Friday, August 25, 2006

We're the Best!

When you know you are the best that’s enough – right? Not exactly. It is good to be the best but it is even better when others say you are the best. Vivande has been praised and acknowledged to be the best in many respects and in many places. Diner’s Club Signature Magazine said that we were among the nine best delicatessens in the WORLD, and the Government of Italy recently awarded Vivande the coveted accolade of “…true Italian Restaurant outside of Italy”, and we were one of only eighteen such awards issued in the entire United States. And the only one in the Bay Area.

On a more local level, well, not so local if you think about the internet, we have been included in a survey of the Best Italian Restaurants in the U.S. in CitySearch. How about that? We love the attention, and we feel rewarded for the hard work and the hewing to tradition in the face of “creative chefs” who often blend Sicilian shrimp (whatever that is) with mango, reduced balsamic, lemon grass, and garnished with a blueberry froth (I always think of dying snails when I see that foam stuff). Our food reviews tend to be very good to excellent, but jaded, pantywaist food “critics” (aren’t you glad you are not married to one?) bring up things like the atmosphere at Vivande as “dated” meaning it is not generic steel and expensive wood veneers and hand blown (up) chandeliers and so on, and so noisy you will be, guaranteed, deaf before you reach thirty-five. We like to say we are traditional; and yes, we do look it.

I guess any painting before Pollack would be considered “dated”. If I find some pre-Pollacks I wonder if I should throw them out – maybe make a fire out of them and cook some ribs soaked in honey and ketchup. And that Louis XVI bombe chest – thank goodness I did not buy that – I’d have to trade it in for a little bleached wood and glass number from Ikea – now THAT’S modern and up to date. Anyway, I love the fact that we cook like we used to cook a hundred years ago, and it still makes quite a number of folks very happy and grateful they can still get it. And the cooking is sound, and the flavors familiar and delicious and comforting.

I guess a little veal demi-glace ice cream or vanilla basted roast leg of lamb needs to go into your mouth now and then just remind you that you are, indeed, in the twenty-first century. It is not for me. But a lot of folks are really “into” the “new” taste ( I call it bizarre), and we have proponets of it like Anthony Bourdain, a very likeable looking guy who is probably now so rich he will never again need to cook with the success of the burping, gagging, drinking, and farting show from all corners of the world. I missed the connection to cooking, unless it was the cow eyeball he was chomping on one night; it was roasted I think.

Speaking of paintings: Now we can have a Carpaccio of anything. I see lots of things like zucchini Carpaccio, smoked salmon Carpaccio, tomato Carpaccio. Myself, if anything is thin-sliced I say that “this is thin-sliced…”. The real Carpaccio as we should all know was first produced according to my rather reliable history source in Harry’s Bar in Venice. It consists of beef shell steak (not tenderloin), sliced paper-thin (not previously frozen) filmed onto a cold plate and then slathered with a sauce of mayonnaise, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and a little lemon juice. The whole idea here was to honor the name of Vittore Carpaccio the Venetian Renaissance painter who made the most dramatic and intense red backgrounds for so much of his painting. The raw beef dish approximated the base color, and the creamy sauce counterpart added as a kind of crosshatch pattern made an edible art piece. This makes some sense, taste wise, and also looks great. This is an example of modern Italian cooking and is less jarring because it is in the spirit of the way Italians eat and how their food looks. This is evolution in cooking, not revolution.

Well, this has been a long trip trying to tell you to take a look at Vivande by clicking on the link that follows. I hope you will enjoy reading about us and that it stimulates you to come and join us for a traditional meal in a traditional room, with traditional (good) service and some of the best Italian (only) wines you will ever see on such a Lilliputian list. Buon Appetito.


Blogger Devany said...

Carlo~ I have enjoyed your cookbooks over the years and my passion has been Southern Italian Cooking. A friend recently sent me a link to your blog and I am delighted to have found it! The doubly good news is that we are moving from Chicago to the East Bay area and now I will have a chance to sample your food too! I am so excited and looking forward to visiting Vivande Porta Via soon. I am also hoping that you sell Italian "groceries" there.

4:46 AM  

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