Vesuvio - November 2014 (dt)
7.00 – 7.5, 7.5, 7.25, 7, 7, 7, 6.75, 6
.

A looong uphill out of East Durham, and a left and a right and a right, delivered us to Vesuvio, a mainstay in Hensonville but a first time in a long time for any of us.

As the name suggests, Italian rules. Entrées this evening:
==> Chicken parm (Kriss: very good)
==> Veal Parm (Ross: a satisfying entrée, excellent sauce, an appropriate portion of pasta; initial order of ribs was not available)
==> Cheese Tortellini Papalino, with prosciutto, mushrooms, peas in heavy cream (Deb K: delicious)
==> Bow-Tie Pasta, with shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes (Chay: very good)
==> Veal scallopini & artichoke hearts francese, dipped in egg batter, simmered in a lemon & butter & white wine sauce, topped with capers (Lynda: excellent)
==> Chicken Bolognese, with thin slices of eggplant, melted mozzarella, light sherry & sage sauce (Deb T: nice sauce, chicken cutlets among the toughest ever chewed)
==> Pork chops (2), simmered in cherry peppers & vinegar & sherry & Italian seasonings (Don: with the sweet peppers, excellent sauce, nice change of pace; Ken: with hot peppers, some of the best pork chops ever, good although peppers quite hot)

Entrées included a salad—an eight inch plate filled with a mix of romaine, red cabbage, two cucumber slices, carrot shreds, and a chunk of iceberg. Most of us chose the balsamic dressing with shredded blue cheese; all deemed the salad a worthy basic meal starter.
          The pasta fagioli attracted the attention of Kriss and Ken. An attractive goblet of soup was delivered, causing the envy of the other six. It could have been a meal of itself.
          Five minutes after seating, two bread baskets of eight inch loaves of very thinly sliced Italian bread were placed on the table, accompanied by two small ramekins of green olives in oil.

            Desserts, of the solid kind, enticed three:
==> Chocolate-raspberry cake with dense fudge icing (Don: an excellent cake)
==> Chocolate lava cake, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (Ross: excellent)
==> Flan, five inches across, one inch deep (Deb T: very good, with delectable caramel)
==> fter-dinner drinks consisted of Sambuca for Chay and Ross.
          The drink list consisted of wine and soda. The six red wine drinkers started with one bottle of Antinori Santa Christina 2012 Toscana (60% Sangiovese, 40% Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah, for the wine geeks), both a enjoyable sipping wine and a compatible food wine.

Service overall was very good, with a few light touches. Alex, our main waiter, took orders and delivered competently, with a friendly and open attitude, quick to give information, flexible enough to take the bantering from the characters at our table, especially the Italian pronunciation of a certain soup.
         
Two other waitstaff assisted throughout the evening, filling glasses that dared approach half-full, efficiently clearing plates, and filling requests. A couple comments liked all the attention but felt, in the beginning, that there was too much attention, sometimes at cross-purposes. A rare “complaint” of this type!
          Our seating arrangement of a round table (which we always prefer) wedged into a corner banquette made for tough service, and several passes in front of a side-diner was a bit clumsy, at times. And pity the poor table next to us, who, upon our seating, quietly, but loud enough to be heard, complained about their quiet dinner gone. One of us noted that good planning should not have put a table of two next to us when plenty of room was available elsewhere.
          Alex must have bumped Kriss in the head once, causing a profusion of apologies, all taken in smooth style, I thought.
          Pacing was quite comfortable, with just the right spacing for us, with a bit over two hours for the dinner, with an extra few minutes waiting for the bill.

Ambience seemed to fit our image of classic, well-done Italian. After checking in our coats as we entered, we were whisked past a sleek bar and a busy, medium-sized room into a larger area, somewhat dim, at first, but which brightened once our eyes adjusted.
          A forty-by-fifty space is visually carved into three spaces, with the big third cut off by two waist-high faux arches and wooden dividers, but still visible from the rest of the dining room. The remaining space was divided by a ceiling beam, and another columnar entry. The dividers were lined with LED lights, the kind one sees during the Christmas season but this felt permanent, and gave a nice subdued glow to the rooms.
          The rest of the lighting, in our big half, was four rows of four recessed lights, not very large, but each one pointing onto the table below, of which there were also matching four rows of four. The glow off the white linen presented a nice effect. Italian-themed music played in the background, noticeable at first, but practically unnoticeable later.
          Our round table sat three on the banquette, with five finishing the octet. A white-linened tablecloth was graced with goblets stuffed with a white linen napkin, a four piece silverware set, and a glass dome unlit lantern.
          Dishware was classic Italian white (I am not sure how “white” of other nationalities is different!), with a variety of shapes for the entrée course.

The dinner bill, for all expenses, came to $105 per couple.

The evening had started at Lynda and Ross’s, only our third DP8 choice from our Super-Sub Octet. We were greeted by the tail-thumping, tongue-lashing clump of short black hair—Henry, who intermittently amused us, as he pranced around the room. (Attention was paid that Henry was not left alone around the appetizer table!)
          Lynda set the fireplace coffee table with crackers and chips, three fine cheeses, peanuts, an eggplant spread. Meanwhile, Ross kept the wine glasses filled from his red, white, and rose collection. And we gathered and sat in front of the fire-place on a dark, soon-to-be-raining November evening.
          And we caught up on life’s details, told tales, embellished the told tales, and more. A good chunk of the initial regaling was the Monteverd two week foray into paradise—Hawaii. We wanted to know flight details, weather, sites seen, activities, etc., and this led to others’ reminiscences of trips to the islands.
          And this led to plans for winter escape, although only the Monteverds were the only long-term snow birds at the table. Lynda & Ross will go March or April, the Teators are biding their time until Italy in the spring, and the Karneses will work around Deb’s schedule.
          Other topics included: a catch-up on all our kids (3Ms, 3Ps, 2B, 1T), Saratoga life and grandchild, the anticipation of the first female grandchild in the Pisano-Burhouse world, the trip to Woodbridge to the Adamses and details of their lives (hello, from all; Judy, come back quick, ...), impending winter, cold weather, craft fairs, Chay’s variety of jobs and tasks, the “real” work world update, Deb T’s parents in Mexico, Ken’s Italian lessons in pronunciation of the appetizer soup, cleaning the house, hunting season, ski season (Deb T, before Thanksgiving), Thanksgiving plans and details and table settings and preparations and so on, Ross’s no gas in car, a slippery bridge on the way back, and there must have been more.
          Oh, yeah! ... And thus ended our twelfth dozen meeting of DP8 (no bad puns about GROSS). On to Christmas.