Have you ever wondered if you were in the right place?
Odd question, sure.
Here is a little story of a recent visit to Bergamo that has me firmly believing we were in the right place at the right time, and we’re absolutely on the right path.
Last October, we were in Bergamo to see the Giro d’Lombardia and to visit our friends from Stelbel, a beautiful Italian brand producing custom made steel bikes, and which also happens to be my ride in Italy.
As the conversation progressed from bikes to food, we asked the guys to recommend a good place to enjoy some of the local cuisine, specifically Polenta Taragna and/or Casoncelli, a sensational pasta filled with a veal/pork mix and with grana padano, amongst other ingredients. The consensus was that for the best casoncelli, you need to go to Cece e Simo.
We called in the afternoon, but they were fully booked.
Over aperitivo we tried a few other places, however they were also booked. Being the weekend of the Lombardia, there were people everywhere.
So, we decided to take a chance and walk the seven blocks to Cece e Simo to see if there was any chance of being squeezed in for an hour or two. We arrived and asked about availability of a table, and sure enough, someone had literally just cancelled a table for two.
So in we went.
As we settled in, we proceeded to order a bottle of wine, the casoncelli and another of their specialties, the Tartare which is prepared and mixed at the table by Cece himself.
As Cece looked after us and started to talk to us (or more specifically, talk to Nancy), he asked where we were from, why we were in Bergamo…all the usual questions…
We mentioned the Giro d’Lombardia and that we had visited Stelbel and all of a sudden, his whole face lit up and the conversation began…
Cece proceeded to tell us that he used to ride a lot and that he used to have an old Stelbel, but sold it to a friend years ago who is a collector of old bikes and before he really knew what it was, in terms of brand and worth. A vintage Stelbel is not only a good bike for the L’Eroica ride, but also a brand that many collectors like to have in their collection as founder and framebuilder, Stelio Belletti was the first person to TIG weld a frame back in 1973.
As the night progressed, the food arrived and was sensational, and Cece messaged his friend to send a couple of photos through. With this, my eyes lit up and Cece said that if we were interested in seeing the bike, he would call his friend the following day to pick it up. We still weren’t quite sure at this stage if he meant he would be happy to sell the bike to us, so we treaded gently…..
Late the following day, Nancy received a message from Cece saying that he would pick up the bike the following day, ie. now 2 days later, but by this stage, we were getting ready to drive back to Tuscany and given we had also learned that it was a smaller size, we were happy to let it go. Cece proceeded to send us more photos and it really did look interesting, with a drilled out chainring and levers, unique seatpost clamp and its very angular rear triangle…….hhmmm.
We headed back to Chianti.
Months passed by and I kept thinking about that night ….the night when I thought I was having casoncelli for primi, tartare for secondi and a Stelbel for dessert. ‘Was it the one that got away?’
4 months on, we returned again to Bergamo and to Stelbel HQ to discuss upcoming projects, what’s new in terms of their innovations and also the new builds we’re working on for a couple of clients. I told Andrea the story about ‘that night’ and his response was ‘that is the universe telling you to buy that bike’….I smiled. I love a great mind that thinks alike.
We returned to Cece e Simo that night for another fix of the superb casoncelli and tartare and as Nancy does, she asked Cece whether the bike was still available. The answer was a clear ‘for you both, yes absolutely it is.’ We left saying that we’d be in touch and we’d arrange to return to Bergamo 2 days later after visiting the Alps.
The next day photos arrived from Cece of him driving and with the bike in the back of his car…. very exciting to see.
As agreed, we arrived back to Bergamo two days later and picked up the bike from Cece. This wasn’t just any commercial exchange though. Cece asked if we had time for a little aperitivo. Of course, why wouldn’t we enjoy a little celebratory aperitivo in the beautiful sunshine in his garden?! This in itself was such a nice gesture, but when wrapped up into the whole experience of how I secured my first vintage Stelbel, a 1977-78 Integrale no less, it really capped off what was just one of those beautiful experiences in life when you know you’re exactly where you should be.
Grazie Cece for a beautiful experience of Italian hospitality at every level.
Now for the big decision. Will I restore it or preserve it?