Clearly, they were trying to impress us. And it worked. The congenial escort to the bar was a good start; it was here where we first drank in our metropolitan surroundings and basked in the glory of a soulful soundtrack seemingly suited to our more sultry musical tastes.
While we gobbled our baked Brie on toast appetizer, washed down with an ideal Ketel One martini, we took note of the curious shape of the bar. Its glassy black surface curved bulbously at the corner, notched like the base of a violin, and split into two perpendicular lengths facing a mirrored wall with three meticulous rows of premium liquors, international beers, wine and—our favorite—Belgian Lambics.
Had we a second martini at that point, we could’ve deemed our increasing euphoria to be ethanol-related. But as it was, our senses were on full alert, only slightly abetted by the soft, candlelit glow of the bistro’s casually sophisticated, window-enclosed dining room.
We were in love already, with nary a flaming dish in sight.
Anxious to begin our feast, we were led to our table by a lovely, gracious woman named Monica. She suggested a glass of MezzaCorona Pinot Grigio to accompany our first course, a puffed pastry dough feuitte with mushroom cream sauce—a French specialty with Italian flavor. The pairing proved to be divine.
Monica then delivered an aromatic skillet of spicy shrimp scampi, as coincidentally, a live band—The New Project—began playing Toni Braxton’s “I Get So Hot.” You could say the sauce seduced us as we dipped our warm bread into the pan of tomato, onion, olive oil, parsley, lemon and roasted red pepper. Kim and I were grinning ear to ear and swaying gently—dizzy under the spell of Bocalino’s enticing food/wine/music combo.
Giddily gluttonous, we moved on to the next course, which featured two skillets of ravioli—one with a creamy pesto, the other with a perfectly balanced marinara. We had a hazy interlude here, as our food swoon gave way to the sinking, slow motion feeling that we might not make it to dessert. But we mustered on, intent to solicit Louis Latour Chardonnay’s digestive properties on the ravioli.
And we hadn’t even gotten to our entree yet.
We noticed the bar area had begun to fill up with a stylish, 30-something crowd, some of whom made their way to the dance floor in silk halter tops and linen pants. The disco ball spun lights around our table, prompting Monica to join us in singing Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thang” into our pepper grinder.
But time came to a screeching halt when the Cioppino arrived.
A celestial radiance surrounded the immense skillet—or it could’ve been the disco lights, we’re not sure—of Cioppino, an Italian fish stew. A decidedly Mediterranean seafood and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink concoction was in this case made extravagant by the delectable appearance of Maine lobster, crab legs, opakapaka, shrimp, clams, scallops and mussels with celery and carrots in a white wine cream sauce.
Oh, Bocalino, you had us at Framboise. MTW