OK, I finished the A-Z Challenge, so I am going to restart it. This time, however, I am going to focus on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is D for D’Aurelios.
D’Aurelios for Pasta
We have never made the three-and-a-half hour, roundtrip journey to Fort Bragg and back to Bell Springs, just to have dinner at D’Aurelios. However, there was a time when we never missed the opportunity to eat there, when we were already in the area. Why might we have been in the area? Because we were camping somewhere in the vicinity, most likely up the coast a ways, somewhere in the vicinity of Branscomb Road and Highway One.
D’Aurelios is a restaurant featuring Italian food, with an emphasis on pasta. It is a great place to take hungry boys, if you are interested in making sure that those boys will leave totally stuffed to the gills. D’Aurelios is a place that specializes in huge portions, so that if you have a mind to it, you can order your dinner and know that you have also covered lunch the next day. All those years of camping on the coast were punctuated by at least one trip up the highway to Fort Bragg, in order to have one special meal, that we did not have to prepare ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong; cooking while camping is truly one of my favorite things. I don’t even mind heating up water on the Coleman stove to wash the dishes. It’s just that eating out for Annie and me and the boys, used to be such a rare treat, that we looked forward to these occasions as the centerpiece of our camping trips. We would gather the boys around, have a scrubbing of the exteriors, each of us donning the one outfit we still had that was clean, and hope that we didn’t gross anyone out with the smell of woodsmoke.
Because, of course, we always loaded up the truck with firewood: manzanita to get it started, pine or fir to get it hot, and oak/madrone to keep it smoldering all night so that the next morning, whoever was up first, could get it started again without having to reinvent the wheel. I can also remember having to cook over the wood pit a time or two, because of technical difficulties with the Coleman stove. Or we might get one dish cooked, and slide it aside to stay warm over the fcoals, while we whipped the rest of the meal into shape. And, of course, we always had marshmallows for roasting, or char-broiling, whichever happened to occur.
We usually packed all our gear and food for a couple of days, because we knew we would be venturing into town for our special go-to meal. We would combine a little shopping and a little sight-seeing with a culinary experience that was top-shelf all the way. We always planned our arrival for a few minutes before five in the evening, because that’s when they opened, at least during the week. If we arrived anytime later than that, we would have to wait, because this place rocks, and it’s not about the tourists.
D’Aurelios is located off the beaten track, one street over from the highway, so the vast majority of its clientele are locals. Whereas we were not “local,” we were sure not tourists. I can remember a few occasions when the boys were old enough to make their own way over to the coast, for a couple of days of camping, when we would all convene at D’Aurelios for a feast to beat all feasts. These were good times, especially since there was an occasion or two when girl friends joined us at the restaurant.
The closure of many of the local camp sites, due to state budget constraints, has limited our patronage of D’Aurelios in recent times, but that doesn’t mean we don’t remember the good meals and the good times associated with this restaurant. We just may have to pay a long-overdue visit one of these days.