Legitimate Pasta, Middle of Nowhere, Taiwan

Giovanni and Coco Filippini greeted me with an ice-cold bottle of San Pellegrino bubbly water as I sat in their kitchen. Still dripping with hot sweat, I could already tell it was worthwhile taking a trip in the unforgiving heat for another visit to the island’s most underrated Italian restaurant.

On a previous trip to Taitung’s South Donghe (東河), I was so famished, I was willing to stop at any place that was open – a telling sign of true desperation and resignation to the lack of choice in a small rural town. A wrong turn led me to a front yard repurposed as a shaded alfresco, filled with local diners. I read the sign Trattoria, glanced at the freshly dolloped plates of linguine and ordered my own in pesto. It was so good I returned for dinner that same day.

Finding exceptional, authentic cuisine other than local food in Taiwan is a big deal. Huge. Even in the capital, you won’t be spoilt with choice. Yet, the quiet county of Taitung, which is literally on the opposite side of the island from any major city, has already enamoured visitors and locals alike looking for variety beyond noodles and dumplings. VICE previously covered authentic Mexican food in Taitung’s art-central Dulan. But South Donghe, home to some hundred residents, is best known as only a stopover for steamed buns. Hidden in a small suburban street, this really is the middle of nowhere, and Greensliding 133 joins a small number of eateries that dare to rebel against Taiwan’s local palate.

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Coco and Giovanni, the owners and chef, allow no excuses or shortcuts when it comes to serving dishes you would expect in an Italian home. They import as much quality produce from Italy as they could. The cheese, the oil, the flour, even the salt make long trips to get to their resting place in the seaside home.

Italian cooking is very simple. Pasta, oil, garlic, salt.
Sometimes that’s all you need. – Coco

Simple, yes. But if you don’t have the right ingredients;
if you don’t know exactly how to cook pasta, it will be shit. – Giovanni

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Greensliding 133’s quiet yet notable reputation of great taste stems from Giovanni’s Roman background. Having lived most of his life in Oriolo Romano, a quaint municipality northwest of Rome, his mother did what all Italian mothers were famous for – making sure her family was well fed on bonafide home-cooked Italian meals. When in Rome, you cook and eat like the Romans do, and so it was here that Taipei-born Coco was first acquainted with what true Italian taste was like. From Giovanni’s mother she learnt to make legitimate fresh pasta, cannelloni and of course, tiramisu.

The couple first met while surfing in Bali and began splitting their time between Taiwan, Italy, and Indonesia. They kept their traveling romance like this for years until the couple discovered they were pregnant. Taiwan seemed like the obvious choice as a place to permanently call home.

I love the people and the country. And you know, we’re close to the waves here. – Giovanni

 We can create our own life in Taiwan. Our own style. – Coco

And create their own they did. Giovanni already good with his hands in woodwork and hand-painting began designing and making his own furniture. The signage, the tri-coloured picket fence, and the dining tables and chairs were all handcrafted by Giovanni. Enter the living room and you will gaze upon polished wooden surfboards carved to different lengths and shapes. Alaia Hawaiian surfboards were hugely popular in pre-20th century but almost disappeared after synthetic boards were introduced. Giovanni is the only vendor of handcrafted Alaia in Taiwan.

With her husband’s own creative label already in motion, Coco set out to recreate what she ate in Italy in her own humble kitchen of 133 South Donghe, Taitung. Greensliding 133 was born and despite owning two businesses, the couple took no concessions when it comes to keeping up with the surf life. Mornings include a tag-team of surf sessions, and taking care of Anna Asia, their four year old daughter. By mid-morning, Coco would be in that same kitchen preparing for the day’s lunch and dinner.

Coco makes the dough like how they do it in Italy. She beats the egg swiftly into a whirling well of flour until the yellow blur turns a soft vanilla white. After a good round of kneading, throwing and patting, the dough is allowed to rest before Coco religiously rolls and cuts it into linguine. And that’s it really. Just flour and egg, hand-beaten and moulded into oblivion. She has no commercial appliances to help her. Each batch of dough, big enough for four servings, would take a good hour out of Coco’s time to prepare and make. Her many returning customers, most of whom are from surrounding towns like Chenggong, ensure they don’t miss out by calling ahead to order the fresh pasta.

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Though fresh ingredients are sourced locally, Coco doesn’t serve the pasta most city-dwelling locals are used to. You won’t find soggy, cream-laden pasta here. It is with this attitude to serve what she and Giovanni likes to eat that has made their restaurant outstanding. To me, Greensliding 133 is a relieving oasis to the ill-representing landscape of Italian cuisine in Taiwan – and one that is well-priced at that.

Eating is about enjoyment. I want everyone to learn and enjoy what real Italian food is. Greensliding 133 is about sharing this passion and that is enough.
– Coco

Before leaving, I sat at one of Giovanni’s tables enjoying a plate of fresh pasta that moments before Coco had made by hand. I could still smell the eggs she had beaten into it. It was flavoured with butter and parmesan and paired with a Tuscan white wine.

I have found little Italy in even smaller Donghe Taiwan.

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To secure your own fresh pasta, review the menu and pre-order via telephone or Facebook @Greensliding133


*All photos credit of Guang-Hui Chuan of GSquaredTravel
*first published with Ketagalan Media on 25 August 2016
*Chinese version is also published here

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100 Anecdotes: Comfort in a Bowl of Congee

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Ill and feeling sorry for myself, I went to my usual haunt for some comfort food. My small appetite fostered wistful thoughts for the owner.

“Your twenties and thirties are the prime of life – even when you’re not well. I used to spend all night out with mates, then work the next day feeling wrecked. But I could still do it. Nowadays my health is gone and all I have is this shop.”

Taking a moment to appreciate his words, I suddenly felt better. I finished my delicious congee, thanked him, and left to make the most of my prime.

100 Anecdotes: 5am at a Taiwanese Breakfast Shop

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One morning I found myself rising before the sun. Restless, I headed to a breakfast shop. It’s open from 3am everyday, offering handmade soy milk, buns and most importantly, you tiao (油條).

“They’re available from 5am only”, the owner said, as her trained hands rolled and cut dough. Bleary-eyed, I waited for breakfast and the sun.

True to her words, she placed the blistering curlers in front of me at 5am sharp. I hastily dunk them in my accompanying savoury soy milk. With every mouthful, the satisfying crunch and streaming hot liquids shook me awake. Far better than coffee ever did.

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Taiwan’s Got Talent – Series II

Next up on the Taiwan’s Got Talent Series, I interview talented Jing-Wen Jian of Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, who along with fellow students Chong-Yue Chen and Nai-Wen Chang designed the U-Ride for their graduate project.

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Looking like something out of a sleek design magazine with claims to provide riders plenty of freedom in the way they move, the U-Ride is a revolutionary 2-in-1 electric bike and segway, designed to meet the increasing demand for efficient shared public transport in urban cities. Much like Taipei’s current YouBike system, but with a smart and minimalist design, the U-Ride has the potential to play a big role in reducing traffic congestion without compromising convenience, allowing commuters to travel more freely and at an affordable price. Its segway mode is aimed for travelling back and forth at an easy pace – making it attractive to the visitor in search of indulgent sightseeing.

Anything that helps people to slow down but still get around without fuss and is also environmentally-friendly deserves some ovation, so it is no wonder that the U-Ride project was awarded a Young Pin Design Award in the product design category this year at the Young Designers Exhibition (YODEX), as part of the local events for World Capital Taipei 2016!

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with Jing-Wen Jian – 22 Years Old

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What did you envision for the U-Ride?

The U-Ride is an electric vehicle that could be used in two modes: You can sit on it as you would with a scooter, or, by unlocking the handle you can use it like a segway. We designed this to allow people to move about more freely. The two Touring or Roaming modes take on the ‘Move Free. Move Relax.’ concept. In the Roaming mode you can slow yourself down as well, allowing you to relax. The U-Ride in this mode is no where near as fast as other segways, reaching only 10km an hour. Apart from allowing the rider to relax, it is also useful in multiple situations. You can ride alongside with your friends in a park, for example.

What issues of public transport does the U-Ride aim to address?

Addressing traffic is a major factor in coming up with the idea for the U-Ride. The U-Ride can be used as a form of shared public transportation but unlike popular forms of public transport, the U-Ride is more personal and portable, much like a scooter. Taiwan’s current environment however, is especially inundated with motorcycles. We believe that there’s no need to buy them to get around anymore. From the tourism point of view, visitors can rent one, allowing them to move between sights freely, and in a relaxing way.

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Is the U-Ride safe to be used in traffic?

I think we all have the experience of riding a segway or know how it works. Most of them don’t have handles. They’re fast, and can be dangerous. For most people, they’re like toys. We were thinking more from the perspective of transport for visitors – how would the U-Ride benefit them? The difference with our product design is that by including a handle, the feelings of safety is enhanced and it is easier to manoeuvre. And because we decreased the speed, it is rather slow, and therefore safer to ride.

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Why the likes of the U-Ride is so important to Social Design

Shared transport and facilities not only address major issues of limited space and traffic in growing urban areas, but also enhance the general wellbeing of a community, creating greater access for people to get around and enhancing community interaction and cohesion.

In increasingly populated cities like Taipei, the need to minimise waste, be environmentally-friendly, as well as to connect more people to facilities is vital for an efficient and sustainable system. It is also cost-effective to provide social and community infrastructure and integrated transport. The likes of a minimalist yet flexible vehicle that not only has multiple uses but can be publicly shared is a logical solution.

On the psychological perspective, it is also increasingly important to take it easy in a modern and bustling city. Tourists won’t be the only people who could enjoy a slow and relaxed change of pace. And I could imagine only benefits in which the U-Ride would bring to people who are physically incapacitated; who are unable to walk distances but will not remain limited by accessibility to complete the activities they wish to do. The U-Ride then addresses both recreational and commuting factors as well as environmental and social factors which makes it, what I deem to be, a genuinely smart design that deserves backing and further development.

I hope to see more designs that aim to address social and practical issues such as the U-Ride, and wish these bright graduates a promising future!

100 Anecdotes: Things Weren’t Always Wonderful Here

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…When the KMT moved to Taiwan, they made it much harder for the locals here. They didn’t care for us. Their eyes were on China. They forced us to stop speaking Taiwanese, and they were prejudiced because we were educated under the Japanese system.

Though eyes bleary with age, he was sharp-minded and his hands didn’t shake as he unfolded the silk flag he had just purchased from his friend. It seemed fitting to give a foreigner the truthful rundown of Taiwan’s history as he presented the vintage piece.

Taiwan’s journey for democracy was turbulent, even amongst its own.

 

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