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My beautiful new friends Mattia and Michelle.

My beautiful new friends Mattia and Michelle.

Once upon a time you meet people who forever change your life. Mattia and Michelle did just that. What originated as friends of friends, blossomed into a friendship and an Italian experience I will never forget and for which I will always be grateful. Both seriously talented opera singers, Mattia and Michelle shared their home and lives with me for 11 days this fall in Lucca, Italy. Besides their accomplished opera careers, they’re both amazing chefs, whipping up last-minute meals out of nowhere. And this is where my story begins…

Lucca, Italy 26 settembre 2014

It’s 7:00pm on a Friday night. Michelle and Mattia are throwing a dinner party and guests are due to arrive at 8pm.  I volunteer to bring the chicken, so before heading home, stop at a small family owned negozio di pollo, a shop that sells poultry. I tell the macellaio, butcher, how many people we are serving and without asking, trims the fat, debones and then portions the chicken, all while giving me cooking advice. The bird pieces are carefully wrapped in paper, the shop keeper, with a smile, generously tucking in seasonings of fresh rosemary and sage, herbs that show up frequently in Tuscan kitchens. Oh the charm of such exquisite customer service!

I arrive home to an empty and quiet apartment. Tick tock tick tock. Now it’s 8pm and no sign of Mattia or Michelle. A quick call reveals they have met an old opera friend at the Oratorio who has gifted them with singing lessons. Our guests have been notified that the party will now begin at 8:30. With a sense of calm, and very little prep done, Mattia and Michelle arrive home with joy in their hearts ready to prepare the dinner. The three of us work in perfect harmony, like a concerto, to produce a beautiful meal in 45 minutes! These two are now my role models for entertaining! Here’s what we cooked.

Infused with lemon, rosemary and sage, the chicken begins its journey.

Infused with lemon, rosemary and sage, the chicken begins its journey.

Mattia teaches me the Lucchese way to cook.

Mattia teaches me the Lucchese way to cook.

Michelle, a native of Australia, prepares her specialty, Apple Crumble.

Michelle, a native of Australia, prepares her specialty, Apple Crumble.

A grating of fresh parmesan finishes the first course of pasta.

A grating of fresh parmesan finishes the first course of pasta.

Angela has a kitchen chat with Mattia.

Angela has a kitchen chat with Mattia.

Il secondo. Tuscan chicken.

Il secondo. Tuscan chicken.

A little vino, and charming company create the perfect ambiance.

A little vino, and charming company create the perfect ambiance.

Mouth-watering apple crumble.

Mouth-watering apple crumble, Aussie-style.

After dinner, Mattia shares his vintage record collection played on a gramophone. We loved the music and his singing!

After dinner, Mattia shares his vintage record collection played on a gramophone. We loved the music and his singing!

Frank Sinatra inspires a dance.

Frank Sinatra inspires a dance.

The evening ended with singing, of course, Michelle and Mattia at the piano, serenading us with Phantom of the Opera favorites. A night to remember!

Check out Mattia and Michelle’s website Lucca Opera Festival and when you are in Lucca, be sure to go to a concert to hear them sing!

My lesson for this day is to let the magic happen, and it will when you decide to just go with the flow!

Ciao for now!

Love,

Mary