A Wooden Table

by admin on February 24, 2009

I have found the most amazing enoteca….a wine bar…..right around the corner….

One day I decided to take a short cut down a cobblestone path..it’s actually a road…I have to accept that these “cobblestone paths” are roads…that cars race…..vespas wiz and bikes meander down…when you first arrive in Florence it is unsettling….you feel as if you are walking on a path and suddenly…without warning…. a vespa is flying toward you… you turn to find the sidewalk….and a car nearly sideswipes you…so you freeze…until the woman next to you hits you with her Gucci bag which inadvertently shoves you to safety….

Anyway…walking down the ROAD… one of the first weeks in my new neighborhood….I noticed a small wooden table with two small wooden stools sitting alone on the road…a pretty single flower springing out of a clear vase….I looked around….this table…it is on the road….and it is freezing outside…who would sit here?

As I approached, I immediately sensed the energy on the right…I glanced over into a window framed with beautiful thick wood…and a door to match….on the door the words read…Enoteca…..I started racking my brain for what that meant….ok I KNOW it means that they serve wine….but there’s a whole protocol around it….do they serve caffe…is that why they are open….I see paninis spilling over through the window…at 9am?…ah…I see a large espresso machine…and a man at the tiny bar receiving his caffe….I hear muffled music and laughter…hmm….I need my morning caffe….but I’m not sure if it’s protocol to go in there…and it’s so small that there would be no room to hide my ignorance….so I walked past…very slowly….looking in….knowing that this place was special….and I would be back.

When I got home, I quickly went to the internet to remind myself what a enoteca was…..” An enoteca is used in three diverse ways around town: it can be a wine store  a wine bar or a restaurant that prides itself on its special wine list”….hmm…..no mention of morning caffe and brioche….I then searched the travel pages for this particular enoteca…couldn’t find it.  I was on my own….it was up to me to find out whether I could go in for caffe or not….

The next few mornings, I would pass by the wooden door very slowly….casually glancing in to see …always a flurry of activity….people coming and going….speaking Italian…..well wishes, thank yous and laughter in abundance…it was a neighborhood haunt.  It was not until I had the most unappetizing experience in a “caffe” down the block that I became fed up with my behavior….you’ve blown a meal because you are too afraid to venture into small spaces….give me a break….it was at that point that I realized that even my pride would not hold up to my desire for REAL food…I would risk humiliation and rejection for the possibility of REAL food!  The next morning, after the girls left for school, I headed off with a renewed sense of self.   I approached the door of the enoteca…reciting quietly…un caffe per favore……grazie….that’s all I need to say….un caffe per favore….grazie…..and push…remember the doors here all push in……here it goes…as I entered, an immediate warmth surrounded me….it was true warmth….a small space…people…large coffee maker…stove….there was heat indeed…a true escape from the bitter cold…but there was WARMTH….a man behind the counter….nicely dressed….a bit older then me…..great jeans….big sweater…and he was singing…to the very loud music….and making caffe…..bantering (loudly) with his customers… the music playing was the same gendre as our stores back home…and his singing made me smile….I believe Frank Sinatra was on when I walked in…

I chose to play the gendre in our stores because it is the background music to so many great memories growing up…our house would be filled with music at times…and singing…and dancing….joyful times….and my dad…loved to dance the babies to sleep….usually would hold them up in the palm of his hand and dance….no one worried….he was a surgeon after all….and played quarterback for the University of Vermont….

The entire enoteca is the size of a large bathroom…there are three wooden tables squished inside and a bar area the size of an ironing board….it was filled with a few plates of pastries…brioche filled with soft cheese and jams that looked as it they had just been preserved…..thumbprint bisquits with nutella…oozing out the sides…..all usual things seen throughout Firenze…but I sensed something about these….they were special…..and why would that be…this was not a forno (bakery)…they didn’t make the breads….they obviously prepared some of these but others were chosen with great scrutiny from a local forno I presume….

Do you think you can actually see quality?  Or do you think that you sense quality?  Or maybe a bit of both…..Somehow…before I even ordered my caffe…I knew that every thing they put inside a brioche…or a thumb print was the best…it was the freshest….it was real….it wreaked of goodness…I had to smile…it’s happened again….I’ve stumbled upon a gold mine.

After “the man behind the counter” did the ceremonial avoiding the newcomer dance….the man came over and said prego….un cappuccino I said softly so the entire place wouldn’t recognize my accent…or lack thereof…..the man continued to sing…make loud exchanges with the regulars…and without as much as a glance my way, he set down my cappuccino…I said grazie and he said prego….yes prego can mean…what do you want…..follow me….ok….and thank you…..tell me that wasn’t hard to get a grip on at first!

As I took my first sip I immediately sensed the lack of heat…oh great..this isn’t hot….how can it not be hot….he just made it….I’ve been had!  Just as my heart began to sink, I was struck by sensation of the warmth in my mouth….the foam lay over my palette like silken sheets and the soft bitterness of the espresso meandered through..grabbing onto foam and folding it into itself..until the two tastes became a blend of one… flavors in perfect harmony….. that was all that I could hear….I set my cup down and thought….Holy Shit….what was that?! ….my eyes were fixated on the  stained foam that remained atop the elixir in my cup….I stirred it a little and tried it again… the bells of Santa Croce began to ring…..and I do believe…the angels began to sing.

I haven’t even begun to tell you about the pastries….and the paninis….and the “house wine”….you could write an entire novel on the tastes in this tiny space…and the warmth….not just the heat…but the joy…exuded by all who gather together….and share un caffe or a meal….whether meaning to or not…and maybe that’s part of the goodness…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandi Burke February 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

It’s really a good thing that I can’t gain weight from your luscious descriptions of all the REAL
FOOD you are finding! These emails are so great! I feel as if I’m on a very special guided tour
of this magical place you are visiting. I think though, that magic is in the eye and heart of the beholder! So, thanks Peggy for having the magic within yourself to share all this with us!

Reply

jai March 4, 2009 at 11:07 am

Fabulous….

Reply

Lauren March 4, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Peggy, sharing this journey takes me right back to my 3 wonderful, magical, oh so yummy weeks traveling through Italy.
LOVE your description of every encounter, puts a smile on my face and the burn of desire to get back there.
I just received your Olive Oil tasting kit, have a dinner party planned to share this experience. Can’t wait!
Thank you for another warm Italy adventure :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: