There are the books you read. You enjoy. You close the cover and think “hmm…that was good. Next.” Then there are the books you read. You reread. They become a passion. An obsession.
Dante’s The Divine Comedy is one of many such examples. We’re talkin’ full. Blown. Obsession here, people.
Coincidentally, it was my obsession with this poetic masterpiece that led me to the single best meal I’ve ever eaten.
In June 2009, my husband and I were traveling through Europe, when we stopped in Florence, Italy, the birth place of Dante. Like any totally sane person, I planned the entire day’s itinerary based around sites of significance in the life of the poet: Dante’s Childhood home, the Dante Museum, The Baptistery of San Giovanni where Dante was christened, the Palazzo Vecchio where he took part in city assemblies…Dantedantedante! You get the point…It was a Dante day.
So, when I spied a little restaurant named Il Ristorante Sasso di Dante complete with a neon sign picturing my favorite poet in silhouette, I jumped on it. My math-minded husband agreed, eager for the lunch break.
The meal started with—of course—the house red wine. It was cheap—but far and away the best red wine I’ve ever had; this is not surprising considering the Tuscan location. Then it was a freshly baked loaf of Italian bread (hmm…or do they just call it “bread”?) on which we drizzled freakishly flavorful olive oil.
Then the main course. For me, it was a Greek salad. When it arrived, the waiter poured just a little bit of the aforementioned olive oil in lieu of dressing. While I’m a vegetarian I’d like to clear up a common misconception: us non-meat eaters do not sit around eating lettuce all day. So, it’s all the more remarkable when I consider the degree to which this particular salad blew my mind.
This salad was traditional—no added green pepper, cucumber or peperoncini, and the extra flavors weren’t missed. The splash of olive oil was perfection, and the ingredients were the freshest and tastiest I’ve ever experienced.
Whether it was the atmosphere of Florence or the insanely fresh fare straight from the heart of Tuscany—or perhaps some combination of the two—this meal truly lived up the name Dante.
Serving size: 2 main dish salads
- 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 3 ounces Kalamata olives, about ½ cup
- 4 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
- 6 ounces vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges,
Wisk all dressing ingredients together. Set aside.
Mix salad ingredients together. Either toss salad with dressing, or divide salad between two bowls and pass dressing at the table.
To make it a meal, serve with Italian bread and olive oil seasoned with dried oregano. And of course, don’t forget the Vino!