I was walking down The Strip when my cell rang. It was my pal Nance.
“What are we doing at 6:30P tonight?
Before I could answer she jumped right back in…
“Because I ran into Mario at CarneVino and he invited us for cocktails.”
I knew what she meant.
Not Mario Andretti. Not the Super Mario brothers. Mario Batali!
I don’t get star struck too easily, but meeting Mario was worthy of gushing.
A scant ninety minutes later we were exiting the Monorail and heading toward the Venetian. We arrived at the restaurant and checked with the hostess; Mario hadn’t arrived yet. After ordering Antinori chardonnay and waiting fifteen minutes, we decided to get a table and wait for Mario there.
The waiter gave a brief overview of the menu and emphasized their best dish was the house dry-aged rib eye.
Count me in.
Next he announced that they had just received their shipment of white truffles.
In honor of the season, and because Nancy’s drooling could easily be misinterpreted, we ordered the special tagliatelle. We smelled it it ten feet before it arrived. The pasta was draped deliciously in butter and was prepared perfectly al dente.
Topping the dish was five or six small bites of truffle, not quite enough, so we asked for it to be super sized.
The waiter slowly and majestically shaved the truffle until we cried uncle.
Kinda like having Parmesan cheese grated for you table side except I don’t know many cheeses that sell for $2,500 a pound.
We repeated the process a few more times but the details are too decadent to share here.
Following dinner, Nancy and I were chatting with Kirk the Som, when he abruptly excused himself.
I explained his sudden departure, “I bet Mario’s in the house.”
Indeed he was, albeit a few hours late, clad in orange Crocs and graciously signing autographs with his signature orange sharpie.
Now it was our turn.
A long time friend of Nancy’s, Mario greeted us with a bear hug and a kiss on each cheek.
The first thing that impressed me when meeting Mario was his size. He was taller and more fit than he appears on television. Proud about his recent weight loss, he described his regimen of
two hour work outs daily. No changes in his diet, just good old-fashioned exercise. I told him I subscribed to the same theory, calories in and calories out, and he enthusiastically agreed, “Eat what you want and be prepared to work it off.”
Celebrating now, we poured Mario a glass of Nancy’s 2006 St. Emilion blend.
“This is beautiful wine, “ he beamed.
It was then that the uber-chef and television personality took the conversation one step further.
“You know, these days I prefer my white wines warmer and my red wines colder. My wife likes to add ice cubes to her wine and I’m all for it.”
You gotta love anyone with Mario’s cred who can seriously appreciate wine and keep it fun, too.
Perhaps I need to reverse myself.
I’ve dined at four of Mario’s restaurants in three cities. Each time a spectacular meal.
I’ve used recipes in his cookbooks with great success.
I’ve watched him on television and learned something new every time.
Orange is my new black.
I guess I am star struck.