How We Tried to Find a Happy Meal at McDonald's but Ended up at a 5-Star Restaurant Instead

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Saturday Sept 16th - On the road from Viareggio to Genova via La Spezia

I had tried to reserve a room in some of the beautiful Italian Riviera towns, such as Camoglie near Portofino, but every hotel was booked solid. This was still a warm weekend even though it was late in the season for tourism. The only places we could find were in Genova (Genoa), where we had reserved a room at the Pensione Mirella not too far from the railway station.

We left Viareggio around 11:30 on Saturday morning, meaning to take local roads all the way to Genova.

The local road north of Viareggio was typical Saturday morning traffic -- very slow, lot of people running errands.

Near the town of Carrara (home of the famous marble quarries), we had to stop for about 45 minutes to retie the luggage on my bike.

By the time we got to La Spezia, it was almost 1:45 pm and we were starving. The little breakfast of bread and jam four hours ago just didn't do the trick. On the way into La Spezia we passed places in little towns, but we figured that the bigger city would have lots of places to eat.

But we didn't take the turn-off to the center of the city and continue to go along the outskirts, toward the way up to the coast. As soon as we realized this was the case, we resolved that the very next place that looked at all presentable, we'd stop at it to have a bite.

All of a sudden I pointed over to the right: there was a restaurant, "Parodi." Finally!

We parked the bikes and peered in. "Aperto?" we asked. "Oui, monsieur, nous sommes ouverts," replied the owner, evidentally thinking we were French.

La Parodie Restaurant

Uh, oh. White tablecloths on the tables. A bad sign. Could be expensive.

Also, nobody else in the restaurant except one other couple. Another bad sign.

We just wanted a bite to eat so we could be on the road. But, OK, we could rationalize, maybe a nice sit-down meal for a half hour wouldn't be a bad idea. It might be more than we would normally pay but we WERE really hungry and who knew when we'd be eating dinner.

We hauled our motorcycle helmets and jackets in and dumped them under this beautifully appointed table, with two sizes of wine glasses and flowers in the center of the table.

As soon as we sat down, the waitress came over and poured us half a glass of champagne. Uh, oh, another bad sign. We hadn't even ordered it.

We looked around the wall of the restaurant and saw newspaper clippings of the owner standing next to what looked like important-looking people. Then some reviews of the restaurant in the local paper. Another uh oh.

She then brought us the menu. Although we'd been six days in Italy and our restaurant Italian was getting better, this was pretty much incomprehensible. Types of pasta I'd never heard of, entrees which could have been broiled kangaroo for all I could tell. Reminded me of Bill Cosby's comedy routine (a Stern family road trip tradition) about dining with his wife in Rome. Not knowing a word of Italian, he ordered something exotic and ended up with…barbecued sparrow. Two pieces of bread later, he had a sandwich and was fine.

But we could tell that this stuff was REALLY expensive. Like twenty or thirty bucks per course, and in an Italian restaurant, there are about five courses.

We decided to just order one course, and then move on.

Eric ordered gnocchi with something scampi and I ordered a kind of lasagna (see photos).

Eric's gnocchi with some barely dead crustacean

Allan's really sumptious lasagna-type order

Both were excellent. At those prices, they had better be. We ate slowly and savored every bite.

The bill came to about 50 bucks for one course for the two of us. Geez. 

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