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  • The 7th October was Son1’s birthday – his 22nd to be exact.

    More or less since moving here in 1996, we’ve marked any occasion really but especially *his* birthday by buying this very very special cake, his absolute favourite, the one you can see in the photo §.

    It’s a ‘Torta Greca’ §§, and it can only be found at the ‘Pasticceria Lella Proto’, in Via Carducci, just up the road.

    Over the years I have tried to extract the recipe from one or other of the ladies, members of the Lella family, who preside over the display and sale area.

    They have been, I suppose needless to say, extraordinarily immune to my wiles.

    Tactics have included ‘false passes’ of the like, “Oh, Proto is a first name, not a surname, because my °cousins in Naples, you know, they have Proto as their surname, ooooh and Proto’s one of the Porto Torres’ patron saints isn’t he, one of the three with that pretty little church right on Balai and what exactly is that nutty taste in there…..?”

    Nothing doing.


    I know what you’re thinking.

    No. This birthday was not the occasion I finally – in desperation – thumbscrewed the recipe out of them.

    Nor did they finally take pity on me and write one out. Any one! Just to not have to listen to my babbling on and on and on and on....


    This was the occasion I ^actually got to meet the pastry chef responsible for such deliciousness.

    His name’s Giuseppe.

    Mr. Giuseppe Lella.

    The recipe was passed on to him by *his* father, the Proto in the ‘Lella Proto’ who, in his turn, had brought it with him when the ‘Pasticciera Zirano’, a pastry shop that had been around in Sassari since the 1800s and where he had worked since a very young age, closed in the mid-seventies.

    Or so he told me.

    Because, my evident fandom of the ‘Torta Greca’ let forth a flood of information.

    The saddest bit was when he said his father had died when he was only 49 years old.

    We both looked at the photo on the wall (click on About), to one side of the counter, behind the cash register, of Proto and a ‘nipotino’§§§, and we both thought - but only I put it into words, insensitive blunderer that I am, just *have* to blurt out the first thing that floats into my head -that the photo must have been taken very shortly before that premature death.

    Tears came into his eyes.

    Giuseppe Lella is proud of his ‘Torta Greca'.

    And he’s quite right to be so.

    Because every time he makes that delicious treat he is celebrating the memory of his father, he is remembering in the reallest possible sense everything that his father passed on to him.

    Which, given Giuseppe’s emotion on talking about the cake, and his father, and the ‘Pasticceria Zirano’ in the old part of town, I am sure as can be that this does not amount simply to the recipe for a dessert, no matter how delicious that might be.

    The gift I ordered for my Son1's birthday lunch is the gift Mr. Lella makes to his father, the gift he makes to himself, the gift to the 'nipotino' in the photo, and to who knows how many others.


    § Son1’s birthday lunch this year coincided with my kitchen being done up by Giò. Giò is also Texan Star’s trainer. He’s immensely good at that, as he is at doing up kitchens, which is a sideline until he has enough money to achieve his dream. His dream is to have a Dog Recuperation and Training Centre. Given his tenacity, and his skill, I have no doubts he will achieve that dream. As he had to finish up doing a few things, and condo rules require that between the hours of 13.30 and 15.30 absolute silence must prevail – Italians do like their long lunches and afternoon naps – Son1 invited him to stay for lunch (photo under About). Berta, the missus, came along , too, as she and Giò had previously agreed to meet for lunch in any case. I put Berta in charge of planting the candles. These, as you can see, are of that wiggly type, oh so trendy – we’d bought them in London in August. What we quickly came to realize, however, was that the candles once lit would dribble quite decidedly over the surface of the cake. So we de-planted them and rearranged them in the corners, as you can see. This unfortunately left some unsightly holes in that amazing icing – I don’t know if icing putty exists, but if it does it’s not in my pantry/lumber room. I don’t have the space. I need far too much shampoo.
    §§ Any idea why, Maria? Is there anything like this in Greek cooking? If so, please please, can I have the recipe?
    §§§ ‘nipotino’ can mean either grandson or nephew. Italian makes no distinction between the two.
    10/10/2015 addendi (but of course...)
    As this is quite long I couldn't do the same trick I did with the Geoff Dutton sprout:-

    So I've hit on this as a possible method: the trusty addendi (has to be plural; you all know what I'm like. Imran Khan? You didn't think I'd stop at footnotes, now, did you?) I count on all you 'lovers' of the original posted yesterday to let me know, if you disagree.
    ° an added photo of two Proto cousins from the Costiera Amalfitana branch of the family, one with cute red-haired wife 'Etta. Please note their challenging, to say the least, profiles.
    *the original: '(...) lugged the iron maidens along and got the recipe out of them.' And that was it. Clunky. Far too jocose all of a sudden when there was no sign of my being so before and therefore no hint that I might then be. All in all rather anticlimatic, as it needed a second possible option for the imagined reader supposition. Last but not least, punctuation! Iron Maidens. Please.
    ^the original: '(...) actually responsible'. Adverb there totally mispositioned for the sense it was supposed to convey.
    This (sigh!) is just after publishing the above addendi as 'final'. See photo under About. One Proto cousin, the male's, profile is so very very challenging that Cowbird has actually cut it! I'm afraid you can only see the female - and her profile, of course. Sorry.
    I'm really sorry about this. It's going on and on. The bit about shampoo? Well. That's from the abovementioned sprout. Self-referencing pandering for an audience? You bet!
    I'm having real problems with the superlative of 'real'. I've left it in, but 'truest' would definitely work better, not least on the eye.
    That, really and truly, is IT.
    Well. It would have been; IT, I mean, had I not noticed that I blithely referred to a certain Imran Khan. I meant Imran Ali. And no, it wasn't because he bears any resemblance at all to a certain Pakistani Premier. ----heavy sigh------
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