“People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose”
Match Point (Woody Allen, 2005)
I’m the protagonist of one of these moments.
The ball has just touched the net and floats in the air, still in doubt whether to fall on my territory or on my enemy one. I imagine it on the dish that I received a few moments ago and that I started tasting.
In the exact point where an element has just appeared, which has nothing to do with the duck tortellini. A foreign object. At least at first sight. I huff, while a deja vu irritates me. I push the dish away and at the same time I rise my left arm to call the maitre. The ball keeps floating, as cristalized. Stuck on its center of gravity. Clearly embarrassed, a waiter comes to my table and tells me that the chef apologises and is waiting for me in the kitchen.
The sliding doors.
I love them. I love the risk and I would hardly renounce to that feeling. This shiver is what players love, in the Dostojevskij’s sense of word. How many sliding doors did we meet in our lives? How would our existences have changed if we had chosen one entrance or another? Can we always identify them? I can’t. that’s why calmly I stand up. I can glimpse one of those turning points that will change my dinner and my judgement on the restaurant. I leave the table and the floating ball, not decided yet on my destiny. I step inside the kitchen and everything changes.
I came back to Italy. Rome, to be precise. I wish I could tell you this was a working matter. That a stop of my roadshow was programmed in Rome by the end of May and the beginning of June. But that didn’t happen. I came back to watch Francesco Totti’s farewell match. When I said it to my editor Stefano Cocco, his reaction amused me. First he broke into laughter, then, turning into a serious facial expression, he claimed: “I’ll see you at the Olympic stadium. We’ll cry toghether and will stay strong”. I won’t bore you with a long storytelling about what Roma’s Captain meant to me and how much I was traumatized by his farewell.
Heinz Beck welcomes me on “La Pergola” terrace with an amazing alcoholic aperitif: suddenly, everything looks better. The chef’s smile and stories blow away the sadness for Totti’s farewell, who is in one of these rooms with his family to celebrate his last match with Roma soccer team).
My sadness almost disappears when the German chef and the sommelier take me to the cellar, telling me how the concept of cellar didn’t exist when he started to cook. They used to buy the necessary wine each day, without storying it inside a specific room.
The terrace is just spectacular, surrounded by the wonderful roman skyline, but inside “La Pergola” is even better. The staff is extremely qualified, luxurious and polite. You can feel sympathy, the right tone, never excessive. This is a particular that I deeply like.
As soon as I sat, the after Roma-Genoa match melancholy (to quote Masino…), which is one of my dearest travel mates together with the So Wine So Food magazine, slowly fades away. I can now study the menu with a lighter spirit. It is composed by nine courses.
The wine selection is amazing. The list contains a 2012 Rebenhof Riesling Spatlese Trocken, a 2013 Mikulsky Meursault Poruzots, a 2014 Lucien Le Moine Inopia and a 2015 Caravaglio Malvasia delle Lipari. This is the best wine selection of my road-trip.
The water list is extraordinary as well: there is a large variety from all over the world. Coffee surprises me in the same way: the kopi luwak, that is mainly produced in the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Suwalesi. It derives from the berries that are eaten, partially digested and defecated by the palm civet!
Dinner starts with the “Tuna and tomato in its declinations”: I’m curious about the dish base. It is a rectangular sponge with the tuna fish lying on it: it looks like bread but is dehydrated tomato and then prepared. The tomato is clearly the protagonist of this important course: you can find it into pieces, as a sauce and many other varieties. The dish is very interesting just like its taste.
The White asparaguses with seaweed pesto and squids are delicious, just like the notorious Battered Pumpkin flowers on shellfish and saffron with caviar. This is one of the best-known creations of the German chef: the saffron completely surprises us. The tastes that contains are many and all well-known, but when they meet, the combination makes the Heinz Beck pumpkin flower something that you have to try once in your lifetime.
We then arrive to the “Duck tortellini with pine needle infusion and porcini mushrooms dust”. This is the dish in which I found the hair and that offered me a fast track to the kitchen. Heinz Beck firstly apologises, and tries to explain himself by saying that the hair could have been a piece of the dehydrated mushroom, then offers me a glass of champagne and starts cooking for me. He cooks the dish again. I’m embarrassed: I don’t feel comfortable inside that room, surrounded by a fifteen-member brigade, which leaves me speechless. Both for the chef ability (he seems to fly over the stove) both for the attention that he shows me. Heinz Beck pays attention to every detail: he tastes every dish, every topping and every food. He has a superior taste and immediately understands which ingredient a dish is missing. With just a few gestures he can transform a severe accident into something to his favor, completely changing the judgment on the restaurant.
The well-known sliding doors…
I go back to the table more than satisfied, but Beck decides to surprise me again. An out of menu dish is served at my table: a tower with inside boiling-hot stones and a steel grille where the Saint Peter fish is cooked with a clementine leaf. The extremely Japanese taste is an ecstasy. More good marks on his report card.
The last course is a poached seabass, a common dish revisited, and the Lamb loin with fennel with cereal crust and goat-cheese pearls. The meat is perfectly cooked and the small cheese stones, dehydrated as well, are the magic touch.
A good mark to the desserts, especially the small patisserie: a night-stand, inspired by Salvador Dalì, that has each drawer full of delicacies.
I leave “La Pergola” very satisfied: the sadness for Totti’s farewell is still there, stuck somewhere inside my soul. The same fold of my soul that was created by Heinz Beck when I saw him working during the most difficult moment of the evening. Mistakes are part of our lives, but what matters is what we try to do in order to make up for the mistakes that we made. I really appreciated his attitude.
Final mark: four beards and a half.