Thursday, December 27, 2012

Slow Boat to Hell

Maybe it's just me, but between the holiday and today's rain, I had a serious case of cabin fever.

So, chomping at the bit, I considered my options knowing that I wanted something good.

I was counting on a slow night anywhere I went, but some ambiance was required.

Enter Secco.

There were just three couples in the place when I arrived and the music ran the gamut of the 20th century before the night was over.

The first order of the day was to ask the chef if I could admire his new pasta machine, the one attained through a kickstarter campaign that promised more pasta on the menu.

We saw not only the machine, but three recent pastas created with it.

That's what I'm talking about, Kickstarter.

Back out at the bar, it was wine time (perhaps it had been for longer than I realized) and I chose 2008 Cantine Cipressi Molise Rosso "Mecken," billed as a Southern Italian, ripe and bacony.

Who could resist a wine or man described that way?

Given the overwhelming humidity and chill today, and despite having had soup for lunch, my first food choice was lentil and ham hock soup with lime creme fraiche, a hearty bowl of lentils that delivered pig taste in every bite.

Only after the bowl was empty could I begin to think clearly.

For the next course, I allowed my kitchen visit to influence me.

Lumeche, a toasted snail-shaped pasta I'd never even heard of, much less eaten, came with (what else) snails, garlic, parsley and Meyer lemon.

The little shells held pools of the lemon and garlic sauce and after the first bite, the Italian nearby noted, "I'm right back in Naples."

With the distinctive Meyer lemon flavor, it was a simple yet beautifully executed flavor profile.

I'd have licked the plate if I could have done it without appearing unseemly.

The music made a distinct turn from jazz of the 20s, 30s, and 40s early on to a decided Reagan years bent with Simple Minds, New Order and the Cure.

Bobbing his head, my companion observed that he was hearing one of his all-time favorite dance songs.

It all worked for me.

After the beauty of Chef Tim's housemade pasta, it was time for some state of grace seafood.

Octopus "in Purgatory" was served with farinata, a chickpea cake, in spicy tomato sauce.

And while most farinata is more like a thin pancake, these were more like a variation on petit choux dough, thick and pan-seared for a nice brown crust.

Tender octopus has long been a Secco staple, but it was the farinata that was the perfect vehicle to get that heat-filled sauce to my mouth.

Served in a narrow and long boat-shaped dish, the presentation was clever, maybe a nod to the transportation that takes a person to the place of temporary punishment for those not destined to go to hell.

I'm guessing I won't be making a stop in Purgatory, if you know what I mean.

For my next glass, I chose Benotto Monferrato Rosso Nebieul, made with Nebbiolo grapes and aromatic and full of fruit like its pricier Southern relatives.

Let's just say it had enough finesse to accompany the chocolate budino with rosemary cream.

You know, budino, kind of a pudding, kind of an undercooked cake with a gooey center. All good.

Where do I start with a dessert this other-worldy?

With the warm, almost pudding like center of dark chocolate or the cream that tasted of richness but delivered  a woody nose of rosemary on the finish?

Together, the kind of dessert people like me dream of.

By this time, other tables had come in, but the restaurant was still incredibly civilized and low key, especially for a Wednesday evening, usually a bustling night.

I figured that's why every occupant seemed to be a couple.

If you're going to be out on the night after Christmas, apparently it's not going to be in pursuit of a swinging singles scene.

So much of tonight's meal reminded me of my trip to Italy this Fall - the stellar homemade pasta, the fresh tasting octopus- that I found myself craving one of the best wines we'd had while in Rome.

It was the Occhipinti SP 68 Rosso, described on the menu as part of the "new wave" of Sicilian winemaking and also as "not your grandmother's red."

Well, one of my very funniest memories from Italy was when I tried to order a Sicilian wine just south of Naples and the seasoned waiter had recoiled in horror, saying, "But it's Sicilian," as if I'd ordered wine from Florida.

But it's Floridian!

Then I'd backed down and succumbed to yet another Tuscan, but tonight I wanted my Sicilian.

When our server poured it, I inquired how she felt about it.

She was honest, saying it didn't taste like anything else she'd ever tasted, but she thought it was interesting.

I got it, immediately recognizing its elegant finesse and evoking that last night and the superior meal that ended our trip abroad.

To further the trip down Memory Lane, I ordered the blu di bufula, a stinky bleu cheese from Lombardy that recalled an afternoon-long lunch at Il Bufalito in Sorrento.

I could just imagine our bespectacled server that day, so earnest and efficient.

With a finish that fine, there was nowhere to go but back into the misty night to look for a way to top a meal that would have been right at home in Italy.

Or even to look for the kind of trouble that's going to ensure I never qualify for Purgatory.

Easy enough.


  1. yeah, yeah, i know you love the place but everytime i walk by it looks more and more seedy...guess it's what's inside that counts.


  2. The food is excellent and reminded me a lot of what I was eating in Italy. You should walk inside, especially if you see me in there!

  3. now i trust you [concerning the food]..enjoy vino also...and if i see you in there...well i'd hope you're having a good time. ..however if i dropped in ..i might be tempted to introduce myself...and that's no good..then I would no longer be anonymous.


  4. You could always introduce yourself using an alias and I'd be none the wiser. Might be fun...

  5. yes might be fun... but if you were to read the things I've said over the last couple of years or so... this is how I prefer it. you observe, write, comment. i do the same, [more or less, usually less] in feedback. writers like to write, they need to, are driven to... some feedback is required, writers need an audience...don't they? of course they do...naturally you write for yourself but also for others..approval, discourse, give & take. i drop in an out but hey i'm with you...

    isn't that OK?


  6. That's terrific! I appreciate the feedback as often as you care to share. Keep it up!