We needed a replacement grill. The one we bought years ago rusted through, dropping fire out the bottom faster than we could sear our chicken breasts. That’s a dangerous scenario during the dry days of August. The trendy Big Green Egg is touted as the ultimate grilling experience, but they just don’t exist here. Perhaps something simple, like our classic Weber. But wait! Wouldn’t it be nice to replace our charcoal model with a spiffy propane powered grill? Regardless of the options, we decided that “buying local” was the thing to do. So, we went hunting.
In Italy, buying local doesn’t mean patronizing a nearby multinational distributor (though they certainly exist). No, no! Buying local means getting in the car to make the 20 minute drive down the hill to the nearby ferramenta, local hardware store. At Fantechi’s, it’s a hodge-podge of strange offerings. Everything from screws to paint, to housewares, to . . . a grill? Cross your fingers! Scour every corner in the place. Look around and under everything. And if they have one, then by all means buy it!
We were cheerfully greeted by one of our favorite clerks as we walked through the door. But as soon as we uttered the words fornello gas (propane grill) he slowly shook his head accompanied by a slight smirk, as if to say—do you know where you are? We weren’t surprised with his response, but it never hurts to ask. Immediately, we shifted to the other more important question,”What DO you have?” He took us into an overcrowded corner of the second room. Many shops have this “nesting doll” configuration. You know: this room leads to the second room, which leads to a third room, etc. With some scrounging around, we literally uncovered a possibility—something that might be described as a “curiosity.”
Our little treasure was a slightly rusted steel box on angle-iron legs, complete with handles, a charcoal clean-out hatch, flat hinged lid, and appropriate scrapes and nicks to give charm and appeal. What more could we want? Well, upon closer inspection we realized that it included no cooking surface. What! This little honey was only the basis for a do-it-yourself grill “kit.” The actual cooking grate had to be purchased separately, allowing the patron the thrill of customization. And don’t you want little rubber caps for the feet so the metal doesn’t make that annoying sound as it rocks and scrapes on the stones. Well, of course we do! Who wouldn’t?
Those optional accessories weren’t anywhere near the basic grill. No, not a chance. The odd assortment of cooking grates were hanging from the ceiling in the first room—cast iron, stainless steel. One handle or 2? Hmmm. Once the decision was made, our chosen grate had to be retrieved from the ceiling by climbing a ladder (which had to be located). There. Done. And the rubber feet. Ah, those? They are safely kept behind the counter in tiny drawers. We suggested that we needed four—a little joke. We all laughed out loud.
Finally, after half an hour or so, we had assembled everything needed to make our sweet little grill work like a charm. We walked out of Fantechi’s Ferramenta, with what may well be our favorite grill of all times. Our purchase also meant that some unknown local craftsman finally got his payout for the masterpiece that he probably hand-crafted in his basement workshop
Friday night, we had the inaugural cookout with our “fashion-grill,” and was cena (dinner), ever delicious! In addition to our tasty chicken, we enjoyed that deep-down, heartfelt satisfaction that only comes from dealing with local people and local products—which is, by the way, the best deal in town. Always.