What is the best meal you’ve ever had? Do you remember? Can you narrow it down to one specific meal? What factors would you consider in making this distinction? Obviously the food is the first thing we think of. That part would have to be superb to be considered. The other factors I would consider would be the company and the setting. Encompassed in the company would be things like the conversation, or perhaps a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. The setting would include the physical location, the ambiance, or even the scenery.
The best meal I’ve ever eaten came at the end of my trip to Europe in 2008. It was one of the last days of a cruise that took me, several members of my family and some close friends from Rome through the Greek Isles to Istanbul and back.
The entire experience was amazing. While I may have thought the highlights of the trip were behind us, I didn’t know that our stop at Naples, Italy, had one more wonderful surprise in store for us.
We woke up early for our private guided tour of the Amalfi Coast. The van met us at the port and we climbed in, still bleary eyed and sleepy. Our guide spoke broken English but used his arms to express himself in a very European way as he spoke. We quickly learned to not ask for clarification on anything, because he was also the driver, and would take both hands from the wheel as he spoke. The scenery was beautiful, but the road was winding and was bordered on one side by a cliff and an inadequate looking guardrail. On more than one occasion he returned his hands to the wheel just in time to jerk the van back from certain doom with no acknowledgement other than a brief, “Whoops.”
We were on this road for what seemed an eternity, stopping occasionally to shop or look around the various towns cut into the steep rocky slopes that looked as though they would fall into the sea at any moment. We were all getting very hungry when we finally stopped for lunch at what seemed like the highest point, overlooking the many villages, the water and beautiful flowering plants and trees.
Our party of around 8 had the restaurant virtually to ourselves. I’m not even sure they typically open for lunch. We were seated by a window with an amazing view, and as we ordered the house wine the waiter explained that all the vegetables were grown on the accompanying farm and all the pasta was made from scratch by his mother. Everyone that worked in the restaurant was part of the family and it had been that way for years.
I don’t know that I can begin to describe how good the food was. The vegetables, yes vegetables, were so fresh they seemed to melt in your mouth. Anyone who has ever eaten with me knows this a profound statement from a man who doesn’t exactly eat a lot of veggies. The pasta was just as delicious, and we were given a sampling of all of their types of pasta, including one called Pasta di Mama that was the innovation of the matriarch. It’s been awhile and I can still remember every detail of that meal.
We have sent other groups there since and have had only glowing reviews of the experience. The restaurant had a couple of steps down into it but that was no problem for me as the entire kitchen crew rushed out to lift my wheelchair right into the dining room and positioned me for the best view out of the window. This type of personalized experience is what I want to give to all of my clients no matter what their limitations.