There’s a gem out there in TV land. A pudgy pasta-loving detective solving crimes in the land of Mafioso who likes daily dips in the ocean whilst beautiful women fall in love with him.
This is not a crime show by formula, yes you CSI, it’s an almost 2-hour episode full of multiple storylines and fascinating characters set in the fictional town of Vigata. In fact I’m sure the ‘extras’ they use are local townspeople who just happened to wander on set. You’ve got goat herders, fisherman and the random apron wearing grandmother who Montalbano has to interview and ends up staying for the fish soup she’s whipping up in the kitchen.
Amongst the cast of characters at the Police Station we’ve got the ever-reliable ‘Fazio’ who is the Inspector’s right hand man, ‘Mimi’ his deputy who is somewhat of a ‘Casanova’ and usually comes up with the wrong theory for the crime and the bumbling ‘Cattarella’ who answers the phone and butchers everyone’s name in the process. Montalbano has a long distance on/off relationship with ‘Livia’ who occasionally fly’s into town for a visit.
Even though the series is set in modern day times, it’s the kind of show where old world values and politeness still remain amongst the cobblestoned narrow roads and gold plated furniture that potential suspects mingle around whilst being questioned.
Montalbano has his favorite right on the oceanfront restaurant where he inevitably ends up as he figures out the crime. I’d love to pull up a chair and dig in to a spaghetti vongole, but I wouldn’t dare speak because whilst eating the Inspector likes total silence so he can ‘experience’ the meal, he is an obvious foodie, as his housecleaner makes incredible ‘Arancini’ balls which he devours.
SBS ran this show late at night for a while with subtitles, but these days you’ve got to order it in thru JB or Sanity. Normally I’ll cook up a king prawn garlic and tomato spaghetti smothered in Parmesan, pour a generous glass of Sangiovese and settle in with an episode.
With it’s majestic sweeping TV shots of southern Sicily and my mild addiction to this show I’ve decided to experience ‘Vigata’ in the flesh and make the trek to Sicily next year with my buddy Swami who told me about the series.
We’re going to be all in as I’ve researched an actual Inspector Montalbano tour in which a bus starts in Taormina and worms its way down the coastline to the actual town where the series is shot, we’ll get to visit the Police Station, the restaurant, meet a cast member and take a dip in the ocean right in front of Montalbano’s house, ‘fantastico’.
Swami and I have been practicing our Italian, our catch phrase seems to be ‘a casa sono stupendo’, which translated is ‘at home I am stupendous’, which will come in handy when ordering a macchiato. If SBS do bring back this gem and you’re up beyond midnight after a pub-crawl give Inspector Montalbano a run and bask in the wonder of Sicily, it’s also guaranteed to give you an appetite, oh and ‘a casa sono stupendo’.