Until he changed jobs a couple of months ago, my favorite architect (the one I'm married to) spent the better part of a decade flying to Washington, D.C. every week from our home in the midwest. Because he spent three days a week here in D.C., he knows just about every fine restaurant in the area. But for several years his favorite, not just for its northern Italian cuisine but for its congenial atmosphere, has been the moderately-priced Sergio's in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Here's a review from The Washingtonian Online.)
I've accompanied my husband to D.C. several times, and Sergio's is my favorite, as well. I have a mad crush on the owner, an affable Italian named Sergio Toni. All right, he's somewhere near my father's age, but I adore him even though I can't always understand his thickly-accented English.
After his business dinners in Washington, my husband would always phone home to chat with the boys and me. When he gave me course-by-course descriptions of the meals he had enjoyed, I always had to fight off jealousy. So I was more than a little amused when I learned that he had tried two or three times to order osso buco at Sergio's and was steered to other dishes because the osso buco wasn't, in Sergio's opinion, all that the very best osso buco should be.
"Why doesn't he just take it off the menu?" I asked one night.
"I think he lets some people order it," my husband said. "Just not me."
Sergio's a darling, but he is very much in charge. One evening I had my heart set on a square of his fabulous tiramisu. When he came to our table all smiles and asked if we cared for some dessert, I eagerly placed my order. At least, I tried to.
"No, " Sergio said. "Tonight you have the cannoli. So fresh!"
I told him I liked cannoli well enough, but it wasn't a favorite.
"I bring you the cannoli," he said, and he did. The crisp pastry melted in my mouth. The filling was as soft as clouds. Why had I doubted Sergio?
Since my husband is finished working in Washington, I don't know when we might see Sergio again. But if any of you are ever in the D.C. area, be sure to visit his wonderful ristorante. And don't bother with the menu. Trust Sergio to tell you what you want.