Dear Food and Wine lovers,
Please see this link for my exclusive interview with Connaisseur, Romania’s best gourmet food and wine magazine.
And now for something completely different. on a recent gastro safari to Italy, I found myself in Venezia or Venice and this is what happened….
Dining in a dark alley in Venezia.
How do you structure your Italian meal in a remote part of Venice, Italy…very far off the beaten track….?
MY name is Lim, Dr. Michael Lim and I am The Travelling Gourmet. I travel the world to eat and drink professionallty so I can write features about the places I experience. Recently, I was in Venezia and after strolling about the Rialto Bridge, I felt hungry as it was 8.30pm. I chanced upon a restaurant in a dark alley, only 5 feet wide. It was starting to slowly get dark although the sun only sets about 9.45pm in summer. A group of seven boisterous Amercans were yelling, laughing hysterically and joking good naturedly at each other and at no one in particular. They were totally drunk. I could tell by the way they made merry and by the number of empty wine bottles on their table. At another table, there sat a couple who dined quietly, whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ear. I thought, "Great atmosphere, dining in a dark alley instead of a Michelin starred restaurant…"
"You don’t like, you don’t pay!", the owner said to me interupting my thoughts.
"Vero?" I replied. Vero means ‘is it true? or really?’
I decided to sit down and ordered in Italian. This suprised Sergio Nezha, the owner, who went to get his henchman to take my order.
The henchman/maitre d’ was a fat large aesthetically challenged guy that looked exactly like a Mafia hitman a la ‘The Sopranos’ with his black tie, black suit and slightly threatening demeanour. "Better and better." I thought. "Dine by the Rialto in a dark dark alley with a Mafia hitman as your server. Cool!"
I went to check out the kitchen and met the two cooks; I won’t call them Chefs. One was from Sri Lanka so I spoke to him in Sinhalese, and the other was from Bangla Desh. The owner did not like me talking to his cooks and shooed me out with a peeved "Allora!". Perhaps he did not want his customers to see that the Italian food was cooked by a ‘Tamil Tiger’ (this is in jest as he was a very nice, harmless looking fellow) from Sri Lanka and a Bangla Deshi man. The food came. There was pasta and pizza and the inevitable l’acqua minerale naturale senza gas. It was not Michelin star food by a long, long chalk, but it wasn’t too bad. It was edible mediocrity. Then the bill came and I paid with a 20 Euro bill. The fat, ugly Mafioso maitre d’ took my money and decided to keep the change, even though it was clearly written that all service and taxes were included in the price.
This displeased me, greatly. It was dark then and my partner pleaded in an anxious voice, "Let’s go! I know your temper but it is not worth it to get into an argument. There might be violence." I did not like it but I went with her anyway, straight to my favourite cafe in Venice, namely the centuries old Caffe Florian on the Piazza San Marco. The next time such things occur, I shall have other bold and daring plans to execute without hesitation. The superb and well trained band played Edith Piaf’s signature theme, "Non, je ne regrette rein!" for me on my request, and I felt much, much better after a cup of nice Camomilla tea with honey. My rage slowly dissipated and I felt cool again, which is what I like to be.
So, my friends, if you are near the Rialto and want to dine in a small dark alley way, pay your bill with exact change unless you are a rich New Yorker who likes maitre d’s who look like Mafia hitmen. And if you happen to read this fat, ugly maitre d’, I say this to you, "Idiota e imbecile! Holzkopf! Schweinehund!" So ist das Leben… Je ne regrette rien. Next time when I am in Venezia and near the Railto, I shall structure a much better Italian meal.
C’est la vie, mon ami… Je ne regrette rien. Next time I shall pick a more reputable restaurant with a more boring atmosphere. As Shylock in ‘Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare, said, "If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? if we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. Act 3 Scene I