Campo de Fiori
If not for all the evidence that I've had heterosexual intercourse, I'm pretty sure I could be a priest. As all you Catholics and everyone who makes fun of us know, we're in the midst of Lent, when we get back to the "Judeo" part of our Judeo-Christian heritage and self-flagellate and generally feel sorry for ourselves because on the evolutionary scale of sinners we rank somewhere between Charlie Manson and Darth Vader.
As I sat in church the other day, I realized that if I were on heavy-duty downers, I could be just as depressing as the presiding priest. It had been a while since I'd been to church, and now I knew why: For a solid day afterward, I couldn't speak in anything other than a monotone. Unless you go to a church with serious "soul," everyone mumbles/sings like William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy and recites the Nicene Creed and all the other ritualistic crap with the same emotion you display when you tell your friends about your last visit to the dentist.
With thoughts like these, I have little doubt that I am going to land in front-row seats at the lake of fire -- or, if not there, I'll end up in a version of medieval Rome with Torquemada himself administering discipline. I don't think that the good folks behind Campo de Fiori (300 Fillmore Street) realized their namesake's religious history when they opened this Cherry Creek watering hole. But it seemed like a good place to meet the Mormon Representative to the Institute of Drinking Studies and his wife (who do not "celebrate" Lent, to my knowledge) and celebrate my living in sin and impending nuptials.
When you visit a good Italian restaurant, you should feel a little nervous -- and not just because it might be named after a relatively famous Roman Catholic indoctrination and torture/killing center. You should also think there might be older guys sitting in the rear with their backs to the wall, all watching the door and the hulking, missing-link hairy guy sitting in the line of fire with his dominant hand under his coat. Although we didn't see anyone like that at Campo, the Mormon Representative noted that you could easily envision some wise guy named Nicky the Rat sitting there with his entourage.
Our waiter certainly made up for any slack in the ambience. We firmly believe he was no more Italian than I am, but he sidled up and in his best imitation of an Italian accent introduced himself: "Buenos días, I am Roberto." With the rolled "r," he sounded like a cross between Bela Lugosi and the Italian restaurateur on The Simpsons. But even his intense concentration did not affect his excellent service, although he inadvertently dropped out of character a couple of times. His knowledge of the wine list was extensive, and his food recommendations were spot-on. Our meal was sinfully good.
For now, though, I have given up the joys of Campo and its ilk both for Lent (my daughter insisted I match her ultimate sacrifice of no candy and no more than twenty hours of TV a day) and because, in a fit of temporary insanity, I agreed to go on the South Beach Diet to support my fiancée, who has already cheated. On the diet, not on me -- as far as I know. But in defiance of God and Arthur Agatston, M.D., I have made some concessions to my desires and still consume alcohol and bar food to mark birthdays, sunrises and other rare occasions.
Both the Church and the South Beachers will be happy to know that I feel crushing guilt for upwards of two minutes afterwards.
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