Pizza e Vino was a cozy, candlelit restaurant that was nestled in between two towering skyscrapers. If I closed my eyes, the scent billowing from it would have made me think I was in Italy. I fell in love with the restaurant the instant I walked in.
“Ciao” a man in his fifties said as Stellan pulled the door closed. “Two?”
“Yes,” Stellan said from over my shoulder. I glanced back at him and smiled. “Can I take your jacket?”
“Of course,” I said as he slid my jacket from my shoulders. He draped it over his arm as we followed our host to our table. When we reached the table, it had two chairs and booth seating for at least three. The host took my jacket from Stellan, placed it over an empty chair, and kindly directed me into the booth. I dropped my purse into the chair with my jacket and slid into the booth followed by Stellan.
“Vincent, will be your server,” our host said as he placed menus in front of us. He placed a thick-spiraled notebook on the table and stepped back from us. “That is our wine list. If you have any questions, just ask. While you’re discussing the wine list, I’ll start you off with water.”
I looked at the book and nodded.
“Thank you,” Stellan said to the host. “Are you even a wine fan?”
I nodded. “I love it, maybe more than I do martinis.”
“Red or white?” he asked, opening the book and putting it between us so we both could look at it.
“Either one really. I’m a fan of both.”
Stellan smiled. “You’re a rare breed. Not a lot of people like both.”
“Red fan myself, but I don’t discriminate against white.”
“Then let’s do red. Are you a wine aficionado?”
“I enjoy wine, but I couldn’t tell you anything about grapes, the region, and so on. I just know what tastes good to me. You?”
“Same thing,” I answered, leaning closer to him to read the wine list. “Good news, is that we’ve at least narrowed it down to red, so now all we have to do is pick pinot noir, shiraz, merlot, cab, and so on.”
“Any red off limits to you?”
I shook my head, still studying the wine list. “I don’t discriminate against any wine either. They’ve got a lot of great labels.”
“Are you feeling adventurous?” he asked.
“Sure,” I answered, looking at him.
“Close your eyes.”
I stared at him. “Why?”
“Trust me, just do it”
I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Okay,” I said, closing my eyes.
“Keep them closed. I’m going to blindly open the wine list to a page and then you’re going to blindly point to the list. The one you finger lands on is the one we order.”
“All right,” I said with my eyes still closed. I heard the book close and then open.
“Don’t look,” he said, putting his hand on top of mind.
I nodded as he let go of my hand. I moved my hand to the left and then to right and then dropped my finger down. Opening my eyes, I looked at him. “Your call if we keep it or not.”
He looked to where my finger was and nodded. “It’s a keeper,” he said, brushing my finger aside. He closed the book and set it aside.
If it was a righteously expensive bottle of wine, his face didn’t show it. I prayed in silence that it was in a price range that wasn’t going to make me cry. “What’s the name of it?”
“No idea,” he answered as he settled into his seat. “I’m just going to give him a bottle number.”
“Hello. I’m Vincent and I’ll take care of you tonight,” a man said as he arrived at our table with water glasses. “Have you made a wine selection or have questions for me?”
“We’ll take bottle number four eighteen,” Stellan answered as Vincent placed our glasses on the table.
He placed a black cloth napkin on the table, filled our glasses with water, and then placed the pitcher on the napkin. Picking up the wine list, he opened it up and thumbed through the wine list. “Four eighteen,” he said when he found it. “Excellent choice. I will tell you it goes well with almost anything on our menu. Study that and I’ll return with your selection in a few moments.”
The menu was filled with pizza after pizza in various forms from your standard cheese, pepperoni, vegetable pizza to pizza with caviar, exotic cheeses, meats, fruits, and so on. There were also a handful of pasta dishes for those that didn’t care for pizza. “How did you find this place?” I asked as we both studied our menus. If he said a previous date, I was going to slide under the table and weep like a child.
“I was feeling a little bummed out about a girl who I just ended things with, and I was just walking around thinking about things when I found it. I was hungry. I like pizza and I like wine so I thought why not. I think I was here for like four or five hours. I had enough pizza and wine for a small country.”
“And you fell in love with this place.”
“Yeah, I did,” he answered, closing his menu. “Do you know what you feel like having?”
“No idea,” I answered. “Do you have any suggestions?”
“Do you trust me?”
I nodded. “I trusted you to drive me home last night didn’t I?”
“So what are we having?”
“We are going to start with the capresse salad. It is fantastic. Then we are going to get their six cheese pizza which includes my favorite cheese goat cheese and we are also going to have the E Vino special.”
“You had me at goat cheese.”
“I’m glad you’re a fan. Not a lot of people like goat cheese.”
“I like cheese period. I think in fact it should be in a dietary category other than dairy.”
“I like the way you think,” Stellan smiled.
“Your wine is here,” Vincent said as he appeared at the table. He held the bottle out for Stellan to examine, who nodded in approval. “Would the lady like to make sure the wine is to her satisfaction?”
“I’d be honored too,” I answered and watched as Vincent prepared to open the bottle of wine. He would have rivaled any top-notch sommelier. He gave us the background of the vineyard, the notes in it, regional information about the location, the temperature the grape should have been grown at to produce the most succulent wine, and I’m sure if I had asked him he would have told me what the soil tasted like. He poured a sample amount into my glass and stepped back from the table. I gave the glass a swirl, sniffed it, and took a sip of it. An explosion of flavor danced all the way down my throat. I often heard the expression “it was an orgasm in my mouth,” but I had never experienced it until that very moment. The wine left my taste buds trembling for more. “Wow,” I said as I put the glass back down on the table. “That is one of the best wines I have ever tasted,” I said, looking at Vincent who nodded at me and winked at Stellan.
“Sir, would you like to try it yourself?”
“I trust the lady,” he answered.
Vincent nodded with a smile. “Have you two decided on what you will be having this evening?”
I watched Vincent pour each glass of wine with respect and care as Stellan ordered our dinner. Though he might not have been a trained sommelier, I knew I could trust Vincent on any wine he suggested from bottom shelf to top shelf wines. He treated the wine he poured us like it was a delicate and fragile flower. I fell more in love with the restaurant. I knew if things didn’t pan out with Stellan that I had at least found a new place to enjoy.
“Again, more excellent choices. I’ll go put you meal in and return with bread for the table.”
“Perfect,” Stellan said, “and we’re in no rush for this meal. I want her to enjoy her first time here.”
Vincent smiled. “You may never want to leave ma’am.”
“I already don’t,” I replied, “and you can cal me Anna.”
“It’s a pleasure to serve you Anna,” Vincent said with a nod.
“And I’m Stellan, but you knew that already.”
“Of course I did,” he replied with a smile. “Enjoy your wine. I’ll return with bread in a few moments.”
“How often do you come here?” I asked after Vincent had disappeared.
“About four times a month.”
“So that wink he gave you after I tried the wine, did that mean something?”
Stellan rubbed at his beard as a smile crawled across his face. “A little,” he answered, looking at me.
Turning in my seat, I faced him. “A little?”
“It’s not what you picked. The wine your finger landed on is god-awful. I don’t even know why it’s on their menu. I asked Vincent once about it and he couldn’t even tell me why it’s on the list.”
“And the one you ordered?”
“Vincent is always suggesting it. He is always saying to me that it’s not a wine you drink when you’re eating pizza alone but a wine better shared. You’re with me so I figured we could share a bottle.”
My heart was doing jumping jacks in my chest. Picking up my glass, I raised it towards him. “A toast then,” I said and he raised his glass. “To pizza and wine you can share.”
“And to running into to each other,” Stellan added, toasting his glass against mine.
I smiled and watched as he took a sip of wine. I hoped it made him feel the exact way it had made me feel. “What do you think of the wine?”
He nodded. “Vincent’s right, this is a wine you share.”
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is an excerpt of the rough draft and not the final version