can you guess what this is? probably hard to tell without looking at the full sized pic, but it's a display of assorted sets of fake nails!
we have a free weekly suburban paper - there's not much of it that i actually read, but i do usually flick through it scanning for local community information. and mentions of local eateries. cucina of italy was one of these eateries i saw, and it was the dining destination for this evening. it was at the entrance that i spotted these nails, which actually belongs to the beauty shop next door.
i figured i'd kill a few birds with one stone by combining a desire to try out this restaurant, with the desire to take a few soon-to- depart friends out for dinner. i'm glad i made a booking because when i first walked in (and the entrance is a bit disorienting because you have to go past the take-away counter and the kitchen before you really see the tables etc in the restaurant proper, so i was momentarily confused if maybe i had missed the main entrance) the place was pretty much at full capacity. it had a real buzz about it though, a good sign that it's a "happening" joint. the decor looked smart, perhaps helped by the Christmas decorations and the lighting effects - you can see a sample of the result in this next picture, where the wall on the left serves as the canvas for the ever-changing display of colours and shapes/patterns from ceiling mounted light machines.
i quite like this photo. yoonta was sitting across from me and i wanted to capture the table flowers looking along the wall. the distance is perhaps too great to really notice the flowers from the tables behind her, but the colours go well and the foreground flowers are nicely out of focus - my digicam doesn't provide any depth of field control so i couldn't really get a more exaggerated effect.
the food was nice and quite filling, though IMHO a bit on the pricey side at an average of over $20 per head for mains alone - no drinks, entrees or desserts (speaking of which, i find it hard to accept how one of the dessert choices, which looked from the description to be no more than a glorified ice-cream sundae type affair, can be worth almost $12, no matter how good it may taste). we decided to share our meals so that we could maximise our tasting opportunities. first up was a "feed the man" pizza, then (about 50 minutes after the pizza was served) our 3 pastas: the penne romana, linguine con gamberi, and tagliatelle con pollo somethingorother. my favourite was the third dish, whose full name i couldn't remember - there's a menu on their website, but it's not exactly the same as the one we saw in the restaurant itself.
[as a bit of a side note, while i was checking the names of the dishes, i saw that the website has the tubular pasta dish listed as a rigatoni romana, whereas i'm sure we ordered a penne romana. not being well versed in things pasta, i tried surfing to see what the difference was. after doing some brief checking (see the list of pasta at wikipedia) think what we had was the penne... but i digress (from this digression). while surfing for an answer i came across this totally wacky paper on how Penne Rigate will spontaneously insert itself into Rigatoni (order pasta) under liquid to gas transition conditions of H2O to create the previously unobserved species Noodleous doubleous!!! how weird is that? lol. and that page then led me to discover the DHMO.org, website of the DiHydrogen MonOxide research division. if you don't know what dhmo is, you'd better find out, read the FAQ, and maybe even check out the material safety data sheet, cos your life very well depends on it! ahhh dearie me, some people have too much time on their hands :p]
ok so back to cucina... actually the main reason i was attracted to this venue was that they had a piano bar. italian restaurants are a dime a dozen, but how many of them have a grand piano in it?? it's a nice hook, and one that convinced me to check it out. the website says it only plays friday and saturday nights from 10pm till late (up to 2am??), but the music was already flowing when we got there at 7:30pm - maybe because they had a full house? most of it music actually came from the keyboard/synthesizer rather than the piano though, and i for one would have preferred pure piano for the classier effect and feel. still, it was a positive contribution to the ambiance of the place, though i was a bit disappointed on two other points. firstly, i had the image of a slightly separate area of the venue dedicated to this "piano bar" area, but in reality it's right next to the dining area and the only seating in this section is a sofa that could fit 3, maybe 4 people. and that right next to the piano... i'd feel a bit too up close and personal an arrangement to be sitting, enjoying the music, and having a bit of a chat with the pianist a mere 2m away! secondly, we tried to request some songs without success. tekken suggested on bended knee by boys II men - i was doubtful whether the pianist would know it, and my doubt proved right. i thought we'd have better luck with some of the older artists, and tried "anything by lionel richie, elton john or phil collins" as our round two offer, but he didn't know any of them either! oh well... it was still a nice night out where we chilled and chatted, including some discussions on my recent post about the down syndrome detection test article (tekken being a known reader of this blog - *waves hello*), enjoyed some good food in an agreeable venue, took some silly photos (more pics available on my msn space album), got some free lollipops on our way out, and even had the owner take a group shot of us with the piano bar dude :)
so, will i be back? i don't know... i guess if i want "sophisticated yet affordable" (their own words) it's a venue i'd consider, but while i had a pleasant time there on my first visit, i don't think it makes in into my list for "must eat here again" places. still, it's probably worth checking out at least once if you've never been before, and i'm not against the idea of coming back at a later stage to see if the piano bar thing has taken off any... maybe as an after-dinner/supper-y type of thing. we'll see...