Mollie Barnes/Photographer


Ciao for now: Silenzio! We eat

Study abroad columnist Mollie Barnes on eating supper like it’s your last

By Mollie Barnes | Feb. 14, 2013

Tags: Food Study abroad


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It’s really no wonder that Jesus’ last supper was in Milan. I mean that in the literal and the dramatic sense. First, because Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper,” is located here in Milan at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Secondly, I would have my last supper here in Italy, too, if I had to choose.

The number one thing people from home have asked me since I've been here, especially if they have never been to Italy, is “How is the food?” Since I’ve been here for a little more than two weeks now, I can say with more confidence that there is nothing bad to eat here. My first day I was too overwhelmed and shy to order anything, so I literally only ate a piece of bread from the supermarket like the naïve, weary traveler I was. What a waste of a day. Since then, I have ventured out of my cave and tried several local noms.

The most interesting food experience I had was definitely going to a restaurant called La Tana del Lupo, which translates to “the lair of the wolf.” One of my cousins, Claire, was recently in Milan and told me to mark my calendar to have dinner with her during her time here. She travels here twice a year for her job with Target, and she told me she has probably eaten at this restaurant seven times since she stumbled upon it. Her only warnings were to not to eat too much beforehand and that it might get a little “weird."

We got to the restaurant exactly when it opened because Claire was so anxious. We stood outside staring at the strange doors to the restaurant as I pondered what exactly lay behind them. The two wooden doors had giant wooden flowers for handles and carvings that looked straight out of a scene of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” For handles on the inner door, there were giant wooden wolves with their mouths open. Weird took on a different level, though, as we stepped through the doors into the restaurant, and I thought for a moment that we had teleported straight up to the Italian Alps.

Pots and pans and weird mountainous contraptions — probably owned by Paul Bunyan himself — hung from every inch of the room. A giant fireplace was in the center of the room with a pan where they make their own polenta. Next to the fireplace was a giant barrel with a flowing wine tap for the most mountainous of individuals who choose to get the wolf’s menu. All of the waiters dressed in full lumberjack garb, lacking nothing from the flannel department. We sat down at our table and put on the aprons. They weren’t the cheap paper kind you get at a rib joint, either. This place meant business.

Around 9 p.m. in our eating adventure, the live accordionist came in and started playing some songs that we could sing along to with the lyrics from the books on our table. The cover of the book featured a lovely lumberjack man making polenta with the caption “Silenzio!…si canta…” meaning “Silence! We sing.”

Then the accordionist found out we were Americans, so he kept playing “New York, New York,” and we all pretended that we were from New York and became very patriotic.

After three hours of consistent eating, our 15-course “wolf’s meal” finally ended with some grappa served out of a shoe. Claire told me it was a necessity just for digestion. I suppose this eating strategy is one step up from the fabled ancient Roman binge and purge technique. Our waiter kept trying to get us to eat and drink more and more. For a second, I almost forgot that this man wasn’t my actual grandparent, though he had been acting like it.

That meal was probably so big it should have been my last, but I’m pretty sure even Da Vinci would enjoy a gelato every now and then. Ciao for now!

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