Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Return to Surrender

I’d been putting in 12-hour days for some time now and wasn’t getting caught up. A north wind was blowing and wasn’t showing any signs of backing down. Weather forecasters were predicting more cold and possibly snow. I still hadn’t picked up my dry cleaning or gassed up my car. I forgot to get a V-Day card and make a reservation. I'd been working like a fool to get ahead with this Italian wine gig, and here I was, on the eve of the most important romantic holiday, running around like a Fiat Cinquecento with 50 miles to go on a quart of gas.

All I wanted was a quiet little Italian spot with a nice wine list and a decent menu, nothing too exotic. But here I was fighting off the winds and the clock, meetings, yearly reviews, last-ditch efforts to sell a couple hundred cases of Sicilian wine, or worse yet, some Veronese varietal jug wines. I’d been living off of Jimmy’s tuna sandwiches for three days now, and the cat was starting to get frisky with me. I could feel that I was losing the battle, starting to drift over, past the demilitarized zone.

It was then that I knew I had to take drastic measures, so I slipped into my closet and made some changes.

This wasn’t going to be just any Valentine's Day!

Ever since I stopped pushing Cataratto and Inzolia, I’ve felt like I was betraying my countrymen. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, even Mendocino Gewurztraminer, were coming before the fatherland. When was I going to get it?

From the early days of the fighting varietals to the current critter craze, I’ve been on the sidelines. Then along comes Pinot Grigio, and we’re back in the game. Then Oregon, and then Napa bring out their fighting Gris, and it's back to being an unwanted, alien wine guy. So I grabbed my girl and headed for the open skies, to a trattoria that understands my plight, feels my pain, and serves up al dente and ristretto the way it was meant to be.

To a place where Falanghina isn't mistaken for some deviant behavior and Piedirosso isn’t perverted. Where Primitivo isn’t taboo and Aglianico isn’t ugly, south of the Mezzagiorno.

Forget about the ferry across the straights. We’ve got it covered. Disregard the mountain passes. We’ve found a way around them. No need to worry about the choppy seas and the earthquakes and the stubborn Sicilian donkeys. We’ve got new ways to deal with them. We’ve survived all these thousands of years, all the volcanoes, all the bandits, and the marauding kings and the empire builders. We are the children of terroiristis. We will survive this evening and this age.

No cream, no reductions, no coulis, no fooling. No foam, no towers, no mashed potato home-base plates, no rancid white truffle oil. No microgreens with maxi-prix fix, no Batali-Bourdain WWF smack down on a limited-edition Chihuly, no McRobuchon on the Vegas Strip. Got it?

We’re going back to Sorrento or Positano, Porto d’Ascoli or Sinalunga. We want to go to the Laundry without getting sent to the cleaners. And we’ll keep our reservations for next Monday. But why do we, responsible adults, have to call our underaged, Panisse-reservation parole-officer 48 hours before we show up? Is there a sourdough baguette bracelet on my ankle? Are we in trouble for liking good food? Rules, even in Berkeley? What is this 40-year sleep I am coming out of? Who let it get so cold in the fortress?

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