I went out to dinner last night with my Bible Study group. I really tried this time to make sure that we went to a decent restaurant. Honestly. When the possibility of Cafe Bella Rosa was raised I argued against it. "It's a cheap-arse crap factory" I said, or at least I said words to that effect, similar in intent but less likely to cause offence. But I was told, in no uncertain terms, that there are a lot of people on tight budgets, and besides, they could get a discount with their Entertainment Books. One was waved at me to prove it.
I folded quickly and helplessly. One cannot argue with the Entertainment Book. The Entertainment Book is a sort of local gastronomic Necromicron; an vile grimoire of vouchers offering discounts at restaurants that no discerning person would eat at without
some sort of financial incentive. Those in the Book's clutches gape in slack-jawed amazement if one suggests going somewhere not covered by the Book. "But it's not in the Book," they invariably say, as if this were a bad thing, and thus revealing the true terrible gulf between themselves and those not of the Book.
They all had a copy, and Cafe Bella Rosa was the least of the evils on offer within their infernal pages, so I dutifully turned up last night and hoped for the best.
Cafe Bella Rosa is somewhat like Terrazza
, only without the pretensions to fine dining... which, admittedly, constitutes at least 50% of Terrazza's offensiveness. Even on a Wednesday night it was packed with people from all ages and nations, hunched over their massive plates of food or gaily shouting at each other over the noise of music, clattering crockery and other people. I'd comment on the decor, but it was difficult to see any under the wall to wall crush of humanity.
I found my party more by luck than by design, and was eventually allowed to sit, after being chased away from two seats and having the existing seating arrangement explained to me. Apparently some seats at Cafe Bella Rosa are magic, and once claimed should never be surrendered. I didn't know that. Perhaps it's covered in the Book.
The menu at Cafe Bella Rosa consists of pasta with goop, then veal with the same types of goop, then chicken with more of the same types of goop, and then some deep fried fish products. I looked at it and felt despair overwhelming my optimism, like a bulldozer riding over the first freesia of spring.
"Ooh," the people on either side of me cooed. "It all looks so good. What are you having?"
"I don't know yet," I said, which was perfectly true. Everything was so awfully banal. I kept flicking my eyes up and down the list, hoping that I'd missed something enticing. But I hadn't.
"I know what you mean! It's hard to make a decision, isn't it!"
"Yes. Yes it is."
I settled for penne d'angelo, a mixture of chicken, broccoli, pine nuts and mushrooms in a cream sauce over penne pasta. I have to admit that the chicken was very tender, and broccoli was neither over- nor under-cooked. It was an inoffensive rendition of an unremarkable dish. It would have been a good rendition if they'd done something with herbs or spices... perhaps I should have gone home, selected a supple young branch from my rosemary bush, snapped it off, then gone back, forced my way into the kitchen and garrotted the chef with it. That'd learn 'im.
I probably should have done that. It could have been the beginning of a beautiful new career in serial killing...Junior Policeman: The chef was found by the cleaning staff this morning, sir. He'd been bashed around the head with a chunk of dry, tasteless, mass-produced cake, and then he was impaled on this.
Detective: A vanilla bean pod! Sweet mother of mercy, do you know what this means?
Junior Policeman: Sir?
Detective: It means The Epicurist. The Epicurist has struck again. Heaven help us all!
Enter Inspector.Inspector: Hello, men. Hmmm... is it just me or does it smell like cookies in here?
But in the end I kept my murderous impulses at bay and just ate my dinner. With the group discount from the Book it was only $14. I need to get a life.