On our third and last night in the Piedmont region of Italy, we went to the town of Isola d'Asti to dine at chef Walter Ferratto's acclaimed restaurant Il Cascinalenuovo. Our L. A. friend Lonnie Bishop - a friend of the chef's - had made us a 7:30 reservation.
The problem was it was not in the town of Isola d'Asti as my guidebook indicated, but on a obscure stretch of two-lane highway about four kilometers away. This resulted in several errors on my part being exposed. I hadn't brought that guidebook so I didn't have the phone number or the exact address. I hadn't put the info in my phone. I couldn't correctly pronounce the name of the restaurant. When I stopped to ask humans ( my personal GPS), I butchered it and the first four people asked didn't know what i was talking about.
By now, it was 8:15 as we drove around the town in search of a human being who looked like they would know where a fine dining place was located. Arguments flared, The driver was called an idiot. The lady in the passenger seat was called he world's worst co-pilot. The driver was called a moron.
Finally, at a bar ( of course) I stumbled upon a party where three giddy people excitedly pointed the way. Something about a series of left turns back toward Alba, tre kilometers, and the ristorante being right next door to a nightclub called Mediterranean.
"Okay, it's 8:35 o'clock. Let's just hope they don't have a reservation policy like Mozza," Nancy said. For the Mozza unaware, the reserved tables there are held for 15 minutes then released to the waiting.
After hitting 185 kph ( over 114 mph) on the lonely two-laner, we spotted the "Club Mediterraneano". I pulled into the next driveway. Il Cascinalenuovo. 8:42. Seventy two minutes late.
The place was packed. The lady at the host stand slowly shook her head. Bad. In beat up English, she told us they only hold the tables for one hour. I thought of Lance and Eve and Maria and Uzma and all the excuses they hear: "The traffic was bad"; "We just came in from the airport"; "My sister is pregnant and very hungry" and other weak-ass excuses. So I said nothing.
But, I did turn to Nancy and said a bit-on-the-loud side, "Lonnie is going to be disappointed."
Behind the host stand, a middle-aged man who would turned out to be the sommelier and the brother of chef Walter, stopped in his tracks like he had seen a Siberian tiger. "Lonnie, you say? Are you friend of Lonnie?"
In even seconds Walter appeared, hugged Nancy and lead us to a table.. We talked a bit about Lonnie and then he said the good words - " I would like to cook you a meal"
Walter Ferratto lit it up.
To get a reservation at Il Cascinalenuovo, go to Pizzeria Mozza on just about any Sunday. at around 12:45 p.m. and look at the end of the wine bar. At Seat 12, closest to the bathrooms, there will likely be a handsome white man about 47 or so with a cap on and crossword puzzle next to his glass of wine. Tell him "Blue Note" or "Wrecking Crew" or "Place it on Lucky Dan". He'll understand and then tell him when you want to go to Il Cascinalenuovo and he'll make it happen.