Venice was even more crowded than usual, as Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were shooting a movie there. Our usual hotel was booked solid, but a friend got us into Locanda Orseolo, moderately priced, well-appointed, near St. Mark’s Square (http://www.locandaorseolo.com/). We had several meals at Osteria Alle Testiere, where the wine list is as terrific as the cooking (which is really terrific)(http://www.osterialletestiere.it/testiere/home.html ).
On my birthday, co-owner Luca di Vita poured us Miani’s tightrope-taut, vibrant Friuliano 2008 to go with grilled razor clams with ginger, and then Le Due Terre Sacrisassi Rosso 2006 (a fresh, lightly astringent blend of Refosco and Schioppettino) to go with the San Pietro (known as John Dory in England, and St. Pierre in France, ho-ho-ho), which was steamed in white wine with aromatic herbs. Both wines were new to me, and lovely surprises. We also ate and drank well at Enoteca ai Artisti (http://www.enotecaartisti.com/) , an informal, jolly wine bar near the Guggenheim Museum—a good range of tapas-style snacks, and fresh fish simply but precisely cooked, and a choice of about 60 wines by the glass; it’s a little cramped, but great fun.
Just before we got ourselves out from under the dark gray mantle of England, we had some good Italian cheer. Paolo de Marchi came to town with new vintages of Proprieta Sperino, his revival of the family’s original estate in the northern Piedmont. Though Paolo made his name in Tuscany with Isole e Olena, he’s always missed the high country around Lessona, where vineyards once abounded in the Alpine foothills and plateaus, and in 1999 he and his son Luca replanted
Our birthdays and anniversaries arrive in the Spring and, after four months of gray skies, cold, and rain, we celebrated by getting away to the sun and friends, in Italy and France. After that, the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland was a last bit of gray unpleasantness, and then the sun came out, and it’s finally Spring for real, and we’re back, overflowing with good cheer and tasting notes.