|Although on this visit there were no San Francisco mayors at Allegro Romano, there were plenty of people to meet and greet.|
|Photo from Allegro Romano|
Allegro Romano, a small Italian restaurant on San Francisco’s Russian Hill, is the setting for a key scene in The House of Mondavi. The restaurant was where Timothy Mondavi broke bread with two of the outside directors of the Robert Mondavi Corp. in an effort to convince them to oust the company’s non-family member CEO. His efforts backfired. Instead of convincing them to fire the executive, his campaign only fueled the directors’ growing conviction that Timothy, himself, was a loose cannon.
I’d never been to Allegro Romano until I was invited there last week by Judy Miner, president of Foothill College in Silicon Valley. I’d given a book talk as part of the Foothill Authors Series and Judy took me there afterwards, since it was one of her favorite neighborhood restaurants. The restaurant’s ebullient Italian owner, Lorenzo Logoreci, welcomed us to a table scattered with rose petals and confetti. “Bella,” he called Judy, greeting her warmly and referring to her as his first customer. (Logoreci and Fusae Castelluccio, both from Rome, bought the long-established restaurant about eight years ago.)
In the kind of coincidence that belongs in a Nora Ephron movie, a few minutes after we were seated we ran into the very person who’d first told me about Allegro Romano. Philip Greer, his wife Nancy Greer, and the famed brain UCSF brain surgeon Charlie Wilson (the subject of a New Yorker profile by Malcolm Gladwell) were seated at the table in the front window of the restaurant. It was Phil, a longtime director of Robert Mondavi Corp., who had first told me about the dinner he had had there in the spring of 2004 with Timothy and another director, Frank Farella. (Timothy Mondavi later shared his memory of that dinner with me, as well.)
Phil and Nancy are bi-coastal, with homes in Connecticut and San Francisco. A few days earlier, after arriving at their place in Russian Hill, Phil had called over to San Francisco’s Pacific-Union Club, where he is a member, and asked to attend a book discussion that was being held there May 21 about The House of Mondavi. But the event was sold out; he was told the club would be happy to add his name to the waiting list, in case a spot opened up. Despite Phil’s explanation that he knew quite a bit about what happened and should be permitted to join the group, he didn’t succeed in securing a spot.
My delight in seeing Phil and Nancy again was matched by bumping into another old friend in this tiny restaurant with only 45 seats – David Curran, with whom I went to high school, and his lovely mother Roma.
The meal Judy and I shared was delicious — starting with asparagus spears in an aged Pecorino and parmesan butter sauce, moving onto one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had – Fettucine al Tartufo Bianco (homemade fettucine in a white truffle sauce) – and capped off by a sublime tiramisu and small glass of port.
Lorenzo has hung photos of the many celebrities who’ve visited Allegro Romano over the years, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sophia Loren, and even Bob Dylan. For non-celebrities like me, Lorenzo confessed that he is name-challenged, and so simply calls most of the women, “Bella.” Grazie mille, Judy and Lorenzo, for the kind of evening that makes San Francisco so magical!
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