Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cafe Vivaldi

Cafe Vivaldi is a small jazz bar tucked off Bleecker in the West Village. Alison and I came across it after getting pizza with Katy, Anna, and Val at the pizza place across the street from the best pizza place in New York (ha.) We were tired from a long day of painting in the August heat and were ready to go home to bed in Brooklyn. But for some reason we paused for a moment in front of this lovely brick lined cafe with an old wooden bar, candlelit tables, and a jazz quartet playing in the corner.

It all looked so Old New York that we cringed when we realized that the entire audience was what looked like a band member's enthusiastic girlfriend, the bartender, and the bus boys. No one else was there. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and decided to be the audience they needed.

The jazz was outstanding. Just gorgeous. We sat in a corner table surrounded by old photographs of 19th century composers with strong beards and high collars. The room was very dark save for the candles on our tables and the soft spotlights on the base and grand piano. It was cozy and warm and perfect. In fact, we were so taken up by the romance of it all that we decided to abandon our usual order of wine for me, beer for her, in favor of an after dinner drink. The conversation is as follows:

Me: (to Alison) I think I'll have the port. Do I like port? Yeah, I'm pretty sure its sweet, I think I like port.

Alison: Oh, I'm getting grappa, I always get grappa when we get after dinner drinks.

Me: Sick. I used to have to drink that sometimes after dinner in Florence with my host family. It takes like windex.

Alison: No, its super sweet! Way sweeter and better than port.

Me: Really?! It must be different in Italy, where its like really strong whiskey.

(Our waitress enters.)

Alison: Is grappa sweet? Or is port the sweet one?

Waitress: Well, I don't like either, but yeah, they are both sweet. Grappa is sweeter.

Me: The port, please.

Alison: I'll have the grappa.

Minutes pass and Alison and I enthusiastically clap for the band as we are STILL the only patrons at Cafe Vivaldi. The band introduces themselves but its very clear that while the audience is composed of two tired and clueless twenty five year olds and a handful of bus boys, they are pretending to headline at the Blue Note. They bow to a pretend audience, hold for a pretend applause, and look no one in the eye. Alrighty then!

Our waitress comes back shortly thereafter with two tiny little flutes of our aperitifs. Lovely! I sip my port, its nice and sweet and syrupy. Alison looks at her crystal clear liquid, takes a big sip, and her head then proceeds to explode.

Alison: Oh my god! (cluthing heart) My heartburn! This is awful, I am going to die!

Me: (trying to muffle my laughter in fear of the poor band hearing. We can call this 'church giggles'.)

Alison: Try it!

Me: (like the idiot that I am) Okay!

I take a tiny little sip. The liquid hits my tongue, expands to every corner of my mouth and burns all the way up to my eye balls. It tastes, as I remembered, of windex, if windex were on fire. We had to ask our sweet little waitress for port instead, explaining that it ISN'T sweet, and they graciously gave her the exchange.

What did we learn from the experience? Other than the difference between port and grappa? That while we like to play the refined, knowledgeable New Yorkers, we aren't really that at all. We are still two Midwestern girls who are learning as we go along. Also-- that fun is always on the other side of a yes.


Alison said...

Always say "yes" to grappa....I mean port.

La said...

loved this post. cracked me up. :-)

Gail said...

I loved your description of grappa!