Knock! Knock! Book! Book!
Within a book, within a place, within a flower.
Old World Italian – Mimi Thorisson
“The two guilty pleasures of Italian eating both start with the letter A. Sometimes there is no distinction between them, especially nowadays. Aperitivo is both the moment when you have your pre-dinner drink and the drink itself. It just means work is over, fun and food will be lad. And some of that food will be had now. All the usual suspects: olives, mini pizzas, deept-fried delicacies, some veggies thrown in for good measure. Basically, all the food that your personal trainer-if you’re unlucky, or disciplined, enough to have one – will tell you not to eat. Apperitivo in its purest form is a vertical affair, standing up, because you still can.
There is Antipasti, the other A: You’re in the restaurant or at home, and by now you are surely sitting down. Curious concocticons have given way to wine. That’s an absolute. This is the hour of really good hams, carefully prepared vegetables, quality crostini, cold salads, mixed seafood perhaps. You go for sparkling or you go straight to still. I have long thought that the most elegant thing anyone can have at this moment of the meal is the finest culatello and a very good glass of sparkling wine. Go for all the other stuff at your own peril and your own pleasure.”
“The inside is not striking, but it’s pleasant, classic, simple, which can be, and often is, more striking than…striking. Everything is unsurprising, and that’s a good thing. There are some signs that this establishment is more upscale than down-white tablecloths and napkins, a bit more shine. The waiters could be wearing white jackets and black bow ties. If they are you, you are probably in a city or a historical holiday place, somewhere the jet-setters used to go and maybe still do.”
“A really special restaurant is almost impossible to create quickly. It needs time. It needs, in cooking terms, to sit. The longer, the better. A concept is a clever idea that someone had.
A great restaurant has its own ideas, evolving organically over time, and Italy is full of places like that. When I visit friends in what they call “major cities,” they usually have lined up for us the best places, the most happening, the awesome. And next time we come, they have new awesomes. It’s about ticking things off a list: Go there once, then go someplace else. Never be caught dead in last week’s world. Now “there” is somewhere else. Not better but newer. A real restaurant needs regulars. No place that requires anyone to reserve three months in advance will ever have those. The staff won’t stay. They, too, will go on the next big thing. Like rats from a sinking ship, they know before anyone that it won’t last. Something more exciting is around the corner. Except it’s not.”
“Imagine you are somewhere in Italy. It’s around noon and you’re hungry. You are looking for a good place to eat and you know where to go. They know your name and your appetites and your favorite place to sit. They bring the aperitivo you like and one day you don’t even need to glance at the dessert cart. You know what’s on it. And you know what you’ll take. They know it, too. And if the place is crowded, there’s a chance that someone else might want it, too, so they’ll save you a slice. A place that saves you a slice, that’s the Italian restaurant.”