The entrance isn’t loud. There is no sign. And the menu, propped up on a crooked pulpit, is tucked inside. Out of the rain. The warm and steamy Mexican summer rain.
I run my fingers along the adobe walls only because I can’t help it. And anyway, I love to wash my hands in their sink, to use their lovely lemon soap, to ease myself into this delectable, sensory haven.
I don’t have to order. We haven’t been in months but still, he knows the dance. So we sip and laugh and enjoy the rain falling on the garden path, the picture frame hanging from a tree with still more orchids than before, more leaves plumped up with the lush and lovely rain. And don’t forget the music! Did I tell you about the music?
On the crumbling adobe walls are paintings and posters and maps, and even a glittering mask or two. Lovely mixed with tacky makes a gentle, welcome stew so we point and remember and giggle as we sip, then we point and remember and giggle some more. Until the scented promises reach our table, when our eyes want to close because our tongues beg to taste.
First, the peasant bread. But with salt. Not a thing is bland here. And with that comes the salad. Baby greens dipped in olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkling of Reggiano. Thinly sliced mushrooms, homegrown tomatoes, a dash of spice from an onion slice or two. Ratios are perfect. Flavors are divine. Napkins wipe mouths and my eyes, of course they sparkle.
I breathe in the scent of wild mushrooms before my sparkles can see. A forbidden flavor all their own—musty, earthy, naughty. Homemade fettuccini doused in olive oil, pepper flakes, and parmesano reggiano....ahhhh….did it taste this good last time? I think he upped the annie. I mush and stuff and savor with one eye peeking to see, the other begging to close. They kindly tease and threaten, their palpable ache demanding a taste of their own!
And just when I fear it's over, the dessert rushes in. An Italian mama’s family recipe. Tirimisu, but with an aura that humbles even the bravest of souls. Soaked in hand cranked cream with chocolate and espresso swimming loop-de-loops on my plate, I gaze in to savor the scent, wishing I could bottle it, save it for blue Sundays for all my friends. But I see it begin to melt so I have no choice. I must disturb the peace.
It's cold as it melts into a soppy soup inside my mouth, seeping into my genes, making me more Italian by the second. How can I love this so much? I must be Italian. I let the whiffs of chocolate scent my dreams, the coffee inject my veins, the lady fingers like her owners, surrendering wholeheartedly. Sensuality peaks as it valleys and joys while it mourns. It’s decadent, outrageous, sensuous and unfair. And then, like a pebble on the lid of a pond, it's lovely. Echoes of soft, of kind, of pure... lovely... all its own.