Eating out. La Spiga. (again).
C. and I have taken to occasionally going out to dinner on nights we both work late. Sometimes it's someplace nearby we can walk to - the lab is on Capitol Hill and there are tons of restaurants within walking distance - and other times we hop in the car and drive downtown or over to Madison Park. But yesterday morning I walked past La Spiga on my way in to work - as I do every morning - and looked in the window at the empty restaurant, all the lights turned off, a broom leaning against the bar, the flowers on the narrow little table next to the door drooping a little in their vase, and thought, maybe I'll have dinner here tonight. (When I walk past the empty quiet restaurant, I think of that line from Ungaretti's I Fiumi, where he describes the sinkhole that is listless/as a circus/before or after the show).
All day long yesterday I thought about the quiet cavern of that restaurant which would no longer be quiet by dinnertime; it would be like the circus during the show, not listless as it is before or after. When the day finally ended it was past seven, and I had been at work for over ten hours. I needed food, and a drink, and off we went, turning the lights off and the alarm on, walking briskly towards our destination. Of course the tables are all full, of course there are no seats open at the bar. But there is a waiting area in the middle of the restaurant, with upholstered sofas and a low coffee table (there are also other chairs and benches by the door, but they are all occupied), and just enough space for the two of us to sit down and wait for a table.
On the recommendation of our waitress I ordered a basilico, a drink that combines lemon vodka and fresh basil and...something else, I can't remember what. It is cool and clean-tasting, like falling into a hidden spring, and as I drink it the weight of the day seems to float away. A table opens, one of the leather-cushioned booths I love so much. Paper-thin slices of prosciutto come arranged like rumpled sheets of rosy silk on a piece of waxed paper spread across one of those wooden peels bakers use to slide pizzas into the oven. I drape a slice of prosciutto over a wedge of grilled flatbread, savor my drink. I've ordered pork tenderloin braised in milk (or perhaps it is marinated in milk, or something), with a sauce fragrant with porcini mushrooms. The sauce melts into the pale meat, worlds apart from the slightly dried-out leftover grilled pork chop (an experiment gone awry from a few nights ago) I had for lunch. It is moist and tender and savory and contrasts perfectly with the translucent wedges of fennel on the side, with their sweet anise flavor. I want more, but at the same time I feel that I have had just enough.
And then it is time for dessert. I zero in immediately on the chocolate grappa cake, which I ordered the first time I ate here. The cake is warm against the cool drift of whipped cream that floats on top, leaving a tiny burn of grappa with each bite. I steal a little of C.'s gelato; she has asked for one scoop of pistachio and one of chocolate-hazelnut, and they are sweet and airy and nutty. We talk about Italy, the meals we had in Rome (at different times; C. studied abroad there some years back and I was there with my mother a few summers ago), the way people talk about meals past during meals present.
*Updates are happening, randomly. New posts are here and here