By Steve Herte
Note: When I realized that I left something out of my last review, I felt it was time for a special edition of Dinner and a Movie - or rather Dinner and a Short Subject (with an added treat).
La Luna (2011)
This Oscar-nominated, seven-minute animated short preceded the movie Brave the night I saw it and it deserves a review in itself. The story is of a young boy, “Bambino” (voiced by Krista Sheffler) who is taken by his father, Papá (Tony Fucile), and grandfather, Nonno (Phil Sheridan), to experience their “work” for the first time.
They take a row boat out beyond sight of land at night and stop under the full moon. At this point, Papá sets up a really, really long ladder in the prow of the boat, hands the anchor to his son and indicates that he climb the ladder. Not a word of English (or any other language) is spoken throughout this short, but it’s easy to figure out from the gestures and the cadences of their non-words that they’re Italian.
The child climbs the ladder and makes ready to toss the anchor on the moon’s surface, when the moon’s gravity pulls the anchor onto itself. The three climb up to the moon, where thousands of five-pointed “stars” lay scattered over the surface. After arguing over whether a rake or a push-broom is the proper implement the men show the boy what they do. In order for the moon to have its proper shape in the sky, the “stars” need to be arranged just so.
A this point a giant star comes hurtling out of the black sky and rams upright on one of its points deep into the lunar soil. Both men try to move it but are unable to do so. The boy, remembering how one of the little stars twinkled when he touched it on its point climbs the mammoth star, touches the top-most point, taps it with a little hammer and it explodes into hundreds of little stars. Now, the three can finish their work.
They climb down into their little rowboat and admire what they have accomplished. The camera pans back to show that they have cleared the glowing stars to reveal the pattern of a crescent on the moon’s surface. Nonno and Papá are very proud of Bambino’s first day on the job.
This clever little production by Director Enrico Casarosa is so engaging the audience is left wanting more at the end and the seven minutes seem like more while they’re watching it.
Good Old Home Cookin’
The morning after I saw La Luna I was out working in my garden and my Jamaican next-door neighbor Sandra was already grilling chicken for her son’s birthday party that evening. I mentioned how good it smelled and she offered to bring some over later on. I told her how delighted I would be and she smiled and continued her grilling.
After our dinner was finished the doorbell rang and there she was with a large, aluminum foil wrapped package, still warm. I thanked her profusely and put it in the refrigerator for Sunday’s dinner.
Sunday’s dinner time arrived and I had brought up a bottle of wine from my little wine cellar to chill. I opened the aluminum foil to reveal a large leg and thigh nicely blackened by the grill. Deciding to pop it in the microwave, I picked it up and put it on a plate, and licked my fingers. Wow! This was Jamaican Jerk Chicken at its best – the chicken cooked through and tender, the coating fiery with pepper. I heated up a Portuguese roll, brought out my 1989 German Reisling (yes, German white wines do last that long, they only get sweeter and a deeper golden color) and I enjoyed an international Sunday dinner with the home-made Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
42-18 31st Street, Astoria, NY
Needing a night out, I made up my mind to go back to my roots, to Astoria, Queens, for a dining experience. An easy walk from the 46th Street station on the M/R line of the subway brought me to the Greek palace (a place this huge cannot just be a restaurant) Cávo “founded” in 1999. This hulking cavernous building wraps around the corner of 42nd Street and invites people to enter through the garden gate.
Inside is a bar immediately to the left and an immense, beautifully-tiled wall beyond with two waterfalls. The wrought-iron tables and chairs are arranged in the central court of this spacious atrium with a balcony on the far wall where more tables and chairs perched. It was still too warm for me to dine al fresco so the greeting girl led me upstairs and inside.
The first room we passed through was the grand catering hall with its tripartite chandelier dripping with crystals and glittering in the low light. Cinderella could have had her ball here. Another high balcony graced the far wall of this room. We made a right turn and entered the dining area/bar. This was another impressively large room with several shaded crystal chandeliers, the largest over the 30-seat bar in the center. The light tan banquettes, tables and chairs lined one long wall; the other faced the street and was entirely glass with slatted shades. The far short wall sported a raised dining area with more tables and chairs and a wrought-iron rail either side of the single step. The remaining wall had the waiters’ station next to the stairs down to the restrooms. The wall itself was a shimmery gray to black brick and lights were playing on it to create the effect of water cascading down it. I said to myself, “This place is in Astoria?”
Everything says that this is not your typical Greek restaurant, and it’s not. Learning from my waiter that they didn’t have any of the gins I like, nor Stolichnaya, or even Ouzo, I ordered a Grey Goose Vodka martini, which was passable. The menu has several Greek specialties like Saganaki and the traditional spreads, but it also has oysters and sliders (both lamb and beef), Risotto and Filet Mignon – something for every taste. I started with Octopus – charcoal-grilled with lemon and Greek extra virgin olive oil. These tender tentacles were resting on an amazing combination of spinach, sliced cherry tomatoes, capers and tiny bacon-grilled potato cubes of wondrous crispness and flavor.
For the main course I chose one of the specials, Whole Branzino – de-boned and stuffed with vegetable cous-cous, served in a deep ceramic chafing dish in a tomato/Calamata olive sauce with mussels and garnished with bean sprouts. It was fantastic to see the whole fish (head to tail) and then discover it was truly de-boned (I only found a few) and inside was this great vegetable cous-cous. The sauce added the oohs and ahhs to the meal. A 2008 Messenger Zinfandel from California added an earthy yet fruity compliment to the fish. The wine list is very reasonably priced.
When I learned that the chef was Rory O’Farrell and met the manager, Barry Weisberg, I was not surprised that my waiter did not know how to pronounce the dessert, Galactobouriko – a delicate, two-inch high custard with filo dough on top and bottom, drizzled with honey and rose water – a traditional Greek dessert. Since they also didn’t know what Greek coffee was I ordered the Cávo’s Original Chocolate Martini – somehow they swirled real chocolate up the sides of the glass before pouring the bewitching mix of Kahlua, Bailey’s, Crème de Cacao and something else I could not detect (they keep the recipe a secret).
If you happen to be in the neighborhood and want some Greek food with a twist, Cávo is your place any day but Mondays – they’re closed.