Italians don’t care much about balloons and party horns. But every birthday must include a delicious meal. The person who is celebrating his birthday is expected to either invite (and pay) for his friends and family at a restaurant or invite them to his home and cook them a meal. You are also expected to offer cake or pastries to your colleagues at work on both your name day and birthday. Crazy, right? I must admit that I prefer the American way, where friends and family and colleagues offer you treats on your birthday as opposed to the other way around.
In any event, we recently celebrated my cousin Fausto’s 27th birthday at the home of our friends Antonio (yes, it’s quite the popular name in Italy) and Imma in Barano, Ischia. Fausto is like a mayor. He’s friends with the world, so there were plenty of us gathered around a long table in Antonio and Imma’s house. As head chef for the evening, Fausto led his friends, who participated in the cooking, in creating a delicious, gourmet meal that featured astice, which is similar to lobster, and balsamic vinegar soaked semi-raw fish that sounds strange but melts in your mouth. (See “Fausto’s 27th Birthday” photo album for pictures of some of the food and Fausto and friends.) The party was on Sunday, and I’m still delirious from the stuffed-to-the-brim gorging in which we partook. Thank God I don’t drink and therefore skipped the Veuve Clicquot and wine being passed around, or I’d be in sorrier shape. Still, it was worth it.