We have had company. Normally, in years past in our other "destination spot" homes, this meant playing tour guide, finding scenic drives and regional restaurants, and showing our guests all the beauties of the area during their visit. This time, however, it involved a vastly different itinerary that involved tiring trips up and down the three stories of the townhouse, hours huddled in the basement bent over boxes, sneezing from the dust while poring through things to decide what should be kept, stored, pitched or repositioned.
My uncle passed away last year, and the house has been left virtually untouched since then. This has been a blessing, in that we didn't have to transport our own furnishings to live here, but has also meant that we have had to box up and rearrange things to make space to unpack and stow our own stuff. Only now did we all learn the extent of his deep-seated pack rat tendencies! It has been a somewhat tedious and quite emotional task, for me as well as my mom. Family mementos, photos and sad reminders accumulated nearly as thick ly as the dust we battled.
After several days of this mood-dampening work, Mom and I decided to get out of our grungey sweats, put on street clothes, and wash the spider webs out of our hair to go out for lunch, and a little shoe shopping, as is our girls' day out tradition.
I found just the spot to perk up our moods; we had located an enoteca while searching for vino from the Motherland, and discovered a haven that was so much more than a mere wine shop. Only something this Italian would induce me to brave the Beltway and bumper up in heavy traffic. Hidden away in one of those fake "town center" malls that I so despise, we found a piece of Italian paradise set in a sprawling suburb of "sameness". Il Vino is anything but ordinary strip-mall mediocrity. It is like... a real Italian osteria!
Upon entering, there was a strong sense of deja vu. Wine bottles lining the walls and a few small tables scattered about beyond the brick archways reminded us of our friends' enoteca and osteria in Rome. When I asked about a specific vintage, pronouncing it the right way, the proprietor, Massimo, responded in Italian and kept the conversation flowing in the bella lingua, to my excited contentment.
When the chef, a Siciliano named Beny, came out of the kitchen to join in and recited the daily specials (also in Italian, of course), I was ready to kiss them both and weep with joy. I heard beautiful melodies of musical food notes in the conversation: mozzerella di bufala, gli gnocchi, carefully prepared tortellini from Emilia Romagna...ah, Italia, I sighed.
It was all so familiar, right down to the streaming strains of Radio Italia being piped in over the airwaves, that I was lulled into thinking I was in central Italy instead of a generic 'burb. Glasses clinked, fragrant basil tickled my nose, pillowy gnocchi melted in my mouth, and mozzerella di bufala leaked a trail of creamy milky yumminess onto the plate to be soaked up with crusty bread. And that gorgeous language stumbled off my tongue in conversation for the first time in three months.
Only when we walked outside and were greeted with the garish glare of the PF Chang's and other chain stores did we remember that we hadn't left the US. For an hour and a half we went to Italy, and it was a divine daytrip!