This bit of Rifftides revisited is from an earlier encounter with the mortality of someone close. When I posted it, I was executor of the estate of a lifelong friend and influence, the pianist Jack Brownlow, recently profiled by Steve Cerra.
November 10, 2007
Preoccupied with death and its aftermath for two weeks, I decided to seek out life, so I went to Serafina.
Serafina is not a girl friend. It’s a restaurant. Arriving at 7:15, I asked the hostess for a table for one. Her eyes sparkled with amusement, but she refrained from saying, “In your dreams.”
“Maybe by 9:30,” she said, “but if you’d like to wait for something to open up at the bar, you can eat there. Full menu.” It was like being back in New York, even unto the fashionably hip, mostly young, crowd.
The bar has maybe ten stools. They were all occupied, and there was a phalanx three deep trying to find enough elbow room to hoist their aperitifs. Fat chance, I thought, but I ordered a glass of wine and stood chatting with a woman who lives in the neighborhood. She asked what I do. I told her. She asked what I’d written lately. “Ah,” she politely responded, and asked me to spell Poodie. “I read a lot,” she said. “Mysteries. Can’t get enough of them. Lately, it’s been James Lee Burke. I knew I should have come earlier. It’s like this on Saturdays.” She disappeared into the Eastlake Avenue night.
A man yielded his stool. The heftier bartender with the grey beard waved me forward. I indicated the rest of the waiting crowd. He shrugged. We shook hands and exchanged names. He was Matthew. His colleague, tall and lean, was Matthias. “Matt and Matt,” he said. There is little more satisfying than the pleasure of watching people do what they do well and enjoying it. These guys were craftsmen. Matthew’s creation of a chocolate martini, something I can’t imagine drinking, was bartender ballet.
I ordered the Trota al Tortufo, roasted trout stuffed with artichokes and truffles finished with a black truffle-butter sauce, served with sautéed spinach. Matthias suggested an Italian white wine, Vermentino Sardegna Pala Crabilis. It was an inspired pairing. For dessert, he recommended a pumpkin something or other, but I had a double espresso and the chocolate tort, or Torta di Cioccolata e Mandorla, as such things are called when they cost a lot.
“The pastry chef shows up every afternoon and does these incredible things,” Matthew said, “then she disappears. Her name is Mei.” With Mei’s tort and the espresso, I hit my second daily double of the meal.
Serafina was beyond crowded, pulsing with life, noise and happiness. Just what I needed.
This is quite likely the only restaurant review I will ever write. Grazie, Serafina.