When I start to write I want to feel a “yumminess” start to awaken me, trying to coax a story out. I do not sit down with a pen and look at the wall waiting for inspiration. Instead, I breathe in my surroundings, and exhale the thing that tickles me most. When writing about my amazing city, I do it much the same way. If something makes an impression on me, pretty soon, it’s ink spilled all over paper.
This week I could not stop thinking about Vincenzo’s Ristorente and Bistro in downtown Asheville. The first time I ate there was ten years ago when I was only 17. A prom date I soon regretted had taken me there, and at 17 I had no idea the taste of Northern Italy I was about to experience (nor the dose of culture). However, I do remember when I visited the real Italy only a few months later that something in Florence took me back to that pre-prom meal, which was the only good thing my date did that May evening.
I didn’t return for several years until one of girlfriends planned a special bachelorette evening for me the weekend before my wedding. I wish I could remember the name of the server who flattered me when he said every man on Earth would be crying on my wedding day. This is the kind of service women should receive everywhere in town, but I digress. On top of the service, I noticed things I had failed to as a prom-bound teenager, and it was more than just the wine list (which of course is phenomenal). It was the old world charm Asheville is so famous for touting on our rather young side of the pond. Certain parts of this city simply make the best eras stand still, and somehow Vincenzo’s captures more than one of them. First of all, there was the art-deco building that the little trattoria sits in…it was one of the casualties of poverty that left us one of our many pieces of architectural art in town. Moreover, there was a sound pulling me even closer to the jazz age…oh, that may have been the jazz music permeating out of the building. My guess is it was, and it was a smooth, smoky, almost tangible brand of jazz. It was the kind that ushers you right into its arms, clothing you in the cloth of a decade dedicated to music at it’s finest, where instruments and voices where explored and navigated through, only opening doors for what would later become a revolution…yeah I wore it that night, and whatever it was invaded me, and I dug it. Still, it took me a few years to make it back again. It was like the restaurant and I had become long lost lovers, passing in the night only ever so often…but tender are those nights we pass.
My latest venture there was just over a month ago for an old friend’s engagement party. I couldn’t wait. For one, I was still haunted by the ambiance, and two I wanted a reason to wear my new cocktail dress. Really, I wanted to feel fabulous and fussed over. We all did.
This time there was a different feel to restaurant. It was raining outside, and we’d had some unseasonably cool weather for the last few days of August. However, it was summer and still humid. There was a steam floating about the streets, and an eeriness in the air. It was a delicious eeriness however, a cozy one that made me curious.
We sat down at the picturesque table, and I noticed that vibrant drapes that didn’t take me just decades back, but centuries. The décor really looks like the Baroque Era in Europe got in a fight with 1920s America, but it works together harmoniously. I found myself noting ideas for my own writing room. It was yummy.
Still, I felt spooky tonight…maybe because it was later than usual, or maybe because of the cool rain. I didn’t know.
I asked the waiter, “tell me, is there a history to this building?”
“Ohhh yes,” replied the waiter, “it’s said to be haunted. During the Spanish Flu epidemic (in which Asheville lost 25% of the adult population) it was a furniture store that had its basement made into the mortuary when the hospital ran out of room.”
“Yum,” I responded.
I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but now I had a story. Suddenly the spirits in the basement gave this place a heartbeat. The final puzzle piece had come for me: the history. That’s the bone marrow of the things I love. I recommend Vincenzo’s to anyone. It is a great place to eat, drink, socialize, hear music, wear a cocktail dress for sport, and soak in the deliciousness of Asheville at its finest. It’s history, mystery, romance, and wine. It’s the perfect date spot, or place to sit mysteriously in fedora by yourself. Just eat there. Do it as a group, a couple, or individual, but however you do it, give yourself to it completely and become yummy alongside of it.
Photo above: My girlfriends and I standing in front of the mood-lit table and old-fashioned windows just before I ordered the 007-Bombay with a twist. Shaken, not stirred of course.