Sweets and wines. That seems to be the theme of the weekend, starting yesterday morning when Jack and I made an errand-packed trip to Dolci Desideri to soak up the scene as well as the coffee and treats. A happy crowd always packs the small space in front of the counter, but the orders flow in and out with amazing rapidity and ease. If it weren’t for the friendliness of the 3 people on the breakfast crew, you’d think they must be highly tuned robots. I worked in coffee shops and at restaurants for many years, and remember the way meeting the meal-time rush becomes an experience of purely bodily memory, in which the paces and spaces between the plates and esspresso machine and dishwasher is mapped onto the mind.
Jack’s school friend Tobia was there with his Mama, Papa, and baby sister Anita, who was lapping up cappuccino foam—a passion her Papa finds “worrying.” Tobia and Jack sat next to each other on the little yellow pleather couch, and giggled at each other’s sugar- and lemon-cream-smeared faces. They asked what ciambelle were called in English, and when Jack said “doughnut,” they all started laughing.
We picked out some cookies—and early Easter “ovetti” to bring to the dinner party tonight at Jack’s friend Felix’s apartment.
In the evening, Peter and I walked across the street to the Villa Villino where Leonard Barkan and Nick Barberio were hosting a tasting party with a title: Vivat Bacchus. Best known as an eminent art historian and literary critic famous for such groundbreaking (the pun is hard to resist) works as Unearthing the Past, Leonard is also an oenophile and wine writer for Gambero Rosso. He and Nick, a photographer with an eye for everyday ironies, are also incredibly generous. They invited the whole community, and served 20 different wines from 5 of the major Italian wine making regions. Leonard had prepared a list of all the wines, and set them up on the marble counter according to region and varietal. (Thank you, friends!)
I’ve learned so much about Italian wines over the past few months, and now feel less bewildered and apt to choose something with a well-known name. I tasted 5 wines from 3 regions. I’ve always preferred the crisp mineraliness of Alsatian wines in whites, so I liked the two wines I tried from the Alto Adige: a floral Gewurztraminer (Walch 2008) and a Moscato Giallo/Goldmuskateller (Rottensteiner 2008). The latter was full of apricots and was both light and dense at once. I also had just a sip of a Tocai, Livio Felluga 2008 that was also like delicious stone fruits but dry and crisp.
There were all kinds of goodies to eat between sips, and I stuck to the marinated olives and two kinds of pecorino—one cream-colored and sharp, and the other deep yellow-orange and dotted with black peppercorns. That was delicious—and made a nice bridge to the first red I tried, a 2006 Barbera d’Alba called Tre Pile from Aldo Conterno, my favorite wine of the night. From there (and over the course of two hours) I moved to the most full-bodied red, a Nebbiolo d’Alba: Rocca Albino 2007. I like wines that can hold their contradictions without neutralizing them—like those whites I mentioned, and like this one, which was both lush and stiff at the same time. I guess wine writers call that “structured.” And that’s about right. The Barbera and Nebbiolo I tried had architectural aspects.
This is an appropriate style, in a place where you can’t help but be steeped in the appreciation of architecture, and where buildings are strong and durable, and yet elegant and soaring at the same time. For example… the Tempietto: