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Foraging at the Forge 

Wednesday, Oct 25 2006
Sunday morning, nursing a wicked hangover, I pedal down to 11th and Folsom streets and ring the ancient bell at the wooden door of Angelo Garro's forge. Garro, a fiftysomething blacksmith and slow food evangelist, is gearing up to launch a television show about his eclectic lifestyle.

"Ciao bella, Ella!" exclaims Garro, kissing me warmly on both cheeks, Sicilian-style. Bustling around a kitchen filled with pasta-makers from the 1930s, drying pepperoncini, and jars of home-cured olives, Garro begins to make his special breakfast: Sicilian eggs, which are such a good hangover cure that they're on the menu at Alice Waters' Café Fanny and South Park's Caffe Centro.

The ancient bell sounds again, echoing through the forge and bouncing loudly off the glorious jumble of blacksmithing equipment, metal sculptures, wine presses, barber chairs, and wild boar legs. Garro's friend Paolo enters, smoking a cigarette and firing away immediately in rapid Sicilian. Heading straight for the five-gallon jug of wine (overflow from the 50 cases we bottled the previous Wednesday), Paolo delves into an intense-sounding conversation with Gaetano, Garro's nephew and an architecture Ph.D., who arrived from Sicily three weeks earlier.

This conviviality around the glass-topped kitchen table (with a wrought-iron base of Garro's own design) over a drop of homemade wine and a slice of home-cured prosciutto is a normal part of Sunday in SOMA. Like Warhol's Factory but with slow food instead of drugs, Garro's forge draws people from all walks of life: In addition to hung-over writers, young artists, and musicians, Garro's clients are often on hand (he designs and installs beautiful wrought-iron balconies in high-end homes). This time of year, friends of friends and various hangers-on gladly pick grapes all day in Sonoma in exchange for the community around this dinner table. Garro cranks out handmade penne from his creaky machine, tossing it with a tomato sauce he jarred a few weeks ago, made with summer's last heirloom tomatoes (from his community garden plot on Potrero Hill) and meatballs from the most recent boar he hunted, parts of which hang behind the wooden door that leads to the wine cellar.

Garro — who showed Michael Pollan how to hunt wild boar as research for Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma — will soon show the rest of the world what California can be like with his TV show, Forging and Foraging, planned for this winter on a still-secret channel. Working with documentary soundtrack composer Tim Hatch (of the indie band Muscular Christians) and a famous movie director who shall go unnamed, Garro aims to have viewers follow him as he goes eeling, boar hunting, and mushroom foraging, then back to the forge, where he'll cook up the day's bounty for a rotating group of friends that'll most likely include Alice Waters, Boz Skaggs, collage artist and writer Bob Carrau, writer and editor Peggy Knickerbocker, and Francis Ford Coppola. Today, though, it's just a couple of Sicilians, a hung-over writer, a creaky wine press, and some leftover meatballs.

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Ella Lawrence


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