After a perfect day that included a visit to Cinecittà, the Hollywood of Italy where Felini filmed his movies, Audrey Hepburn took a Roman Holiday, Gangs of New York battled each other, my sister now films her Italian TV show, and Oliver began to conjure grand plans of epic set design, we met my brother-in-law's parents for dinner at Checcino dal 1887, a generations-old restaurant in the Testaccio neighborhood.
Let me first add that our luggage finally arrived tonight at 6pm, and the joy of showering and then changing into fresh clothes was tremendous.
Anyway, upon ordering our first bottle of wine tonight, one of the owners wheeled a marble-topped cart with six glasses and the wine to our table and proceeded to fully rinse the inside of each goblet with a bit of the wine.
We asked why. Was it just a lovely tradition, or did his efforts serve more of a purpose?
"The vintner spent at least a year crafting this wine. Why would I, in mere seconds, pour it into unready glasses? The glasses might have residue from being washed: calcium from the water, a faint bit of soap. By rinsing them fully with the wine, I'm pairing each glass with the wine you chose. It slows the service, but why hurry?"
Now really, y'all. Even if each glass gains nothing from such an artful method of pairing, isn't the feeling behind the practice lovely? Can we not all benefit from slowing the service, so to speak?
Italians and Louisianians have a fair amount in common, not least because there are so many Italians in Louisiana. But I think the commonalities are one reason I feel at home in this country. Meals should take time, preferably hours. You should enjoy every bite and all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with each element of the experience. No rush, sit, eat, laugh, make memories.
There is little to push to slow anything in DC and many other cities across America. What do we miss by slurping meals on the go? Far more than truly tasting the food. That I know for sure. Isn't it lovely to bring out new glasses for each type of wine? To know why you're doing so? To want to share that with others?
Why is this dish specifically Roman? Why can't the boys eat pesto ad nauseam here like they can closer to Liguria? Because place matters. Source matters. Timing and seasonality and tradition matter.
Sometimes they shouldn't, but sometimes attention to those things makes a world of difference. To take time to understand and appreciate, honor and simply enjoy, adds a depth to life that is too easily stripped these days. La bella figura, la dolce vita, and all that jazz. Except that it's so very true and not just romantic.
My sister ordered a cake yesterday and had it delivered to the restaurant where we ate last night. It came wrapped in a beautiful box with handles (I always appreciate the attention to beautiful packaging in Italy!). Ol fell asleep at dinner though, so we simply brought the cake home and then took it to Checcino tonight.
The owners tenderly placed it in their fridge and then, when time, turned out all the lights in the restaurant, every single person sang and cheered "Auguri!" as Ol blew out his candle, and then our waiter served it so graciously. No one was put out. There was no fee for having brought a dessert rather than ordering one there. Time is taken to celebrate and honor the time and energy already invested.
So remarkable and something so worth trying to bring into our own lives.