The cold whistles through me as date night looms and as the day fades into darkness in-securities about my choice of restaurants dance on my mind. Our first date night, in what feels like months or maybe even years....to be honest I don't remember but it has been more then a minute; which, for us is too long. I finish work and put on my old hockey t-shirt (I'm still me after all), a nice sweater and rush out.....I rush back in grab my credit card and phone and again I rush out. As with most Chefs the clock is always an enemy, we battle it constantly ensuring that the food goes out when expected, that the food cools quickly enough to not poison the guests, the sense of anticipation when we are close to closing the kitchen, then the dread as the guest arrives just a minute before the kitchen closes or when orders for whatever reason become messed up and food is being sent back, seconds become hours and soon we are in the weeds, with no rescue boat. Time. So for me being late is like volunteering to be in the weeds, anxiety and sweat march across my brow at the mere thought of it.
I was running late. I run down the steps of the U Bahn (subway) and dash off towards the train. A blast of heat and bodily smells greet me as I step onto the train and take my place, squeezed between several people staring at shiny blinking things on their cell phones. I notice as a fellow passenger places their transit ticket into their front pocket and I freeze. I had forgotten my ticket at home...fear grips me and I wonder if I should get off of the U Bahn and buy a ticket or if I should just continue.
The power of time. Fearing more of being late then of getting a hefty penalty for riding the subway without a ticket, I persevere. Cramps hit me, as the stations come and go, dreading the idea of being caught and wondering how late I would be if I was caught. I arrive at Zoologischer Garten, a crazy busy stop and in a half run, distance myself from the U Bahn station and the many people waiting for something. I arrive to my wife's job and look at my phone for the time, 30 minutes early. Sweat forms at my brow as I catch my breath and I think 'oh didn't take long.' Shit.
I step inside of the yoga studio with the sweat now breaching my eyebrows and falling down my cheeks. 'Is it raining' are the first words I hear from her as she looks at me. Instantly my cheeks flush with crimson, date night wasn't starting off all the good. She says goodbye to her colleges and we start to walk down the road to Savignyplatz. We arrive at the Italian restaurant I had seen online only to realize there are no cosy seats, no candle light or tablecloths, just four long tables tightly squeezed into a very small space. Not a romantic restaurant. So far I am not doing well on this date night.
Remembering a well reviewed Indian restaurant not far, we walk to it and look at the menu and decor. Neither of which speak to us nor does it feel romantic. In truth, there are so many Indian restaurants in Berlin and so many amazing Indian restaurants that one that doesn't offer much in terms of vegetarian food isn't really ever going to be attractive for us. So we turn around again and head back to Savignyplatz.
I see a sign for a restaurant, Dicke Wirtin. Amused and curious as Dicke Wirtin means fat landlady, I had to check it out. I drag my wife along as we look at the amazing-ness of Dicke Wirtin a very old and traditional German restaurant. Not being a fan of schupfnudeln (very traditional) we passed. My wife peaks down the street as I stare inside of the restaurant with amazement. She sees a tiny sign and some cute decor and we walk towards it.
Mamma Monti. Carmerstrasse 11 at Savignyplatz.
An Italian restaurant with candles and table clothes. Date night was picking up. We looked at the menu and were pleasantly surprised a whole vegan section and many more vegetarian items. This was it. We had found our spot. We entire and are immediately greeted with a happy waiter who mention there is also tables in the back. We sit, the waiter lights the candles and offers to take our coats. The decor while nice wasn't over done, with displays ranging from a wine glass hanging on the wall announcing the wine of the month to various pasta and their matching names glued to a black board. We order two wines from the special board and settle in. The drinks come quickly and are fantastic. This night was turning into a great night. We pick the a couple of items from the menu.
In house made, Gnocchi with almond rucola pesto and goat cheese with honey and In house made Agnolotti with goat cheese and a red beet in orange butter sauce.
As we cut into the beautiful looking food and brought the first bites to our lips, the simple joy of eating transcends us. Lost in the moment, each bite ensuring that the previous one hadn't lied to us, we silently enjoy each drizzle and moment. The Gnocchi cooked perfectly and loaded with flavor, the rucola adding a peppery bite while the goat cheese adds a rich creaminess that the pesto cuts through and adding the needed nutty salty bite to the dish. Balanced in every way. Delicate flavoring, with nothing overpowering but all flavors offering a distinction and an importance that compliment each other well.
The Agnolotti was for me the true star (my wives favorite was the Gnocchi). Flavorful pasta, cooked perfectly and stuffed with goat cheese covered with a revelation. If you would have asked me before, I would have argued loudly and proudly that beets and pasta don't work. Nope, wouldn't even consider it but when I saw it on the menu I was intrigued. The pasta was loaded with goat cheese and the sweet and slightly thickened sauce being the perfect compliment for the creaminess of the goat cheese. The pasta offering a perfect vehicle for the both the cheese and the sauce, this dish was far too soon gone. Simply put f'n amazing.
We push back and relax at the table completely satisfied and content. Coffee comes as does another glass of slightly pepper wine, both fantastic.
This is what going out for food should be about. Great, friendly staff with mind boggling food and a sense of happiness and a feeling totally being content. Date night as it turned out was perfect. Thanks in no small part to the people of Restorante Mamma Monti and of course an amazing wife!