If you haven’t noticed, we like to go out to eat, especially with friends. One night we went with some friends to a restaurant that they enjoyed and immediately I felt like a fish out of water. I am not a huge fan of chain restaurants, though we have gone to hundreds of them over the years. I guess it is because I have worked most of my life for independent shops and I feel that the chains have destroyed the local flavor of communities. We went to an “Italian” restaurant and having grown up with plenty of Italian families, I always have a tinge of anxiety going into a corporate structured “Italian” restaurant, as I tend to refer to them as Italian for Americans, just like I dislike most “Mexican” restaurants that cater to what Americans anticipate is Mexican cuisine. As soon as I walked in, I felt that the Italian Anti-Defamation League had ceased to exist, because here was a place that tried to emulate what corporate America thought an Italian Grandfather’s basement looked like, with travel posters of Italy, movie posters of gangster films, cute photos of children and movie stars and a table with the bust of the Pope as a centerpiece. The thoughts of a film came to my mind “can’t even get decent food – right after I got here, I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup.” I just hoped that I was wrong.
We were at Buca di Beppo and I was not a happy camper, but I tried, even though my Bride knew that I was only half-trying. I really don’t remember much about the meal, other than the fact that our waiter told us that the plates of food that we ordered were for sharing family style, as there would be too much for one person to eat. So, we all ordered dishes that sounded good to each person, and I remembered ordering a veal dish, as I am very partial to veal when we are out. I always like to order a dish that we do not make at home. When the dishes came out, our waiter was right about the pasta dishes as they here heaping generous portions. Then the veal arrived and it was the antithesis of the other plates and I almost felt like I needed a micrometer to divide the “platter” four ways. I was not a happy camper, though years later we were at a house and they brought carryout for us from this same chain and the food was much better than I had remembered, perhaps it was because we were not in the restaurant with all of the jumbled décor.
Everything was not lost though, because the wine I chose salvaged the meal and it wasn’t even an Italian wine, though I figured that it was fine, because I didn’t think the food was Italian either, and yes, I can be snarky at times. I think because of seeing the bust of the Pope on the one table that I chose the wine I did, or perhaps I was hoping for divine intervention. The wine we had that evening was Grant Burge’s The Holy Trinity 1999 from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. This wine is what is called a Rhone Wine Blend and while the varietals grow exceedingly well in the Rhone Valley, they have also found another home as well in the Barossa Valley. This wine was a blend of 17% Grenache, 27% Shiraz (Syrah) and 26% Mourvedre and like all good wines the percentages change each vintage. The wine was aged for eighteen months in French Oak to further enhance the flavor. Grant Burge founded his winery in 1988 and his most honored wines have Biblical names attached to them, as in “The Holy Trinity” and he has some vines that are from fifty to one-hundred-twenty years old. The wine salvaged the evening to me, as did that later carry-out dinner that I enjoyed, but I really am sure that I may not go to this chain again, just because of the décor and how uneasy I felt from the initial view.