales of the old times, jokes and sighs and merriment.
The store is famous for its bread, baked in a wood-fired oven outside, opposite the street of the shop. The building used to belong to a family called Bambocci and at the second storey, there is a piece of sculpture that is said to have been produced by none other than Bernini. The reason it never got stolen is that it’s very much out of reach!
We bought some typical Carnival cakes called “frappe” as well as the bread and milk. And some white pizza too, of course. It’s a busy place, people coming in and out all the time and the photos I took with my mobile phone are not very good. I do hope, however, they will manage to reveal just how privileged I feel to be able to shop like this.
Here she is … the arch-duchess of Frascati, Mrs Rossana Ceralli. Don’t you just love her hat! I love how she manages to ‘work’ and joke at the same time …. She may be going 87 …. but she’s as sharp as ever! Jam tarts …Various other sweets and pastries … Pizza galore …. They sell various cheeses and cured meats …porchetta too. Eugenio Ceralli … her son.Dried stockfish hanging from the ceiling (baccalà) … the kind knows as “gaspé” which is very sought after for its quality.
Here are the frappe … fried, the way they are supposed to be! These frappe have been oven cooked, instead, and one end dunked in chocolate. Marco, who is Eugenio’s nephew …These are called “coppiette” — little couples. It’s dried out meat that is seasoned with various herbs and spices. The closest word in English I can think of is “jerky” (as in beef jerky).
Only these “coppiette” are made with horse flesh. Home prepared by Ceralli.
They also prepare what is a typical Calabrian sausage, called Nduja. Eugenio showing off his pizza just out of the oven … And this is a glimpse of their oven, just across their shop. Look up in the photo and spot the Bernini scuplture of a face.Can you see the twigs and wood on the side of the wall?