Sunday, May 19, 2024

Engendering Madness - What Price for an Authentic Italian Meal?

Seafood with Cheese - Authentic or the Ultimate Culinary Transgression?
 Over the past few days, I’ve been chatting with a foodie friend who spares no expense when it comes to food and wine. This is a person who will fly to Japan to eat raw fish. He was asking me for my take on some Italian places here in Dallas. One of his comments, in response was, “I’d rather fly to New York and go to Rezdora,” where the chef is a (local) friend of ours.

It got me to thinking about the costs of getting on a plane and going to Italy to eat authentic Italian.

What? Of all the profligate, indulgent, extravagant, privileged, entitled, senseless babble!

Well, as Batman said, “The world only makes sense when you force it to.”

So, let’s run some numbers.

I’ll work it up for seven meals.

In an urban setting in America, let’s include transportation (Uber, Lyft, etc.) so we can enjoy the wine. And let’s space out the meals in America once a week for seven weeks.

A ride sharing cost, to and fro, let’s factor in $35 times 2 = $70

My source tells me at his very upscale Italian restaurant that the average dinner cost is $130 at his place. Factor into that wine, tip and tax.

In the very high-end places, you aren’t going to find a wine under $70. So, that makes the meal $200. Tax is $11. Tip is $43. That makes it $254 total, per person. High, yes. But there are a handful of places in town at that price point and they are packed. $254 plus $70 = $324. Times seven = $2,268. Seven meals, seven nights, plus transportation. No babysitting fees here. A single person. (and yes a bottle of wine is indulgent, and no one has to finish the bottle, even though they will have a driver. They can take the unused wine home, as per recent law. Or they could have a $25 cocktail and two glasses of wine at @ $20+ each for a total of $65+)

$2,268 if we stay home. What will that amount do for us if we want to go to NY and dine out?

A flight to NY will cost you $300. Add to that, $150 at home base, to and fro ride share costs. In NYC also add a little more, $200, for to and from airport to hotel. We’re up to $650.

Ok, seven meals. Let’s do four lunches and three dinners. That would give us a three-night hotel stay. At $400 per night, that’s $1,200. We’re up to $1,850, and we haven’t started eating yet.

Lunch wise, we can probably get by at $125 per head, all in. Dinner is going to be a bit more, say $250. 4 x $125 and 3 x $250 = $1,250. We’re at $3,100 now. Add in taxis ($200) and tips to valets ($100), and we’re topping out at $3,400 for the New York experience. $1,132 more than staying home, which would make it 50% higher. But you get to go to New York and revel in Gotham City. Or as Batman said, “Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well.

Let’s look at going to Italy. Same plan. Seven meals, four lunches and three dinners.

I chose Rome because it’s easy to get to and there are good choices for wining and dining.

Air flight from Dallas to Rome will be $1,315. Uber to and fro home/airport in Dallas, another $150. Driver from Rome airport to Rome and back, another $200. We’re up to $1,665.

Hotel in Rome? Let’s say $275, x 3 = $825. We’re up to $2,490.

Alright - dining in Rome. I’m going to use a couple of places I know, like Trattoria da Cesare al Casaletto, Trattoria Pennestri, Armando al Pantheon or La Tavernaccia Da Bruno. These are just random examples and there is a plethora of places to choose from that are not touristic or only for the billionaire class. I’d suggest further research. But for the purposes of this piece, let’s leave it at this.

Four lunches – If you cannot eat for $75 with wine, you’re not looking hard enough. So, that’s the lunch number, $75 x 4 = $300 + 2,490 = $2,790.

Dinner. A big splurge here - $150 for dinner and a marvelous bottle of wine, a dessert even and some limoncello or coffee. If you wish. $150 x 3 = $450. Plus $2,790 = $3,240. You can walk to most places, or use public transportation, which is easy to Cesare al Casaletto, for instance). But let’s factor in $200 for taxis, just to be safe. Making it $3,440

Ok, $3,440 is more than $2,268. $1,172 more, or 52% more. A tad more ($40) than NYC, but essentially the same. So, if I had to choose between dining at home, as described, going to NYC, or flying to Rome, I know what my choice would be - Rome.

Am I mad? Well, as the Joker liked to say, “Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”

Yes, we’re talking privilege. And throw in a dollop of entitlement. Keep in mind, this is only theoretical at this point. So, don’t cancel me again. Yet. It’s just an exercise.

But what you would get by going to Rome, in addition to some great food and wine, would be to bask in the light and ambience and share in the culture of a great city. Yes, it would take time and a little more money. And yes, it is a bit mad. But as the Joker reminds us, “Madness is the emergency exit. You can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away…forever.”

Those dreadful things, like enduring crappy Fettucine Alfredos and ubiquitous Caesar Salads, and pitiful Bolognese and Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe and Carbonara and Fritto Misto and on and on and on. Not to mention the ridiculously priced wine lists made by wine slingers who are more interested in their personal brand and their Instagram feed and their influencer status than actually working the floor and finding the right wines for their guests and at the right prices.


Go to Rome. Visit a church. View a Michelangelo or a Caravaggio and get the hell out of town. And get a decent (and authentic) meal with an honest (and reasonably priced) Italian bottle of wine.

Take the emergency exit and step outside and away from all those dreadful things.




wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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