I've mentioned this before, but there is a pub in Northamptonshire that, with a little help from me, every now and then becomes the greatest little pop-up in the universe.
It's an ancient hostelry. The sort of pub they feature in Midsomer Murders, a place that no one really believes can actually exist. Wooden beams, neighbours in cahoots, the easy-on-the-eye wife of the landlord. It's the location for a village gathering after which someone ends up dead and there are a number of suspects. Was it the landlord's shapely wife, the in-bred local gentry, the well-to-do farmer, the handsome local electrician, the ever-friendly garage owner, or the village spiv whose flirty wife tends to wear tight dresses that catch the eye of rather too many panting locals.
Well such a pub does exist. It's called The Crown Inn. And all those characters are there. It's just no one dies, horribly. Not yet anyway. Although many wake up the next day feeling some of their brain cells have gone into rigor-mortis and that a pig shat in their head.
We had one such night this week. As ever, I waited tables. This time the man in the kitchen was Aldo Zilli, the boy from Abruzzo. One of nine children who left Italy, came to London and done good.
Aldo is a charming man who radiates sunny beams and spent a childhood that nudged at poverty. He slept top to toe with his siblings and got work as a teenager in the local fishmonger. His father told him not to bring home the pittance he would earn in wages, rather fish that could feed the family.
So the Zillis ate food that today the wealthy aspire to. On Sundays they had sea bass, fished from the Adriatic. A family of farmers, they had pork as a staple dish, which meant (cue violins) dried hams mixed with funghi foraged from the woods, yes that's truffles.
Suffer the poor, I hear you sniff. And thus the menu at The Crown when Aldo came to cook this week reflected the dishes of his childhood. The local sparkie, tyre-man, the farmers, a smattering of music producers (they get everywhere these days) and an excitable crowd of yummy mummies ate five courses, churned out by an increasingly sweaty Zilli, working at the pass with the very gifted pub chef, Felan Hennigan.
Felan also has Willie with him. Every chef needs a Willie. This one's from Scotland. No one can understand a word he says, but he has a glint in his eye, never stops working and chops, sprinkles, dusts and drizzles like Jackson Pollock.
Aldo arrived in the afternoon to take charge in the kitchen ready to cook for some 35 people. 'We've got 115 covers tonight,' lied Mike Foalks, the landlord (actually they did 119). Senor Zilli nearly got straight back into his car to drive home, but it was too late.
And so it was, mid-service, sweat pouring from his glistening and polished hair-free head, that he spooned out 119 portions of the most wonderful pappardelle with mushrooms in a truffle cream sauce with chopped parsley, parmesan and truffle oil.
'Remember never to let me put pappardelle on the menu for a party,' he yelled, presumably to himself as he scooped and slopped it onto the plates. The dishes's edges were wiped clean, on went the mushrooms and the rest and the likes of me dashed out of the kitchen to feed the hungry mob.
The first course had been a plate of classic antipasti; Parma ham, salami, mortadella, baby mozzarella, arancini (fried rice balls) and stuffed olives, and deep-fried courgette flowers; the plate topped with rocket.
After the pasta came the fish course. Out I went balancing the plates. 'I'm going to get our money back from Iceland,' said our local MP, as I served her (the country, not the supermarket). 'I'm going to call their finance minister tomorrow,' she added.
'That'll be a nice phone call for him to get on Sunday,' I replied. This was an odd reply as tomorrow was Friday. Still, not knowing what day of the week it is hasn't stopped me from getting where I am today, wherever that is.
And that's right. Our MP was there too. I told you it could be a murder mystery.
Then came dessert. 'It's a confusion of a dessert,' said Aldo as he toured the tables, changing the word to 'concussion' at one point. 'It's every dessert I love including home-made vanilla ice cream with a sauce of bitter espresso.'
To add to the crazy mix a couple from Northampton then toured the rooms singing popular opera tunes. Apparently they were semi-finalists in Britain's Got Talent a couple of years back.
In the detective fiction, the male tenor lies dead the following morning, his singer partner discovering him and wailing even more than when she sang Con te Partiro the night before.
In reality Kieran and Sarah woke up in Northampton, while the village of Weston woke up in a happy stupor.