By Joan Leotta
Undulating roads spiral up Mt. Etna’s cooler side where a winery awaited us for a tasting. Arrival found me nauseous from the curvy, winding drive—no matter, they were not ready for us. I had some time for my stomach to settle before it was our turn. A German couple was negotiating cases of wine for their restaurant somewhere in Bavaria.
So, the owner directed us to a terrace where we waited, overlooking vines, Etna’s peak, and a little village below.
Nunzio, a tall, young man with thick black curls and a wide smile, followed us to see how we were faring and noticed my face was as green as the grape leaves below. He retreated and then returned with fizzy water and a basket full of sliced golden-colored bread. “To help settle your stomach,” he announced.
As he watched, I tasted the bread and pronounced it wonderful. Nunzio’s smile widened more than one might think possible. He straightened. With the gusto of a showman and fervor of an evangelist, he began to elaborate on the virtues of those golden semolina bread slices.
“This bread is from Linguaglossa, my village. It is the best in the world—and bread, bread is so important!”
He pulled in a deep breath there on the mountain that is Etna and then continued: “After all, our Savior Himself chose bread to represent His body—and this bread, it is so good,
I cannot live without it!”
He paused, spoke again, in a confiding whisper: “My friends ask me to go to Rome with them for a few days of fun, but I cannot. The bread will not stay fresh long enough—my bread—for the entire journey, and I cannot eat unless I have my bread from Linguaglossa by my plate.”
I smiled, drank some water, and finished my piece of bread.
I could hear the German couple leaving. Cases of wine were being loaded onto a truck. Nunzio went into the winery and brought a tray of meats and cheese, an array of wines for tasting, and of course, more bread. It was all good, but that bread—it was exceptional.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped in Linguaglossa to buy a loaf, but the bakery was closed.
That night, at dinner, I picked up a piece of wonderful Italian bread and bit into it. Crust, marvelously crunchy. Bread inners, firm, chewy, fresh. But it was the pale white of regular flour. I sighed. This bread was good enough for us, better than most we’ve tasted, but I looked at my husband, and he nodded in silent agreement. Nunzio would not be able to survive on this loaf. Even now, when I slice a loaf of bread, I think of Nunzio and how this simple accompaniment to my meal is the heart and soul of his.