I had a lovely birthday dinner the other night at our favorite close-to-home restaurant, Cucina Pazzo. We had had them cater Alex's grad party, and since then, they've remembered us when we go, knowing for example that we prefer to eat outside when it's nice.
Actually, it's pretty much the only legitimate choice in decent dining in this town. There's Shakespeare's, within walking distance of the house, but it only looks impressive… (yes, that's right, we live down the street from a castle)
… the food there is what I would call pedestrian. But it's where everyone around here goes for weddings, proms, impressing dates, etc. For my money, though, I prefer excellent food in an understated yet refined atmosphere – Cucina Pazzo.
We (meaning I) had decided anyway this was where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner, but when we got home from work, there was a message on the machine from them saying they had some empty wine bottles for us, so then we had another reason to go! When I went there last week to get take-out (their oh-so-yummy lasagna, which they do as a baked bowl of sauce, pasta squares, 2 kinds of little meatballs, hard-cooked eggs, and several cheeses), I asked if they could save us some empty wine bottles, since we have 2 batches needing bottled soon. She said Sure, and took down my number to call when they'd accumulated a couple dozen. They were pretty busy, and the note she wrote was very small, so I didn't know if that would actually happen, but they really came through! We got 2 big boxes full of bottles, many of them 1.5-liter. When we were there this time, she and Al got to talking about wine-making, which her husband does as well, so I guess we're going to trade some bottles the next time.
We both had wedding soup for primo – theirs is very good, so we always order it. For dinner, we each chose one of the specials: Al had the peasant pasta (shredded chicken, mushrooms, aglio sauce), and I had a spicy pasta with sauteed pepperoni strips, peas, and tomatoes in a creamy rose sauce (I forget the name). As usual, my leftovers made a complete lunch for both of us today. [I always have leftovers, so I can save room for dessert, the most important food group!] I'm afraid I was a little disappointed with the roasted potato side – they were pretty well dried out, so I didn't eat them all. For dessert, Al had the new "Cucina cupcake", which was a delicate chocolate shell filled with peanut butter – vanilla swirled mousse. I had the last Chambord crème brûlée, which was quite yummy, garnished with a bit of homemade chocolate. And espressos, of course! Cucina Pazzo serves Starbucks coffee, which they told us they were able to get a special license to do because there are no Starbucks within a certain distance of the restaurant (that shows you how far out in the sticks we are!). It was a good night for late espressos anyway, since the Pens are in western Canada and the game didn't start till 9:00 here.
And to really make my day, I got birthday calls from both kids during dinner!