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RESTAURANTS : Pazzia--A Wine Madness

The evening at Pazzia had started off with a whimper as one member of our party pulled her gleaming 1969 Volkswagen bug up to the valet parking. Two attendants chatting on the curb tried hard to ignore her until one of them, rather amazed, mouthed, “You’re coming here ?”

We encountered more irritations en route to ordering dinner. Overriding all of this was a demeanor by our waiter that could only be viewed as an oxymoron in action: both obsequious and supercilious at the same time.

All that aside, the wine list at Pazzia isn’t bad. It has a lot of wine (about 300 selections) and an idea I liked: listing the wines that are under $30 in the front section, so people on a budget don’t have to turn page after page looking for a reasonably priced wine.

And there are a number of these, including such bargains as Sterling Sauvignon Blanc at $14, Beaujolais Villages from Jadot at $12, and 1985 Domaine de Mont Redon, a lovely Chateauneuf-du-Pape at $25. Pricing on some wines is thus reasonable, between 2.2 and 2.4 times wholesale.

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Probably the best older wine value on the list is the 1975 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon at $60.

Ah, but there’s the rub: for red wines with any age, expect to pay a lot of money. And the older reds I’ve tried had clearly not been stored correctly; 10-year-old red wines that should be in better shape had already begun to show brown edges.

On my last visit I ordered a bottle of 1978 Bricco Rocche Barolo “Prapo,” a wine that is no longer commercially available. It was $45, definitely too high for a wine that was improperly stored and had seen better days. The price became even more irritating when you consider the service.

First, the waiter brought the bottle to our table and pulled the cork. Then he carefully placed the bottle on the table and walked away. I never got a chance to taste it. (Somehow he felt that this act of removing the cork would help the wine “breathe,” a falsity fostered by some misguided guidebook authors.)

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Thirteen minutes passed. Our waiter, during this hiatus, was seen instructing a younger waiter in how things should be done. God help us if he’s the one educating a younger generation. When he returned and poured me a sip, I found the wine was warm.

I understand why some restaurants serve their red wines too warm: They once read something about serving reds at room temperature, so even if it is August and the room is 80 degrees, they think that’s fine for the wine, too. In this case, I asked for an ice bucket. The waiter obliged, jammed the bottle down into the bucket and waltzed off to chat with another waiter.

I then noticed that the ice bucket had no water in it. Without both water and ice in the bucket, the bottle would have been there a half hour before it cooled down.

Finally, the waiter came over to pour. The first pour indicated there would be some sediment in the wine. Yet he never offered to decant it, even though we saw candles and decanters nearby. I guess they were just for show.

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The wine service here has its obvious pluses: there is a wide list of older Italian wines, a good white wine by the glass (Colvini Pinot Grigio, $3.50), and a pretty decent list of California wines. The stemware is very attractive and the red wine bowls are some of the best I’ve yet seen in a restaurant in Los Angeles.

But it has its obvious minuses too. The wine experience is generally overpriced and very condescending. As dinner neared its conclusion I said to my companion, “I think I’m offended.”

“You mean by now you’re not sure?” she replied.


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