Thursday, October 28, 2010

Itaalia Köök

The following is an excerpt from Streets of Tartu. Read it like they talk in the Big Apple.

It was a case of mistaken identity. It usually is. You get the job—find someone or something—you take the money ‘cause you need it for alimony, and the rest is up to you. You, alone, on the streets of Tartu. When the broad walked into my office, I knew those legs would be trouble. She wanted noodles. The Italian variety. And she was willing to pay double. I didn’t tell her I was Norwegian, and hoped my blue eyes wouldn’t tip her off.

The choices were simple. La Dolce Vita had already been taken care of. All that was left was a little joint on Gildi Street called Itaalia Köök. Köök means kitchen or cuisine, depending on what neighborhood you’re from. The owner is from the neighborhood where it means “restaurant”. At least that’s what the menu said. But how could the menu know? The cover was in the language of love. I guess “dauphins” is French for Italian. But I don’t know. I skipped that class in detective school. For all I knew, it could be a wine region.

On the street it looked like the right place. The rusted metal was a big clue. I had to pull the dame away from the wall so she wouldn’t rip her pantyhose. It was ten to noon—lunchtime. They didn’t have a page on the web, just an angry comment on a site called Tartu In Your Pocket. It said they opened at eleven. The door said something else. Twelve. We had ten minutes to kill. How was I supposed to keep her busy till then?

The joint opened on time. Gotta’ give ‘em credit for that. We were the first ones in. Sitting down, the seashell curtains made my skin crawl. One seashell for every victim? A nice blonde broad named Krista gave us some menus, but I already talked about that. Inside though, I knew it was a case of mistaken identity. And not just because of the name. Names. I wanted beef, but the beef in yoghurt said it had maple syrup too, but not in my language. So I got the classic, the osso bucco. Veal legs. I like baby cow. Something about the flavor. It was a mistake. The Estonian said it was beef. That’s not a baby cow. That’s an adult cow. And from the taste of it, I’d say it was an elderly dairy cow. Not a cattle cow. Probably from the meat market. Probably had no papers. My butcher has better meat hanging in his locker. He can get papers for anything.

Krista was real nice. She could see we had trouble with the menu. She asked if she could recommend something, but I knew what I wanted, and so did my client. She got the pasta with chicken and chanterelles. Now that’s classy. She knows her stuff. She just couldn’t finish it. She gave me a bite. I knew that taste. I’d had it before. Mushroom bouillon cubes. Made by Knorr®.

But my problem with my grub was that I know osso bucco. It’s veal, a white wine braise. I doubt it was originally served with gigantic potatoes baked and fried and overcooked and all that mumbo jumbo that local menus like to go on about. But the joint was packed. People know what they want, what they like. Not a single uomo in this place had hair, and it wasn’t ‘cause the garden was dried up, if you know what I mean. I shoulda’ followed my instincts. I knew those legs would be trouble. I just didn’t know which legs.

The bruschetta though, that was a real doozy. Don’t get me wrong, it was served in about five minutes. And, it was served before the main food. But Krista, bless her soul, asked us, “For two, right?” I nodded. I don’t gotta’ say it’s just for me when I’m sittin’ with a classy broad. She knows what to do. We got three pieces. For two people. I guess she was hoping for one of those Lady and the Tramp moments. We both eat the same piece and end up smooching. Like I said, my client wanted noodles.

But the bread, I knew that taste again. It was from Selver, those cute little buns made of flour so bleached you can taste the chlorine in it. But I wanted my client to see my soft side. I bought her a dessert. A tiramisu. It was the best part of the meal. The cakey bit was the premade cake you can buy in a Selver as well. The ones in the plastic. The sweets tasted like vanilla pudding from a tube, but it was good. She knew I’d take care of her if things got dicey.

That’s when she said I’d failed. I hadn’t done my job. This wasn’t Italian. Like I said, it was a case of mistaken identity. They’d pulled one over on me. What I thought was Italian wasn’t. It was processed Dutch. But we didn’t go Dutch. No, I had to pay for this stuff. I’d have to let my associates know in the city. And once that happened, I knew I couldn’t let this dame come back here alone. Not that she’d want to. But still, it wouldn’t be safe for her health.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"They didn't have a page on the web. Just an angry comment."

F-ing hilarious, Mingus!

tartumaaponderings said...

Mingus,

I've given up on finding a decent restaurant in Tartu. It doesn't matter what they call themselves.

Except Vilde, of course. And Gruusia saatkond. Call me crazy. They could call themselves whatever they want, I'd still eat there.

Anonymous said...

Another good read!

Marika said...

I've never eaten here, and now I don't think I ever will. Why bother when La Dolce Vita is right there?

Anonymous said...

that's not an italian restaurant...
la dolce vita is far better and it's truly italian!

Ragne said...

Yes, if you go to Itaalia Köök to get authentic Italian food, you're in for major disappointment. La Dolce Vita IS way better, though at times they are also passing off questionable stuff as "real Italian food". But, some dishes in Itaalia Köök are pretty good. I haven't been there for more than a year already, but they used to have a nice spicy tomato soup and some main dishes were also pretty nice. Nothing to do with Italian food, but quite tasty nonetheless. Even with Selver ingredients in them :). On the other hand, the pasta dishes were usually quite gross and salads more and less the same. They use to have two different kitchen teams working and one was clearly fond of excessive salt, you always had to ask which team was on duty before ordering ..

Giustino said...

The guys at La Dolce Vita are northern Italians. I ate at Itaalia Köök once, with similar experiences ...

Anonymous said...

Hey Mingus! I miss your posts :( Have you eaten anywhere else lately?

Mingus said...

Hi Anonymous, I've been on a diet. I'll talk about my experiences in Ruunipizza in a couple days. Thanks for reading (and your patience while I get through this difficult time)!