I finally managed to eat at Beppe, the old-school Tuscan place on 22nd Street. It's been there for years, during which time 22nd Street has quietly become a fascinating restaurant strip, all the failed restaurants in the space formerly known as Commune — and Rocco's and Caviar & Banana and so much more — notwithstanding.
I ate there with the beautiful and overqualified publicist Aurora Kessler, who, like me, lived in Thailand for a number of years. So we talked about, well, a lot of things ranging from Chatuchak Market, which she thinks is the greatest place on Earth and I think is hot and crowded (although she convinced me to give it another try), to olfactory receptors to the nature of revolution to the subtle southern Italian influences that Portuguese-Campanian chef Marc Taxiera was bringing to Tuscan's menu. She introduced me to a Spanish word, detaillista, or detail fanatic, which we agreed applies beautifully to Thai society, where subtle nuances in behavior are picked up on and assessed like no place else either of us knew about.
It's amazing how obvious an allegorical story is, as long as you realize that it's allegorical.
What we ate:
Stuffed fried zucchini flowers and zucchini salad
White bean and bottarga crostini
Crostini of chicken liver with vin santo
Mixed local tomato salad in tomato water
Warm gemelli pasta with diced tomato, basil, and young pecorino cheese
Spaghetti with fresh sardines, fennel, raisins, pine nuts, and fennel pollen
Roasted swordfish with summer greenmarket caponnata
Brined pork chop with grilled cipolline onions and sauteed greens
And for dessert:
Sweet corn gelato with sea salt and olive oil
chocolate-chip and vanilla canolli
What we drank (all of Beppe's wines, all of them, are supposed to be from Tuscany, but subtle exceptions are made for the sake of avoiding crappy wine, so the Brut sparkling wine, made using the techniques of Champagne and with Chardonnay grapes, actually is from Lombardia, but made by a Tuscan company, because, as I was told, Chardonnay from Tuscany would be gross):
Brut 2000 Marchesi Di Frescobaldi
Rosato 2005 Castello Di Ama
Sauvignon Blanc "Refola"2004 Poggio Salvi
Vermentino Di Maremma "Pagliatura" 2005 Magliano