Sunday, May 17, 2009

St. Lawrence and Bucca di Beppo

This morning, because of a footrace in San Francisco that bisects the city, thus making it extremely difficult to get to the Cathedral, we went to the Divine Liturgy at St. Lawrence Church in Felton. (It is closer to where we live than the Cathedral in S.F.) There have been some changes since I was there last. There is more paint on the walls and ceiling so that beautiful redwood smell is much diminished, but the paint seems to be in preparation for more Iconography. Indeed, there were already some large medallion style Icons of Old Testament Saints on the fore-wall above the iconostasis, not the traditinal loction for these icons, but it was nice to see the Holy Patriarch Abraham, Aaron the High Priest, the Holy Prophet Samuel, and others. It was Anselm Samuel's first time to see his heavenly patron in a temple. There was quite a crowd (including 4 adult catechumens) at the liturgy, which necessitated 4 chalices. Even with 4 chalices Communion took quite a while.

Note on Communion: Who is ever worthy? Certainly not me. But what joy to hear the words "The Son of God Matthew receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ". Can life be better than it is at that moment? I do not think so.

It was a real scorcher of a day in the bay area, and we slept most of the afternoon. Then we went to Athanasia's 1 year M.P.A. class reunion. It was a lot of fun. Athanasia organized it at Bucca di Beppo. It was my first time to eat there. I love it. For a chain Italian restaurant it was really good. Much better than the Olive Garden. What the Olive Garden tries to do is create an illusion of a restaurant that serves Italian regional cuisine. But that is really hard to do year round and at the price point Olive Garden targets. Also, they bastardize recipes. For example, once, about 10 years ago I ordered scallops in white wine sauce at the Olive Garden. It was horrible.

Good Scallops in White Wine Recipe
To make that dish for two people you need 1/2 cup of the little scallops, 1 cup dry white wine, one chopped scallion, and 1/4 teaspoon of butter or olive oil. You put everything except the scallops in a small sauce pan, heat to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, introduce the scallops, and leave them in just long enough to get hot. Pour the whole thing over plate of hot cooked linguine. It is a classic and delicious meal.

Is that what Olive garden did? No. They cooked the scallops until they were rubber. They drowned the whole thing in melted butter. It was gross.

How is Bucca di Beppo different? First of all, they set a different expectation. You walk into Bucca di Beppo and you are probably going to hear Luis Prima or Dean Martin or Rosemary Clooney singing Italian-American kitsch songs. You are going to see pictures of Sophia Lauren and Frank Sinatra on the walls. It is a nostalgic dream image of 1950's Italian-American culture. In many ways it is the restaurant Primo and Secundo were competing against in the movie Big Night. Nothing about the place suggests authentic Italian food. From the moment you walk in the door you know you are going to get Gramma Maria from Brooklyn's spaghetti and sausage covered in Sunday gravy and topped with cheese.

So, how was the food? Rich and tomato-y. The baked manicotti was excellent. I didn't have any of the eggplant parmesan (my tablemates reported that it was good.) but the chicken parmesan was perfectly cooked and brought to mind some of the home-made Italian-American food I had in Miami. (Miami: It's not just for Cubanos and Haitians.)

I had two well-made drinks from the bar: A Manhattan (which is a Martini, but with whisky instead of gin, sweet vermouth istead of dry vermouth, and a cherry instead of an olive.) and a Sidecar (Which is a Martini made with brandy istead of Gin, Cointreau instead of dry vermouth, and a sugared rim instead of an olive.) The drinks were good and strong. The only problem was the Sidecar, which was lacking the sugared rim. Everyone else drank the house red which is an imported sangiovese of good repute.

I had tiramisu for dessert. It was good (not soggy, which I hate) but nothing to write home about. For sure, though, it is better than I can make. Some in our party commented that it had too much brandy and not enough coffee, but I didn't recognize that as a problem.


Christina said...

Christ is Risen! I am a lurker... but had to comment:) You made me laugh out loud (not a bad thing) about your tirumisu comment re. brandy (and too much brandy not being a bad thing). Thanks!

Mimi said...

I'm so glad to hear good things are abounding at St. Lawrence's Church, and I agree about Communion. Lord have Mercy.

I do like Bucca di Beppo.

Matt said...

Indeed He is Risen!

Christina, thanks for reading my blog. Something that always surprises me is what people in joy reading. Take your laughter at the brandy in the tiramisu. I was completely serious and didn't intend that to be funny at all but it made you laugh and post a comment.

Often I'll write things and think to my self, "This is very funny. I bet lots of people comment on this" but they don't.

Any way, I hope I can keep you entertained, even if I only do so accidentally.