food / travel

Enchanting Eating In Northern Italy

Tucked away in the Po Valley, Da Manuela is a restaurant worth returning to for its ambience and salami for antipasto. And dessert!

ravioli is ready

We are straddling the Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy: with Alessandria on one side, Pavia on the other. Down the middle, acting as the glue and marking the territory, runs the great river Po with its characteristic vegetation, silences and torrid summers; or, as in this season, its tremendous fog, and wouldn't you know: snow. I first wrote about Da Manuela in this same column in November 2001, (it feels like yesterday), and have now returned in December 2010. The allure has not faded.

Although it is situated close to the main traffic arteries, not far from the city, you're in another world. I don't know what it's like in the summer but in this snowy winter the place is truly magical.

Quit the main road (don't panic: you'll find your way easily with a GPS), leaving the ugliness and the cement of the city outskirts behind you, you find yourself in a green paradise, with an enormous, welcoming car park, surrounded on all sides by a garden, the tall trees dripping with icicles.

Climb a few steps framed in wood to enter this wonderfully dated, sprawling establishment, crammed with nooks, shelves, old-fashioned furniture, various ornaments, wrap-around seating and corners. Some of the rooms and lounges offer intimacy, even when it gets crowded. Perhaps most atmospheric, is the large dining room paneled in old wood with windows overlooking the surrounding countryside. Lucky are the couples in love who dine this well in such a romantic setting, and so close to the city. To sum up, here you'll discover a simple, rustic, bourgeois approach harking back to another era, which warms the heart.

The first thing to warm the stomach will be the homemade salami, followed by a hearty, cream of white bean soup, fried leeks and vegetable mousse. Then there's a little bit of everything and little of something (always well done!) to satisfy all tastes: excellent coppa (salt and air-cured pork), cotechino sausage, smoke-cured trout carpaccio, risotto, salami, frog legs (locally caught), black truffles, ravioli with braised duck sauce (slow-cookedall'Alessandrina), pasta fagioli(pasta and bean soup), beef braised in Bonarda red wine, stewed chicken, eel, perch-trout, tripe, spare ribs with cabbage. Among the dozens (!) of cheeses, not to be missed is the alpeggio cheese produced by Massimo Bernardini in the Piedmont village of Viceno Crodo.

Among the twenty (!) homemade desserts, sample the gelato, a chocolate "salami" and walnut cake with warm zabaglione ...All is made with products that are mostly local and from the Piedmont region, for a total bill of 45-55 € per person.

RISTORANTE MANUELA ISOLASANT'ANTONIO (AL), VIA PO 31 TEL. 0131.857177 3394340032 FAX 0131.857454 Open Tues-Sun.

Read the original article in Italian

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!