Miss Eydie can hardly believe her good luck…we are performing in the town of Costabissara, Italy, but have been deposited in a hotel in the town of Vicenza, which is nearby.Vicenza is best known for being the home of one of Italy’s greatest architects,Andrea Palladio and people come from all over the world to view his villas,churches and other buildings. In May of 2006, my group,consisting of Alan Pasqua, Darek Oles and Steve Hass, performed at the magnificent Teatro Olimpico here in Vicenza. We shared the bill with my dear friends Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone. This theatre was one of Andrea Palladio’s last commissions as an architect and I believe some of the stage sets were designed after his death. These elaborate stage sets of street scenes are set in back of a raked stage and perspective- wise, give the audience the uncanny feeling they are in another time and watching an outdoor performance. The ceiling is painted a sky blue and suggests an open sky.I knew I wanted to visit this place again ,esp. the garden surrounding the theatre with its stone statues of muses and gods of music.
But first…lunch. After my 60 Euro plate of tagliatelle with white truffles in Milan, (worth every lira by the way) Miss Eydie was running low on per diem. A simple lunch was in order and I walked into town at the beginning of the afternoon. It’s a wonderful challenge to find a place to eat in a strange town by “vibe.” Sometimes you can tell by the graphics the restaurant uses for its signs, also the type of decor is a clue..and of course the menu is a dead giveaway. Wandering around the winding, cobblestoned streets of the old town, I finally found what I was looking for – an unassuming trattoria called “Tira Tardi” on a side street near the Basilica. The menu showed some raw fish dishes and a nice selection of pastas. There are no customers in the joint,there is rap music playing from the kitchen,the lone waiter is warm and friendly and the place is very elegant and tasteful, so I seat myself. Suddenly, like magic, everything changes once it clear I am there to eat.
The waiter’s ties his tie in a tight Windsor knot.
The Sinatra goes on the CD player.
The candle is lit.
I order a plain green salad.
A cart is wheeled over with a huge bowl of fresh.local greens. I think “O my God..its gonna be like a tableside Caesar in Vegas.” Frank starts the opening lines of “The Tender Trap.”
“Signora,do you want freshly ground sea salt,pepper, olio d’oliva, balsamico? I assent to everything. A simple green salad has become a shared ceremony. The waiter adds each ingredient, and then as tenderly as one might handle a child ( if the child were leaves of radicchio from Treviso), he gently tosses and mixes the salad. It’s placed in front of me with great aplomb…and I taste. It is simply delicious.
All the pesce crudo dishes sound fantastic, but my next move is to order some pasta. In the interests of both health and yumminess, I notice a wheat spaghetti on the menu and order it. It comes with a huge fresh, whole scallop on top, another huge scampi and loads of fresh tomato and (be still my heart) fresh porcini. Gone…in like 2 seconds.
I make an executive decision to opt out of dessert and coffee so I can sit and dream in a cafe overlooking the buildings of Palladio. Any attempt at moderation or abstention is thwarted.if you say, “no dessert please,” they bring out a plate with 4 or 5 diamond slices of house made chocolates: flavors like pepperoncino, pure vanilla, liquirizia.
If you say,”just a check please,” or anything resembling “il conto per favore,” there appears a glass of local grappa in addition to the bill.
You can’t win
I do move on to the cafe and after my macchiato in the shadow of the 2 columns designed by Palladio, I head to the best gelato place in Vicenza,where I have a ginger gelato….cold, creamy and yet with a small bit of tingle and heat from the ginger. There are some wonderful flavors there: cioccolata con lavande e rosmarino, lampone (fresh raspberry) fior de latte, zabaglione with egg and Marsala
Savoring my gelato I stroll all over this lovely town, ending up at the Teatro Olimpico. Sitting in the garden, surrounded by stone muses, I feel grateful for my life as a singer and inspired by the classic expressions of line and space I have seen on my walk through Vicenza. It makes me think about tonight’s performance and how those lines,proportions and spaces can be used in song.
I honor you O Muse
Till next time…on to Scandinavia
It’s Martini Time Somewhere,
Miss Eydie Gourmet