La Tavola’s proprietor serves up romantic music on a platterIf you’ve dined at Itaewon’s premier restaurant La Tavola more than a couple of times you know that the best part of the experience ― besides the hot pizza and waitresses ― is when the Italian manager Antonio Patella takes to the in-restaurant piano and bangs out a tune or five. What you may not know, though, is that after you’ve had your pizza you can take a piece of him home with you.
Mr. Patella, who hails from Castellaneta, a town cupped by the heel of the Italian boot, recorded an album in 2002, “Un Amore Infinito,” that you can buy at his restaurant. The CD contains 13 delicious compositions, all cooked up by Mr. Patella himself.
If you were to box “Un Amore” in a genre, it would be New Age piano -―but with extra meat and extra sauce. That is, while the album does have a New Age quality, it won’t put you to sleep. The songs are infused with a stimulating story-telling quality; think generous helpings of drama and delight over a firm bed of sorrow.
The opening number, “Un Amour Infinie,” is as sumptuous as songs come. Its inspiration ― eternal love ― is described in the album’s liner notes as that which makes life beautiful, passionate, lonely and painful, but all in all worthwhile.
This columnist would argue that, when love’s scarce, a wee-hour tequila binge can also do the trick, and in a much more time-efficient manner. But hey ― this columnist grew up within drive-shot of Tijuana, Mexico, while the musician, though born in France, grew up just down the strada from the birthplace of Rudolph Valentino.
Other highlights on the CD include “SE,” probably the most powerful number, and “Mio Padre,” the most touching. Most of the compositions, like “Mio Padre,” were inspired by people close to Mr. Patella, and are accordingly charged with profound emotions.
Mr. Patella sits down at La Tavola’s piano just about every lunchtime and dinnertime for a run of four or five songs, once he gets a moment free from his managerial duties and judges the mood is right. Often he’s prompted by requests ― apart from “Un Amour,” the restaurant’s regulars tend to ask for “Nostalgia,” cut No. 12 on the album, an enchanting, soothing and romantic piece.
And that’s as it should be, because when you think of the best local place to take a date for a relaxing or romantic dinner, La Tavola is the first restaurant that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s because at La Tavola you can get Philistine food ― pizza ― but sound culturally refined when you order it, by saying “margherita” instead of “cheese and tomato” or “ai funghi” instead of “mushroom.”
But you should think twice before you bring a date to La Tavola, on account of Mr. Patella being the snazziest dresser in town. Indeed, once your object of affection espies him all dandied up and making magic with the keys, she might just recognize you for the uncultured slob you are.
At that point, your only hope is to fork over the 15,000 won ($13) for Mr. Patella’s CD, and explain to your date that it counts as the Christmas present you meant to give her two weeks ago but forgot.
Then, if she tells you she’s suddenly tired and needs to say an early arrivederci, proceed to the tequila.
by Mike Ferrin