A nice night with a table of eight people at Italian & Sons where half the people are completely new to me and the venue.
We started with rosemary focaccia and a plate of mixed olives. The bread, fresh from the wood-fired oven, even a touch undercooked, had a beautiful light slick of crunchy, savoury olive oil, sea salt & rosemary. Some of us has beer (Menebrea for me), others most of a bottle of 2008 Anselmi Soave (garganega) ordered (well) by an American in the party.
After my beer, a glass of Orvieto for me while the table plowed through entrees in share mode of kingfish carpaccio, sardines in saor, whitbait fritters and bresaola with rocket. Lovely. Groans from the table, especially the first time visitors to Italian & Sons.
Then a bottle of the 2009 Pio Cesare Barbera d'Alba. Please don't tell me it's a typo on the menu when I have had the 2008 here before and you've clicked over but not changed the wine list. Not as richly fruited as the 2008, even a touch warm, but good drinking with the food.
Part way through the food (Wednesday night is tagliata night, of salt/pepper crust eye fillet cooked in the wood oven, served with a horseradish aioli on rocket), we have drained the Barbera and move to a beautiful bottle of Rosso di Montalcino. Close to Montepulciano (not d'Abruzzo) in flavour, this wine (I will have to check the maker, this was a Tony suggestion) had an astonishing fit with the acid tang of the fresh horseradish sauce that went with the thin strips of wood-fired eye-fillet. Newcomers to Italian wine got this, straight off the bat. Well done, sommelier Tony.
Then the dessert round. I had cannolli with quince marmeleta. Beautiful. And the gambit of a few Italian digestivo for the table. First, Cynar (artichoke liqueur) over ice with a wedge of lemon. Second, a deceptively complex limoncello, chilled and neat. Third, a nocello (disappointingly dominated by insipid sweet hazelnut, rather than complex green walnut flavours). And Vince pulled a good short black.
I suspect Italian & Sons got a few new repeat customers tonight, and perhaps some coverts to Italian wine, even if not Italian digestifs. And great conversation with people from around the world, pulled together at this impromptu table. Another reminder of how lucky it is to live in Canberra.
At the end, back home, time for a real digestif. A glass of my own nocello. Made from green walnuts, grown two suburbs away, redolent of cola, nuts, lemon & dry spice, it's better than what I had tonight, and a fitting capstone to a good evening with new and old friends.