I was sixteen.
It was late summer and my father and I were driving down from Rome to Palermo.
We were driving along the Calabrian coast , over an old winding road, somewhere about an one hour away from the Reggio Calabria's Harbor. (Still to this very day you must take short ferry boat ride to get to Sicily from there.)
It was lunch time and we were both hungry.
We both saw a sign pointing to a shack by the beach, a wondrous extension of white sand by the blue sea.
This place was more like a Pop-up Fish restaurant , a place were an enterprising family of fishermen had pitched a tent, a few tables under it and a glowing BBQ were to grill the fresh fish right out of the boat, from that morning catch.
"Gamberoni Freschi" ("Fresh Jumbo Shrimp!") said the hand written sign.
To this very date I remember every bite of it.
Maybe it was the fact that these were the best grilled shrimp I have had, or maybe it was the fact that I was on a road trip with my dad, a rare occurrence at that point and a true adventure, filled with culinary discoveries.
Moments like these shaped my palate and my appreciation for food.
I am, in no uncertain ways, an extension of him.
This dish before you was my gift to my wife, she only asked for shrimp. The rest is what I wanted to do because I don't know any different, but it stands as one essential truth I live by:
" Once given an opportunity to do something, why just do it, why not make it your own work of art? A testament to the fact that you are alive and life is beautiful!"
So it came to me to find an inspiration in those flavors I experienced on that fateful day, with my dad and recreate them with my own spin, for this very meal I did for my wife.
I really could not say, but I am sure he was somewhere near me , by the BBQ when I was cooking these shrimps.
We did not say much to each other but I smiled , the kind of smile that makes you happy inside, even if for just a moment.
I murmured : Grazie Papa" ( Thank you dad)!" and I knew he heard me.