When it was officially announced that Ruth Reichl would be coming to Panicale for “Italia 2017” oddsmakers from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo took a collective shot of whiskey knowing their bonanza for the year was ruined. The oddsmakers knew that betting against Reichl to win the coveted GOYA, (Guest of the Year) award would be akin to placing a wager against Secretariat in the ’73 Belmont. It just would not happen.
“Ruth could stumble in, cigarette smoke trailing, ashes dropping on the 14th-Century carpet, gulp off a can of Moretti, belch, crush the can and toss it on his bed and Krikorian would still vote her the GOYA,” said Pierre Su-Sway, pit boss at the Grand Casino de Monte Carlo who was referring to Michael Krikorian, who, along with co-trip organizer Nancy Silverton, is an influential GOYA voter.. .
But, a funny thing happened on the way to the voting forum. A low turnout. While Ruth was her radiant self, her supporters were so confident she would run away with the GOYA that they didn’t bother to go to the polls.
The stunning result was Francesca Anne Krikorian, a 12-year-old Los Angeles girl with no Italy experience at all, swooped in like Seabiscuit in the War Admiral match race and captured the 2017 GOYA.
Francesca, showing up late in the trip with her father, Greg, and 16-year-old brother, Max, came on strong quickly with a striking series of bizarre quotes that caught Panicale regulars off guard and enamored her to them.
For examples. When asked about Bob Dylan, Francesca asked “Is that the guy who jumps?”
Lead with a “Van who?” by her father - to answer who was singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” - she replied “Van Dyke”.
Her description of the taste of butter? “Buttery”
Going on and on about one of her favorite people on Earth, an internet sensation , she said “I can’t think of her name right now.”
But, what garnered Francesca enough votes to eek out a GOYA victory over Reichl was her infectious joy, her smile, her laughter - even after repeated waterboardings by her brother Max - her curiosity and above all, her imagination. When Krikorian pretended to get a call requesting his "Delta Force" services to guard the cast of Pretty Little Liars, (Francesca’s favorite show) she went along for the ride with a zeal that was invigorating.
So here’s to Francesca Anne Krikorian, the Italia 2017’s Guest of the Year, For this, she is entitled to one free pizza, either at Mozza in Hancock Park. or Il Pellicano in Umbria..
As for Ruth Reichl, she said :"There’s always next year."
Coming in third place was chef Elizabeth Falkner who scored strongly in the beginning of the Silverton/Krikorian Odyssey, getting high marks for revealing the first chapter of her book (a "hard R"), cooking superbly and being an all around pleasant person. But, Falkner stumbled badly and lost several points when she texted Nancy several times during a Silverton/Krikorian lunch at the 3 Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in Alba.
"Why is she texting you so much? Tell her .we having lunch at Piazza Duomo," Krikorian told Silverton.
"She can't figure out how to turn on the oven."
Francesca Krikorian stayed away from the oven.
It should be noted that nearly perennial second place finisher Susan Swan did not compete this season.
In the category of most pasta consumed, Georgie Harris dominated. Several attempts to get Georgie to comment were unsuccessful as her mouth was full of cacio y pepe.
NOTE - At press time, it was revealed that Francesca is Michael Krikorian's niece. Supporters of Reichl, led by a six-year old known as Linksy, filed a formal protest.
Past GOYA Winners "
2016 - Dario Cecchini
2015 - Leon Gold
2014 - (TIE) Hourie Sahakian and Tiffany Fox
2013 - Liz "Go Go" Hong
2012 - Cast of "The Wire"
2011 - .The Berrettos (aka Oliver and his buddies)
2010 - (TIE) Duke Feldmeier and Patsi Asanti
To score GOYA points, it is always a good tactic to pour Nancy good red wine while she is in the roustabout in the pool. .