At the very far end of Torre Del Lago, just across the square from Lake Massaciuccoli, sits a fantastic restaurant called Da Cecco. My family used to holiday in the region through the 60s, 70s and 80s and a selection of us, plus some friends, gathered there this weekend for my cousin Joanna's 30th birthday. After a hairy journey with my 74 year-old Dad insisting on driving our enormous hire-car (my sister in the back seat quaking while I shouted 'too close!' and 'change gear!' and 'bike!!'), we arrived at dusk just as the mist was gathering over the lake and the first glasses of Prosecco were getting lined up on the bar.
Twenty eight of us in all, sat round a long table and ate nine courses over a five hour period. After the first hour it all got a bit hazy but I can remember that there was antipasti, crostini (the restaurant's signature dish and secret recipe), two pasta courses, two meat courses and that it was one the best meals I've probably ever had (hic).
On the long table next to ours, a group of real Italians were celebrating a birthday too, but one of their thirty nine courses was being spit-roast over the log fire at the end of the room. The chef marinated baby sparrows in seasoned oil and threaded them onto a very long spike with some bay leaves, lardo and the odd little chunk of Tuscan bread. Uncle Gino says baby sparrows like that are usually eaten whole as the bones are so soft. Mmmmm.