A marvelous surprise met me yesterday when I visited one of my favorite places in Cuzco, Trattoria La Nonna on the corner of San Agustín and Maruri.
The clouds were gathering and later would bring rain and, at the moment we entered, shadows seemed to occupy the back part of the restaurant where we went to sit. However, the waitress quickly turned on the lights and there we saw the owner of the trattoria working behind the bar making the food that her clients would eat during the day.
La Nonna is known for its attention to fine ingredients, such as the special Mozzarella that the owner gets from an artisanal maker in the Sacred Valley. It alone imparts a distinguished depth and flavor to her pizzas.
Then came the surprise. We ordered a salad, the Deli Salad, and when it came it was beautiful and well apportioned on the plate as always. On the arugula and fine green lettuce, though, I found an old friend.
At first I could not believe it. There were slices of a pork product, somewhat reminiscent of prosciutto that did not look like anything I had ever tried in Cusco before.
The taste was a bit salty and tangy, though with an unusual depth and a soft and gentle texture. They combined amazingly with the greens and tomatoes, dressed with a light sprinkle of olive oil, vinegar, salt, and fresh ground pepper.
My mind wanted to take me to breakfast in Seville in a fine hotel, where the breakfast bar contained plate-fulls of finely sliced ham for us to serve ourselves along with the most fresh and amazing melon.
Nevertheless, I had a hard time believing and kept wanting to classify it as some kind of prosciutto, since that is now so widespread. Still my heart said “no”, that it was a long lost beauty from the land of fan-hidden beauties.
I asked, and sure enough, it was imported jamón serrano, the fine and tasty Spanish ham that only recently has been able to enter the American market where it commands a high price. I have never seen it in Cuzco before and was heartened as seldom by the attention to detail of La Nona.
When we left, rain drops were just barely starting to fall and the sky was dark, but the serrano ham left me basking in a serene light that carried me throughout the day.