Energize me

New York City is energizing. For me, being there is like being plugged in to recharge, and recharge I did. The weekend was filled with goings on but nothing compared with dining with my old friends.

For those familiar with the city’s layout, you might find it impressive that on my way to meet my friends for that Friday night dinner, I walked from 92nd Street and 3rd Avenue to 42nd Street and 12th Avenue, through Central Park, inside of one hour and ten minutes. Like I said, the city is energizing!

I met one of my friends, John, who I’ve known since fourth grade and who is just fifteen minutes older than I, at his apartment on 42nd Street and then we drove in his car to the restaurant, Savore, located at the southeast corner of Spring and Sullivan Streets, in Soho.

Savore has been at that location since 1995. I discovered the restaurant in 1996, and loved it from the start. Both menu and wine list offered a healthy dose of Northeastern Italy.

When I first ate at Savore, it was populated with Italians. These days, the front of the house, the wait staff, and probably the kitchen staff too, represent places like Mexico, Honduras, and Guatamala. The place has changed a little, with a wider offering that includes more universal dishes. But the influence is, as it should be, simplicity in preparation and mainly Italian. I can tell that the wait staff loves to work there, too, by the way that they serve and by the fact that a few of them have been serving for many years.

There were eight of us at the table, each planning to order a separate meal. Once again, I had to call upon my appeasing instincts as the wine list made its way to my spot in the group. It was a bitterly cold night in the city and because of that no one felt like drinking white wine. A good look at the list and then in a flash I decided on a Caldaro Pinot Nero (Alto Adige) and il Puntone Morellino di Scansano Riserva (Maremma).

I didn’t take wine notes that night—no geeks around—but as I remember them, the Pinot Nero was beautifully round and fruity with a velvety finish. The Morellino (which is the Maremma’s version of the Sangiovese grape, or is it?) was solidly leathery, lean but flavorful, with truly integrated acidity.

I could tell that everyone liked the wine because no one complained and we ordered more bottles.

The dishes at our table represented quite a range, from artichoke stuffed pasta to branzino over root vegetables and all kinds in between. Mine was an order of lentils and mussels soup to start, a soup so unusual that it called to me, and I was glad that I answered the call. Hard to explain how the salty sea-like flavor of mussels offset the earthy lushness of lentils, but it happened. I followed with a seared salmon over crisp vegetables on a soft bed of pureed cauliflower (I’m eating more omega3 foods these days).

The evening went long—four hours—and the conversation went even longer. Once again, we talked of our youthful indiscretions, like the time we broke into the basement of a neighborhood bar and stole two kegs of beer.

We broke the kegs open with a screwdriver and a hammer in a hallway without thinking about the consequences of having just finished rolling them more than two blocks—the beer spray and foam filled three floors of hallway.

The caper was such a spur-of-the-moment thing that we also didn’t consider what we would serve the beer in. A few of us wound up with a case of trench mouth from the old coffee cans that we used as beer glasses.

Ours was a mobster neighborhood. Tough guys were everywhere, as was violence. One of them was a particularly nasty prick, a loan shark that we knew was responsible for breaking a few legs.

A long time ago, there was such a thing as a small kitchen table with a metal top. On one snowy night, after we had downed pints of T’bird and were feeling mischievous, one of my friends saw such a tabletop lying in a pile of garbage. He wondered aloud: what would happen if we buried that tabletop in snow right in someone’s walking path?

That someone turned out to be the loan shark, and it was such fun to watch him unknowingly walk onto the slick, wet metal top, glide up into the air and then come down with a pleasingly, to us, hard thump, cursing all the way up and all the way down.

It was all we could do to hold in our laughter from our perch behind a car across the street.

Finally, there was the teacher whose arm we broke—inadvertently, of course.

It was a Friday afternoon fire drill. The class was made to line up along one wall before filing out. The wall happened to be the one that included the coat closets, which were fronted with sliding doors. It so happened that the chairs in the classroom fit snugly in the closets and so we stacked a bunch of them in there and slid the doors closed.

The following Monday, as the teacher prepared the classroom she opened one of the closets and out came a stack of chairs right on her!

We have recounted these and many other stories more than a few times over the years but we never tire of telling them once again and we always seem to find them as funny as they were when the events took place.

I’ll be seeing this group again soon, as each one of my friends has offered to make the 300-mile trip to visit me and to take turns relieving my wife from the responsibility of driving me five days a week for about nine weeks of daily radiation treatments of my prostate cancer.

As I’ve said, the love that binds these friendships is palpable.


Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2011. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author’s permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement–period.

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