Sunday, May 5, 2013

Here I Am!

Empty beach - they don't know what they're missing!
What a month!
Water is freezing cold but crystal clear.  

I haven't written so much recently because between work and back rehab stuff and just general first month of opening kinks, I've been busy and super exhausted.  Plus, the weather has been downright crummy.  Rain, rain and more rain, and it's made for some sad villagers and tourists.

It seems like we've had a day of sun every three days, and sometimes it feels more like I live in Ireland then in the Italian Riviera.  Like most beach towns, bad weather means slow business.  Throw in an Italian economic crisis, sprinkle in a landslide, and then a smattering of misinformation about hiking trails, and now we have a recipe for a slow start to the season.  For a little village still coming off the financial after effects of rebuilding everything after being destroyed by a flood, this is enough to make people more then a little nervous.

Restaurant workers in Italy get paid a fixed stipend, which can sometimes explain why service in certain places may be a little lackluster for someone coming from a country that works on tips.  Workers here do not make more or less if there are more guests or less guests in the restaurant, or if the guests go away happy or upset.  Their salary is decided upon at the start of their work contract.  If no one comes in, and they just sit around all day, they make the same as they do if the restaurant has a 2 hour wait for a table.  This means that when you start hiring staff, a few slow weeks mean that you have too much staff just sitting around getting paid full salaries to just look at each other.  It's a tough balance, taking on too much staff, or taking the risk of being dramatically understaffed and providing poor service.  Without a crystal ball, you can't see how it's going to pan out.  And since I've already lamented about the inaccuracy of weather reports here, you literally are just guessing most of the time.  Except the past month, where guessing "rain" is usually pretty accurate.
chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate Stout cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

In spite of the past month's bad weather and slow business, the past week following the Italian "labor day" has been wonderful, and thankfully May brings a smile and some sun.  The Parco Nazionale (national park) has reopened the hiking trail from Monterosso to Vernazza, the weather has been more or less cooperating, and the village thankfully full but tranquil.  People don't seem to realize that even if the whole trail 2 is closed, there are so many other amazing and free hikes you can do in the Cinque Terre.  It's incredible how many people come to the Cantina, depressed that they can't hike, only to wind up shocked about how much they actually CAN hike.  There are tons of trails here!   It's nice seeing the relief on some faces when they realize their vacation isn't totally ruined.

May is still kind of a shoulder season, which means lots of my favorite guests from Norway and Sweden, Australia, America and lots of chances to practice my elementary French (another benefit of breaking your back-  J'essaie d'apprendere le francais!)

Also, with all this rainy downtime, I've been baking up a storm.  Chocolate chip cookies, Chocolate Stout cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, and so forth.  We've also built our beer list in the Cantina up to 45 artigianale Italian craft beers, which makes us the only bar in this part of Italy with that many craft beers.

And further more, I am back brace free!  Rain, again, not helping the pain situation, which I hear is quite normal after a fracture when the humidity and weather changes, but I'm doing really great.  My doctor and therapist are both really happy with how I healed, and aside from lifting anything heavy, or twisting my torso in any way, I'm more or less back to normal.  Thanks to my awesome ex-yoga teacher in New York (Strala Yoga is amazing) I've been doing some hip stuff for a few weeks in bed, but I got the green light to go ahead and start working on back lengthening and so forth.  By June, the fractures should be 100% healed.

Once the water warms up, swimming is my therapy, so I'm pretty happy about that too.  I finally just jumped in the other day, just to get the first swim of the season out of the way and mentally kick off summer, but it took me a good 5 tries to get the fortitude to dunk my head under the icy water.  My doctor, who is a specialist in Milan, asked if there was a swimming pool near by that I could work out in.  I smiled.  I have the most amazing swimming pool right in front of me.

Now, if the weather would cooperate for more then a few days, I can get out of the kitchen and into the sea!

new beers and new organic "bio" sodas


  1. Delighted that you are recovering very well and looking forward to seeing you.

    And can I get the recipe for the stout cupcakes?


  2. I used this recipe for the chocolate stout cake, but used greek yogurt instead of sour cream, a chopped up chocolate Lindt easter egg and no cocoa powder, and a whole bottle of chocolate stout :)

  3. Hi Christine, wow its been nearly a year since i was there enjoying the fine food and great service of you all.
    I hope this season is one of lots of visiters and many great memories for you all.
    I am so glad you are getting better. it takes time so look after yourself, and maybe listen to the old lady's as you will find the cool wind will make a difference to your frature pain.
    In Australia we are paid the same as in Italy, no tip wage system here, but we are thankful as it means that familys know they can manage and the boss knows his budget for the year on wages. It is tough all around the world with the financial crisis hitting hard. but you are in a special place and in food service so you will be ok. people have to eat and you guys have great food and great prices.
    may the year ahead be a blessing, and maybe if things work out i will see you for a bit next year.
    can you let me know of the family B & B name so i can look it up for accommodation choices.
    thanks for the great updates on life in the Italian Riviera.
    take care of yourself, Denise

  4. Hi Denise! Yeah, it's tough explaining to tipping cultures (like the US) that you don't need to tip here :)
    The b and b is A Ca Du Gigante! Hope you are doing well!!
    xo Christine