Monday, February 14, 2011

Il Mulino sul Po - Occhiobello (RO)

This Saturday, a friend of mine celebrated her birthday by inviting a bunch of her friends to a seafood dinner by the Po River. Occhiobello seemed to be a common ground for friends who live in Vicenza and Bologna: straddling the boundary between the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna; lying in the shadow of the A13 bridge that connects Padova with Bologna; located within the Veneto but speaks the Emiliano-Romagnolo dialect. The restaurant, Il Mulino sul Po, is not even on land, floating in the Po as if to emphasize that it belongs to no region.

Prior to coming to the restaurant, my friends all raved about the place. Not about the food--which is only "normale"--but the location, which apparently resembled a "floating gypsy camp". Everyone up and down the Veneto apparently knows the place for its casualness and friendly atmosphere. However, after arriving to the place, I was a little hesitant: two floating houses stuck together to form a single building. Bits of junk like chairs, bottles and wood piled everywhere. It really did look like a gypsy camp. Johnny Depp is going to walk out and offer me chocolate.

Inside however is not so bad. Light, airy, and the walls covered with doodads and grafitti left by customers, the place has the feel of a neighborhood joint or a community establishment. One entire wall is covered with business cards, another with paper money. A good view of the water, with the ugly banks framed out of picture. Once you are led to your seat, a waiter with a bulbous belly--they all had bulbous bellies; I think it's a qualification--throws a few shells of peanut on your table. (Really, throws.) The owner comes out, makes a few comments about the women in the group, and starts to describe how the whole process works.

The restaurant does not have an a la carte menu or a list of things being cooked that day. What they have in the kitchen is what they serve. For antipasti, there is a buffet of different types of seafood and salads. After everyone has their fill, primo is served: the two owners walk around with a pan and ladle out risotto or pasta. Some in the group tried to say no. After a couple of banters with the owners, they changed their mind and said yes. After everyone is done and bursting, five main courses are served: in our case, calamari, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and oddly enough, roast beef. There were no special way of preparation--hence, "normale"--but everything was fresh and good. After a few more rounds and refills, we end with a cheese plate, sorbeto, and coffee with grappa. All for 24 euros. Not bad. The food to me is good, but I have to agree that one pays for the atmosphere more than anything else.

To get to Il Mulino sul Po, you just follow the signs to Occhiobello. From the autostrada, the exit is right next to the town. If you are not using the autostrada, just follow the signs to Ferrara. Once in the vicinity of the city, Occhiobello is close enough (10 km) that you will see blue signs directing you to it. Once in the town, just head towards the river. You will see lots of signs for the restaurant. Opening times is 1200-1500 for lunch and 1800-2300 for dinner. Cost is 24 euros flat, and it includes everything. If you're in Emilia-Romagna for the food, highly recommend this place--a a taste of the seafood-heavy diet of the Venetians.

1 comment:

  1. Channeling Johnny Depp indeed! Sounds like a place where you had better go with stretchy pants...or a muumuu!