Ever since Jarrah arrived and turned mealtime into a production on the scale of a Vegas water show, adults-only dinners out have taken on a special patina. While once I might have been impressed with the perfect chill of my chardonnay, now I'm just relieved if my companion doesn't throw her fork on the floor every 3.2 seconds. It's a rare treat to sit down at a beautifully set table with china and linen napkins and not begin gathering all pointy and spillable objects into my airspace. It's also a true gift to start and finish a conversation over fine food without projecting my voice above a refrain of "MAMA! I WAS TALKING! Maaaaaaammmaaaaa!"
Because my friends Lisa and Martha are smart women (and also mothers of toddlers), they understand my pain, and introduced a monthly event known as MGW (Moms Gone Wild.) They reserve a table at a local fine-dining establishment, we RSVP, and the rest is magic, baby. Moms all over the county Tide-stick the goldfish thumb prints off their resort wear, smear on some lipstick, and look forward to a leisurely evening of slow food. And I mean slow. Even if it doesn't fall off a truck from Chino Farms, we can take as long as we like to clean our plates, and when someone says "Can I have a bite?" they wait for us to answer before they jab a finger into our mashed potatoes.
Last night we visited a little gem of a place I had never even heard of before, The Venetian in Point Loma. Tucked away on Voltaire St., it has two cozy rooms with soft lighting and a lively din. As I walked to our table, I saw servers carrying plates of swirled, colorful linguine that looked like they could each serve six. I sat down in front of a basket of hot, crusty rolls, nestled into their napkin with a scoop of orange, tomato-y butter. In moments, a waitress shouted (it was really loud in there) "Would you like some wine?" After the day I'd had, I was genuinely afraid of falling asleep at the wheel, but nearly everyone else enjoyed a glass.
I started with the Caesar salad, as did several of my friends, and the dressing was perfect, very tart and lemony with a peppery kick. It was a large salad, but I would have settled for smaller with more tender, pale inner leaves--I get pretty exhausted chewing the tough, dark-green outer ones. Still, I figure I got a good dose of greens. My friends Jen and Mary had the lentil soup, which was very colorful, but I noticed they both doused theirs in pepper and parmesan, so hopefully it wasn't bland.
My main dish was chicken piccata, which I hardly ever order; I was just in the mood for something lemony. The serving was generous--two plate-sized pieces, pounded thin--but I was a little disconcerted to find it breaded and crispy, like chicken parmagiana. It was very tasty, though, and drizzled with lemon sauce and a huge handful of high-quality capers. On the side, they served the only diminutive item of the evening: about 12 penne noodles in marinara sauce, firm, zesty, and just the right amount. To my left, Jen was yumming up the pesto pasta, and I was pleased to accept some on my bread plate--it was a vibrant green, with big, rough-chopped basil dice clinging to the pasta with the help of olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese. I really loved that pesto, and sort of wished I'd ordered that instead. Most of the gals ordered pasta, and they all looked great, though I noticed down at the other end Jill was exclaiming with delight over her scallops, each the size of my palm.
By dessert, we were all getting a little silly from wine and warm, satisfying food--there was some talk about children, but I also told a long story about one of my inappropriate summer romances of yore. Two tiramisus and a stack of forks made the rounds while we sipped our coffee--I had one bite and confirmed my general impression that tiramisu just doesn't interest me. It always seems very mushy and creamy with "no there there." I'm never really interested in the kind of desserts they have in Italian restaurants--the cannolis (ewww, ricotta) and carrot cake and chocolate layer cake that always seems a little stale. But I did very much enjoy the virtuous sensation of abstinence (and how often can you say that?)
Quite frankly, I don't really mind where we go for MGW, because I'd be happy to eat take-out tacos on a bench in the park if it means I can hang out with my peeps all evening, laughing, talking, and eating, very SLOW and with no drama. Well, no toddler drama, anyway--any other kind, bring it on.