Visitors to the "Balashe" Center, a daily center for the elderly and people with disabilities in Elbasan, would never have thought they could taste Italian cuisine one day from an Italian chef.
He is Tullio Tulletti and comes to Albania for the third time. He has a spiritual bond with our country through the memories of his father, a soldier during the Second World War, and now he returns with the desire of always, committing himself to volunteering.
Master in the kitchen and passionate about the Italian one, this time he cooked for the elderly pizza of all kinds and lasagna, both very appreciated by them. Taking all the ingredients for his recipes, Tullio himself served the elderly and children with disabilities in a special lunch at the "Balashe" Center.
Tullio, always on the move, makes sure everyone can taste the first and second course. This time he chose peas with meat fillet and lasagna. The products, the drinks and the dessert, he brought them himself with his pickup truck. After having consumed the tasty lunch, the center-goers go away happy one by one, having learned a few words in Italian to thank Tullio. They are waiting for him again.
In fact, the dinner at the "Balashe" center with the arrival of the Italian chef has become a party. This time, the good weather favored eating outdoors. In the background there is the popular music, the favorite of the guests of the center. In order for everything to go well, says the director of the Balashe center Blerina Kamami, the entire staff helped Tullio prepare the traditional Italian meal, rare in this center. The elders themselves are very happy with his presence and would like him to stay. Petrit Lumani, an old visitor to the "Balashe" Center, says that when the Italian comes to the center, he celebrates: "We are very happy with his arrival. His cuisine is very good. Everything he cooked was good: pizzas, peas, lasagna ". Also another visitor to the center, Ismail Lepuri, says he was very happy: "Everything was very tasty and it would be nice if he stayed here with us".
We interviewed him to get his impressions on Albania and the experience at the "Balashe" Center.
How did the idea of cooking in the "Balashe" center come to him?
I am a member of the "Centro Onlus" of Cosenza, which is connected to the "Balashe" center. When I heard that a group from this center would come to Albania I took the opportunity to come.
I cook for the "Balashe" charity center. I myself am a pensioner and I feel close to those who have none. Sometimes something needs to be done for the people in need. Even in the south of Italy the situation is the same. The third age is abandoned.
We have northern and southern Italy. And the south is the same as Albania. We are almost in the same boat, only the sea separates us. Facilities with more services are needed. For example, France has multi-purpose centers and the elderly are best treated.
In collaboration with the director of the Balashe Center, Blerina, we decided one day to cook the pizzas with the members of this center. And then it was the turn of the lasagna. In the past in Italy I had a restaurant in a small town near the sea called Mantea, where I cooked for a few years. I specialized in cooking in Emilia Romagna. The kitchen is very important to me. Cooking does not tire me because I do it with pleasure. Like all people who have their passions, mine is the kitchen.
How was your passion for cooking born?
I was born in a family of cooks. From an early age I was next to my grandmother and I was always attracted by the aromas of the things she cooked. I went crazy for those smells. This gave me the impetus to become a cook.
My profession was as a police inspector, but my passion was cooking. Not everyone can make pizzas and lasagna. As for pizza, things get complicated later. Everyone does it but few know how to do it properly.
It is difficult to follow regional recipes. In France, for example, they make carbonara with a lot of cream. They change it a lot. I agree with the variants, but they must always be in harmony, otherwise the taste of the dish can become horrible.
What does Albanian cuisine look like?
I really like. When I come here I love eating lamb crostini, various cheeses, salads etc. The kitchen is very good but the service leaves a lot to be desired. I note that there is no coordination in a restaurant, because when booking different dishes, they are taken at different times, which is not normal at dinner. The service is therefore inadequate.
Where does the bond with Albania come from?
I've always wanted to visit this country. I wanted to do it already from the stories of my father who during the Second World War had been a soldier here. He told me about the places where he had been like Tirana and Durazzo.
The cities certainly were different than they are today. He told me that people were very hospitable, good and making my mother a little angry, he always told me that women were very beautiful. I also found that he was right because in these three trips I made in Albania I saw that women are brown and beautiful. I am very happy to be here and I must say that I always like to come back. When I am in Italy I think about when I will return to Albania again.
Article by Bardha Nergjoni. Published in the daily Shekulli of 8 November 2010. Original title "Italians që gatuan për të moshuarit and Elbasanit". Translated by AlbaniaNews from Daniela Nazarko.
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