Taverna Del Sud: Italian comfort food, in Munich

Posted on
Apr 4, 2012
Posted in: Food, Restaurants

And just like that, you're home.

A friend of mine once told me about the time she chaperoned a group of teenagers on a trip to China. After arriving in Beijing, the kids, once so excited for their trip, had a bit of a breakdown. Many of them had never been outside of the U.S. Most of them hadn’t been too far from their hometown. As a result, every last one of them had a minor implosion due to culture shock.

My friend, in response, led them to a McDonald’s.

When she told me this, I was aghast.

“You did what?” I said, thinking of one of my cardinal rules of travel: never eat at fast food restaurants.

She shrugged, unmoved by my disdain. “Everything was unfamiliar to them, and they needed a bit of comfort.”

I shook my head, and told her she should have made them toughen up. Wasn’t the whole point of traveling the world to experience new things? To be out of your comfort zone? I argued that she did them a disservice.

I can be such an ass.

I can also – occasionally – admit when I am wrong. Sometimes, a bit of comfort is good, especially when you are far from home. And sometimes, that comfort comes in the form of food.

I realized that when Rand and I were in Munich last week, and I was feeling out of sorts. My grandmother would have said that I had “la luna storta” – literally, it means your moon is hanging crooked.  In other words, I was in a grumpy mood. I was too sensitive. I was out of my element and my comfort zone.

This happens to me on occasion when we travel. Don’t worry – I’m not asking for sympathy because I don’t deserve an ounce of it. Not at all. My life glorious. It is full of travel and art and sweets and wonderful things.

I am absurdly spoiled, and we usually travel to places where I can get by on English, or Italian, or my minimal Spanish. I rarely have to deal with language barriers or frustrations or anything like that. Which is good, because I don’t handle it well when I feel like I’m not in control.

Like that day in Munich, when I clearly had my cranky pants on. When dinner time came around, after Rand and I had a fight that I instigated about something-that-wasn’t-even-important-at-the-time-much-less-now, Rand suggested we head to an Italian restaurant by our hotel.

“Italian food?” I asked. “In Munich?”

Why not just go to McDonald’s in Beijing?

“It’s supposed to be good,” Rand said. “Plus, you can speak Italian. I think it will make you feel better.”

I didn’t argue, following him down the cobblestone walk from the hotel to the restaurant.

Inside, it was dimly lit and bustling, as diners chatted in a variety of languages.

A gentleman in a white shirt and red apron greeted us as we walked in.

“Buona sera,” he said. Good evening.

Good evening,” I replied, without skipping a beat. “There are two of us. We’d like to sit by a window.

He led us to a wooden table draped with a checkered red and white tablecloth, and brought us menus in German and Italian.

“I can translate for you,” I said to Rand, smiling.

“I think I’ll be okay,” he said, laughing. Of course. Spaghetti is spaghetti.

I had an arugula and parmesan salad to start. It was exactly as I had expected it to be. Simple. Predictable. Peppery and acidic.

 

For my entree, I got aglio e olio. It’s a ridiculously simple dish: pasta with oil and garlic (and sometimes, as was the case here, a few chilis). My grandmother would make it for when I was little and feeling finicky. I never prepare it at home, because I can’t justify a plate full of oil-soaked carbs. But it is a dish that is near and dear to me – so much so that Rand worked it into his wedding vows. He promised he’d always keep the house stocked with the ingredients to make it. Not hard to do, certainly. But it made me so happy when he said it, standing in a tuxedo in front of all our friends and family.

He understood the power this dish has on me. He knew it before we were married, and knew it that night when I sat in Munich, eating something distinctly non-German. Enjoying my version of a Happy Meal.

It was wonderful.

We left, not before saying a heartfelt “danke” to the waiter. And then I walked back out onto the streets of Munich, my moon no longer crooked. I felt ready for just about anything that came my way.

Yup. Ready for anything … except McDonald’s, of course.

—————

Rand and I ate at Taverna Del Sud, near the English Gardens, northwest of downtown Munich. They serve good traditional Italian fare (pizzas, pastas, and the like) and the prices are incredibly reasonable (we both got entrees, split a starter, and had drinks for 30 Euros). I didn’t have dessert because I ate a cookie on the way to the restaurant (don’t judge me), but it looked delectable. Staff is polite and quite speedy. Guests ran the gamut: folks were having family dinners with their children, while others were on dates. Jeans are acceptable.

I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to eat here, but if it’s close by? Definitely.

Leave a Comment

  • Dr. Pete

    My wife was born in Taiwan, and when we visited there, it was a blast to see what she thinks of as “comfort food”. She kept saying – “THIS is that dish I’m always talking about!” I’ve even adopted a couple of Asian comfort foods of my own, like You Tiao – you can’t go wrong with something that roughly translates as “Oil Stick”.

    Then again, I’m part German, so I can eat Schnitzel all day long 🙂

    • What are the asian comfort foods you adopted?

      • Dr. Pete

        Hmmm… let’s see: You Tiao with sweet soy milk, Just about any dumpling or bun (bao), Pho (although not from her part of Asia) – I just love soup, and virtually any kind of meat on a stick 🙂 I will never warm up to stinky tofu, though.

  • Katie

    I enjoyed this post because I can relate to feeling frustrated and not in control of the situation while trying to communicate in Germany. I’ve been here for 5 months and although I have picked up enough words to say hello, goodbye, please, thank.you, excuse me and of course order a coffee and chocolate muffin to go, I have difficulty most other places. And then I get excited to go out for a nice meal (German or other) only to remember that I cannot read the menu and have to ask the waiter for extra time so my boyfriend can translate it. But an Italian restaurant in Germany? Many of the words are similar. Maybe next time I’m having a bad communication day, I will find myself an Italian restaurant in Nürnberg.

  • Comfort food is the best way to get over a cranky mood, or a bit of culture shock! Even here in Canada, we have to hunt down some feijoada for my Brazilian husband…
    Ps. I’ve been to McDonalds in Beijing and it was very necessary at the moment! ha ha.. the shame..

  • I am grinning so big right now:) Yes, Italian food is universal and SOOO comforting! As for the cookie before dinner… DO NOT feel guilty. It is normal to have dessert before dinner in Germany. Really. At every birthday party I’ve been to in Germany, they serve dessert and then awhile later, dinner. Hope you enjoyed Munich. I’m curious to know what you really thought about the city though?

  • Your relationship makes me smile!

  • Colleen

    I definitely understand the comfort food thing. I am a sucker for a good plate of Spanish rice and refried beans. Being from California, you search high and low in other states for something that tastes the same. So far, Los Dos Amigos in Coos Bay, OR is the only place that serves such a thing. It also helps that the owners of the restaurant are Latino, not that their ethnicity has any bearing on good the food is.

  • Janet T

    “But it is a dish that is near and dear to me – so much so that Rand worked it into his wedding vows. He promised he’d always keep the house stocked with the ingredients to make it. Not hard to do, certainly. But it made me so happy when he said it, standing in a tuxedo in front of all our friends and family.”

    Wow, Geraldine, Wow- what an amazing man you have there.

  • You have finally confirmed that you and Rand are a normal couple with the line “after Rand and I had a fight that I instigated about something-that-wasn’t-even-important-at-the-time-much-less-now”. Up until now, I was pretty sure you guys really just lived in a fairy tale somewhere!

  • You have finally confirmed that you and Rand are a normal couple with the line “after Rand and I had a fight that I instigated about something that wasn’t even important at the time much less now”. Up until now, I was pretty sure you guys really just lived in a fairy tale somewhere!

  • This post made me smile. My son attended a language institute in Beijing for six months while he was in college. He loved trying the new and interesting foods, and going to strange new places. However, every once in a while he’d go to the McDonald’s near his dorm. Did you know their menus are tailored for whichever area they’re in? I didn’t. This McDonald’s served corn, of all things. He also made a trip to WalMart while there. LOL

  • David

    If aglio e olio comforts you, try it with a half cup of breadcrumbs mixed in. Carbs on top of carbs can make the gloomiest day bright again. I’ve convinced myself that my version of carb-carb pasta is healthy because I add a large mix of vegetables.

  • My comfort food has got to be barbecue.

    Brazilian barbecue with good chunks of meat (sorry vegetarians!), sauce and potatoes.
    All is well in the world when I eat that…

    I just fell in love with this post.

  • It was 1994, i was 14 and hadnt travelled out side of Europe ( well we’d been to Orlando..) after 10 days travelling round China, eating traditional fare we’d been travelling all day and arrived in Hong Kong to find The hotel had lost our booking.. It was 11pm and we were starving and ended up wandering the streets to Spaghetti House.. A bowl of something familiar in a strange and busy city.. Sometimes it’s just what you need!

  • Strange, for me, no matter where I am – chocolate is my comfort food. Go figure! 🙂

  • la luna storta! My photography teacher used to say that to me. I haven’t heard that in a minute!

  • where am i?

    At the risk of seeming out of place and weird and going way off topic, i just have to say that the guy in the first picture wearing the plaid shirt who has a sumptuous platter of whatever that is before him – most likely your husband – looks like my dark elf avatar in Skyrim (rpg even the soccer moms have heard about.) except he’s not as dark, and his eyes don’t glow red like HAL’s.

  • Dziwnograj

    Well, notice that McDonald in Benijing isn’t McDonald in States or Europe. I have never been in China, but I was in Japan and I could tell that menu in Asia could be confusing. They have even buns (not only but also) made from rice, teriyaki burgers, gyoza dumplings, miso soup, prawns etc. Even McDonald could be something interesting.

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