Singing our Culinary Praises
It may come as a shock, but the Monterey County map is littered with fine dining establishments.
It won’t build muscle tone or slim your waistline, but here’s a fun exercise for anyone who lovesto eat, and eat well: try counting the number of restaurants that you would go eagerly visit within our fair county. Go ahead. Then prepare yourself for a surprise.
Some guidelines: Start by region – Monterey proper, Seaside, Salinas, Marina, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Carmel Valley and so on. Confine your imaginary visit to dinner only. (Breakfast and lunch can be separate pursuits.) And be discriminating – include fine dining establishments guaranteed to make an impression on, say, a first date with someone you never expected would agree to go out with you, as well as venues where you are assured of having a satisfying and thoughtfully prepared, well-executed mean. And have a pen and paper handy.
A friend and I, resolved to begin a strictly no-nonsense weight loss scheme, invented this game one long afternoon during what seemed like the interminable hours between lunch and dinner. The results of the exercise? We would happily check our teeth for arugula, get our glad rags and escort ourselves to no fewer than 55 Monterey County dining destinations. Extraordinary! This is the Monterey Bay area, not that other Bay Area.
So, is it any wonder that I found myself having lunch the other day with Marchese Piero Antinoi, “Italy’s Most Important Winemaker”, according to Wine Spectator? (Wow, that’s fun to say: “By the way did I mention I lunched with Italy’s Most Important Winemaker?”) It was exciting to attend a press luncheon that covered the grand opening of Pèppoli at Pebble Beach. Lunch with stately Antinori was highly memorable, and the establishment’s grand opening that evening was done on a grand scale.
Consider that Antinori’s family has been producing wine for 26 generations, which adds up to some 615 years (the family has lived in the same palazzo since 1506, and I am not making this up), and Italy is an area covering 116,333 square miles with more that two million wineries. So the fact that Italy’s “Italy’s Most Important Winemaker” decided to do his latest Tuscan villa style restaurant in Monterey County is no small hill o’ beans. Rich Pepe, owner of Carmel’s Little Napoli, Café Napoli, Vino Napoli, and Carmel Bakery, and a long-time lover of Antinori’s wines, talked him into it, and partnered with him in this venture. Given the amazing renaissance of Pebble Beach Co.’s dining scene, it doesn’t appear to have been a hard sell.
And as the recent benefactor of an oven-roasted veal chop the size of Cincinnati done with morel mushrooms and fava beans, consumed among a table full of frolicking Italians toasting Piero Antinori with his own wines – and speaking for those who love to eat and eat well – we are gratified to welcome this bunch of Tuscans to the neighborhood.