Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Taste of Il Bel Paese

Bryan was pleased to receive a bonus from work recently and decided to celebrate by taking me to Santa Fe for lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant in the area, Osteria d'Assisi. Our mouths watered ceaselessly during the hour-long drive to the City Different.

We arrived to the sight of a large tent in the parking lot next to the restaurant and another smaller one over the entrance courtyard. We worried. We hadn't called first to ensure that they were open. We had previous experiences with encountering locked doors here. They are, truly, Italian here; sometimes they are just closed...just because. We arrived for a Valentine's Day lunch last year (or the year before, I can't remember which), a Saturday, to find the doors bolted and no one around. Bryan had called and made reservations no less, but they had apparently decided not to open for lunch that day. The sign said "Open for lunch except Sunday". Okay. We proceeded to plan B and then decided we would have to call first on all subsequent visits. Another day they were open on a Sunday for lunch, despite never usually being so, and we had already eaten elsewhere. It's one of those quirks that we encounter frequently in Italy so we chalk it up to having a true, authentic experience.

So the white tent brought fear to our hearts as we realized that in our anticipation and haste, we had not called prior to our departure. Turned out that they were having a large party for the "Santa Fe elite" that evening; "We are very pleased," deadpanned one of the waiters. We were gratefully ushered into the dining room where we sat and enjoyed an unhurried pranzo. A glass of Barbera d'Asti, insalata mista, involtini di vitello, my favorite - a tender piece of veal stuffed with greens and served in a mushroom cream sauce, and Bryan's salsiccia e pepperoni on a thick slice of polenta all satisfied our tastebuds. The leisure and atmosphere satisfied - as much as it can in New Mexico - our longing for Italy. And the conversation with Nicola, our favorite waiter, allowed me to practice a little bit of Italian and feel the camraderie that Italians bestow. Even though Nicola isn't actually Italian, he's Greek. But he studied in Italy, lived in Miami, lives part of the year in Peru...well, that is one of those international experiences that we frequently encounter in America. He brought us a plate of tiramisu, gratis, along with our coffees.

We leaned back in our chairs and plotted our dreams and loved the fact that we were able to experience a long lunch just like in Italy. Unfortunately, we had the hour drive home instead of a siesta, but we escaped to our "Italian world" for a couple of hours, and came home full, as well as full of future dreams. Not bad for one afternoon's outing.

No comments: