147 West Channel Road at PCH)
Santa Monica, CA 90402
If you were standing on the sidewalk in front of Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi waiting for the valet to bring your Bentley up to the curb, you might have seen her. From across the street, she looked fabulous. Channel Road hits the Pacific Coast Highway at the ocean, so the chilly seabreeze meant she was wearing a long leather overcoat, but underneath, you know a tiny little halter top was barely hanging onto her neck, barely grazing the top of the ultra low rise, hip-hugging, shape-shifting designer jeans that hit perfectly mid-heel on her peep-toe suede wedges. She stopped with purpose, slipped her hand into the pocket of her coat, spun around like a panther-ess on the catwalk, sending ebony waves in a perfect silent storm around her head. Flashbulbs went off in rapid succession, then she was hurriedly ushered up the street to…where? A waiting car? Her beachside second home? “Who was she?” you wonder as you duck into the driver side of your car and hand a couple of dollars to the valet. You don’t know.
But if you were standing on the same side of the street, you would have seen the light gray lines running from puffy, red eyes, in longitude down my cheeks, the tracks left by mascara soaked with tears that were no longer there because I dabbed them off my chin with a wrinkled napkin that I had been pulling and twisting with anger and frustration in my lap all night. I stepped out of the restaurant, out of a dinner that had gone from softly candle-lit romantic to harshly argumentative in three shared courses. I was facing up Channel Road but not remembering on which side street that car had been parked, not knowing what I’d do when I got to the car because I didn’t drive; I didn’t have keys. And just before plunging into the darkness anyway, without any idea of how I would get home, I turned around and snapped a photo of the crisp whitewashed front and Mediterranean blue canopy of Caffe Delfini.
Even in life’s most dreadfully dramatic, heart-wrenching, tear-soaked moments, you have to capture the full restaurant experience on a digital camera.
I had never thought to go to yet another *yawn* westside Italian restaurant, but on the recommendation of a new BF (blog friend), we decided to try Caffe Delfini. The word is over-used, but in this case, real estate’s and restaurants’ favorite word, “charming,” absolutely fits Caffe Delfini’s tiny size. With a bright white exterior, windows canopied in blue, bright green plants on either side of the door, and especially its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, I could only imagine that I could find its twin in a seaside Italian village. That is, if I ever got up the guts to fly to Italy.
The interior space is nothing remarkable with respect to decor. It’s clean, simple, and very very dark. The only light comes votives on the dozen or fewer tables in the dining room, and soft, faint glow from behind the wine counter. We were there without a reservation, but our host welcomed us with a heavy Italian accent. As we waited in the doorway for a table, I scanned the room, easy to do for a space that’s not bigger than my own living room – one larger table for a group of slightly more mature diners, and mostly California casual, smartly-dressed younger couples with heads bent toward each other. I slipped my hand into his because the atmosphere just makes you feel like you should. I could have been there with my gay best friend and I’m sure I would have put my head on his shoulder.
The tiny white cloth-covered table where we sat had hardly enough room for plates, but was perfect for holding hands across the top. (We didn’t do that, but there were at least two tables where I spied such flagrant PDA *shudders*.) Our host was also our server, and I am going to guess that he might have been the Godfather of the place. He breezed through a couple of specials then slinked away to locate our wine. We looked at the very simple, straightforward menu of exactly what you would expect from a small Italian restaurant with a slight bent toward seafood. Being in the mood we were in, we decided to share everything.
A plate of soft, creamy mozzarella and subtly sweet roasted peppers was our starter. We took turns tasting first the cheese, then a pepper, then a combined bite of the two together. Olive oil had been drizzled over everything that was so intensely fragrant and green, it looked like it could have been oozing fresh out of the olives on the plate.
We had meant for our rigatoni in Gorgonzola cream sauce and veal to come to the table in succession so we could share each course, but they arrived at the table simultaneously. The veal was in front of me, but I felt the need to reach across into his space and taste his first. The pasta was rich, creamy, and the Gorgonzola with quite a bit of garlic in the sauce made it far more interesting than a simple cream sauce. I flirted with the potatoes on my plate, toyed with mushrooms, and before I actually tasted the veal, our dinner gradually took the turn that we could never rewind. My fork never left the edge of the plate after that.
I won’t go into the details of the argument – how it started because I accused him of staring at someone else over my shoulder, how it continued with hushed historical arguments that were totally unrelated, and how it finally ended with snide, hurtful remarks that we hissed at each across the table. Did I just say I wouldn’t go into the details? Right. I’m a girl. We do that.
Our host was unaware, or perhaps he was politely ignorant, though our plates were basically untouched after an hour and I couldn’t look up for the tears in my eyes. He asked about dessert, which we declined. He packed up our pasta and veal in little foil containers and we left. I walked out of Caffe Delfini gently since we were in a public place, but once outside I stormed off up the street without a word, he ten steps behind me. We drove home in complete silence.
But you know what they say about heated, passionate arguments like that.
The makeup *ahem* leftovers the next morning are great. ;)
** a year ago today, nobel bakery got the piece prize for baklava **