"Italians say that a good meal requires two arts: the art of cooking and the art of eating. I would add a third: the ever-so-scrumptious art of talking about what you have eaten, are eating or are thinking about eating. In Italy food and language meld together as smoothly as cacio sui maccheroni (cheese on macaroni). Both boast a rollicking history dating back to ancient times. Both vary greatly from region to region, even from village to village. Both reflect centuries of invasion, assimilation and conquest. And both can transform daily necessities into joyful celebrations."
Last night while having a business dinner at Donato Enoteca, I saw the proof of Dianne Hales' insight right before my eyes. The 4 of us told the server: "Just bring whatever Chef Donato decides!" (5 mouth-watering dishes followed, plus a dessert platter! - for such an insanely low price that if I tell you, they will have to shoot me!)
Somewhere around 10:30pm, as the restaurant started slowing down, Donato, Eric (the wine director), and a Gianluca Gugliemi - a visiting Michelin-starred venetian executive chef of A.G. Ferrari Foods (one of my fave Italian specialty shops), settled at the next table and were gracious enough to invite yours truly to join the party. After the initial polite refusal (since I didn't want to ditch the 3 ladies I was with), the scent of cheese and Nebbiolo didn't have to travel far to make me do the unthinkable - excuse myself from my business meeting (I admit, the business part of the meeting had ended by then!) and do a full-frontal assault on the tavola Italiana (well, in reality, there were only two Italians - Donato and Gianluca - the others: a Los Angeles County native, a Swiss, and a Latin American were all swept up by the tsunami of Italian spirit). Now Joined by a Russian Jew, the "goodfellas" proceeded to gobble up globs of extraordinary cheeses washed down with the delicious Bruno Rocca's 2005 Barbaresco - amazingly approachable even in its 5-year-old infancy (2005 is the newest release). What did the fellas shoot the shit about? The usual. Northern Italians vs. the Southerners ("Are they even Italian?" :) They shrugged for Roberto Saviano, an author whose days were surely numbered after he'd exposed inner secrets of the Gomorrah (I found out that "mafia" is specifically a Sicilian term, while "Gomorrah" or "Camorra" is Neopolitan). "It's nothing to worry about, simply he is a marked man and he will soon not be with us - everyone knows that", the Italians explained to me matter-of-factly, while chowing down another slice of the exquisite and very expensive truffle cheese. "I hate this cheese" exclaimed Donato. "Truffles should not go into a cheese!" quite offended by the concept.
"Well, it's time to head back", the ladies were standing behind me ready to go. I was both sad and glad to leave, in one piece. Ciao!