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Another Big Italian Red

Capitel de’ Roari Amarone – But It’s Really About Paparazzi

As it turns out, every one of these big Italian reds I’ve had over the years has been a major part of a very positive experience, both because the wine has been very drinkable and because I’ve usually only chosen an Amarone on special occasions.  Both of those conditions were certainly met when we had this one.  Carol and I celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first date recently at Paparazzi, the Italian Ristorante in Peoria Heights where years earlier, we had created probably the most important data point in our personal wine history.  And since we don’t do reviews or features about restaurants on this site, I’m starting this story writing about the wine we had that evening, something that we do discuss here in “Kindred Spirits”.

Okay, now that I’ve fulfilled that obligation, let me tell you what I really wanted to say here; it was April 1998 right there at Paparazzi that my wine renaissance began.  As I’ve written elsewhere on this site, it was on the occasion of Carol’s sister Cheryl’s birthday all those years ago, that we dined for the first time at Paparazzi and I started my love affair with red wine.  And it occurred to me as we were enjoying our anniversary meal at Paparazzi, that this restaurant has maintained its incredibly positive performance for years and years now, something that can’t be said about every eatery we’ve frequented.

Carol has developed a real love for pink sauce and was hoping to find a dish featuring this option on the Paparazzi menu.  The pasta course section of their menu offers a number of pasta varieties along with a number of sauces and challenges the diner to mix and match.   When there wasn’t a pink sauce on the list, Carol mentioned it to our server and she said, “No problem, we can do a pink sauce for you.”  They did and I tasted it…it was the best one I’ve ever had.  Again, I get the impression this gesture of service is not an isolated one.  I was reminded by the experience, that every time Carol and I have chosen Paparazzi over the last decade, we get all the things that you expect from a top restaurant…a friendly greeting, a perfectly lit atmosphere, tables spaced properly, great food at each course, efficient and professional service, a well timed and unrushed experience and of course, a full spectrum wine list.  When you get those things over a period of years from a restaurant, I think that’s very unusual and quite special.

We had a 6:00pm reservation on a Friday and the 16 or so tables at Paparazzi were all in use by the time we left a little after 8:00pm.  I mention this because I think it provides further evidence of the popularity the restaurant enjoys.  And it certainly doesn’t get any walk-in traffic.  Sitting a block off of the main drag and adjacent to some commercial buildings, it’s a destination…one that Peoria diners seem to be able to find without a problem.  I suspect they pack the place because they recognize the value.  Yeah, I know, this really is starting to read like a review now, isn’t it?  I’ll stop.

This Amarone was selected from Paparazzi’s Reserve Wine List, an unpretentious and interesting selection of premium wines at reasonable prices.  They also feature two other wine nuances that I think are simply brilliant.  They always have a bottle of wine on each table as a featured “wine of the night” with presumably, a special price…a nice touch since every table looks better with a bottle of wine on it!  And their wine glasses are not stemware…they’re the small stemless glasses that Grandpa Martino used as he enjoyed his homemade Zinfandel wine every day…a nostalgic and frankly, very sensible, thing to do.

So as it says on a small display on every table at Paparazzi, forget the chains the next time you go out for dinner and try one of these special, long-standing family restaurants.  Who knows, you may be prompted to go home and write something on your website that you normally wouldn’t write about, too.

If you’d like, you can check out the Paparazzi menu and other info at Paparazzi.

Mangia, mangia!!!!

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