Piazza Di Vino 

When I was backpacking through Europe in college, like all red-blooded American youth, I enjoyed the outdoor cafes of France and Italy. It was a welcome respite to stop, drop the load off your back, enjoy some wine and a quick bite to eat. The small places were usually best, not too many tables for the waiter to get lost amongst, nor the kitchen to get overburdened. Piazza de Vino is like that. In a cozy place on 9th Street, with art all over the walls and a comfortable, intimate atmosphere. We met friends there the other night for a stop on our evening's journey, neither the beginning nor the end but a welcome waypoint.

At first glance, you notice local artists' works adorning the walls, a small wine bar, and some café-sized tables. Half expecting the need for a French or Italian translator, the prompt service from a polite waiter made all the difference in the world.

Beginning with a bottle of wine from a diverse but not overbearing menu and big wine glasses, we sorted through the food menu with the same qualities. Because we enjoy appetizer menus on our evening tours de Boise, it seemed the menu was customized for our favored method of mastication. We began with a scampi shrimp pizza, flavorful though it could have been hotter and perhaps a little crisper and bolder with more basil. I found the homemade crust tasty, but agreed with my appetizer acquaintances about the crispness. A spinach salad, (a big enough meal for two shared by five), loaded with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and bacon seemed to disappear before our eyes.

One of my restaurant assumptions is that when an establishment has a separate wine menu, they are experienced with how wine should be served. Bottles ordered should be shown to the person who ordered it, then tasted by the same individual. Once confirmed with a nod that would find its place in a fine art auction, the waiter circles the table to pour everyone else's glass starting with the ladies and finishing with the person who originally ordered the bottle. With every new bottle a fresh glass should be used. I look for these things and while I don't complain about faux pas made during the course of consuming a bottle of vino, I make a mental note of it. (You think I'm going somewhere with this don't you?) I am happy to say I came away with absolutely no mental notes regarding Piazzo di Vino's wine service. It was tops.

A second bottle of wine accompanied the appenzeller fondue, melted cheese in a bread bowl with apples, pears, toasted baguette slices and soft bread--great to munch on while discussing politics and religion, two subjects usually avoided in polite conversation. Our crowd lives dangerously. Emptied plates were cleared quickly and it was easy to leave when we decided to. It's not always easy to leave a place when the mood takes you. Our group moved on down the alley to another haunt, another stop on our journey for the night.

--Bingo Barnes begged his parents for a pet blowfish.

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