■ 15 September 2012 by James Martin
When C’era Una Volta abandoned the building along the road to Aulla and soon after a pinkish sign was tacked to the wall announcing that the restaurant would heretofore be known as the “Vecchia Bruxelles” we passed, as we often do, and shook our heads. Brussels food? In the Lunigiana? Do these people know what they’re doing?
But little by little we warmed to the idea of stopping there. Visible as we passed was one of the obvious improvements, the owners had arranged some tables out on the crunchy gravel surface under a tall oak. Umbrellas plugged the holes in the shade. After a while, people began to show up. Then more people. So we went. What was there to lose?
It started with a bit of a language foul up, as it does sometimes when we park our shiny, new French buy-back lease car in plain view. The owners greeted us in French. When the conversation started to delve into deeper and more complicated linguistic territory we broke down and told them only the car was French and we were Americans who happened to have a casa vacanza in the area. From that point they addressed us in Dutch-accented Italian.
A menu scrawled on a blackboard was first presented to us. It gave options for their pronzo di lavoro, the typical “worker’s lunch” of the region. Ten euros got you a pasta, a second plate of meat and vegetables, a quarter liter of wine and a carafe of mineral water. I chose pasta con ragu followed by a grilled pork chop with green beans. Straight Italian.
Martha asked for the menu, where prices weren’t so favorable. Striking her fancy was the ravioli of radicchio with shavings of parmigiano, shown above in all its sun-dappled splendor, followed by a very nice cheese plate indeed.
The house red wine was simple and good.
All in all a darned nice experience. The big oak, the gravel in which the tables were set, the lunch, and the perfect temperature with light breeze made for a typical rural Italian experience.
By the way, while a worker’s lunch is available to all, there are quite a few workers who take advantage of the cheap prices. While we were there a man sat at a table, removed his cell phone and placed it on a table, then retrieved a single, red pepper from another pocket and set it alongside the phone. He ordered pasta con ragu and the next thing I know there are rings of fresh red pepper in the pasta. I don’t know how he did it without me seeing, but…some like it hot, despite what you hear about the inelasticity of traditional Italian recipes.
There is also a menu Toscana which features Cinta Senese in both the pasta and the second plate.
And, as you might expect, there is a Brussels menu. I would have liked them to serve Moules-frites, but alas, they aren’t on the menu. I had to go home and whip up a pot of cozze for dinner. Then, everything was right.
Ristorante Vecchia Bruxelles
Mon – Sun: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Phone: 0187 409798
Address: Piano di Bibola, 2 – S.S del Cerreto, 54011 Aulla
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