A Request Not To Be RefusedSunday, May 28, 2006
When Tony called me to ask me (in a New Jersey accent) to find a place quiet and private to meet with four guys, I knew I could not refuse.
I discovered the cellar of the Hamilton Street restaurant, Villa de Lupo (originally a house built in 1903), some years ago when Marc Destrubé the director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and I were shown to our table. The sound system was piping Antoni Vivaldi's Four Seasons - one of my musical pet peeves in restaurants - so I asked our waiter for a table without music. He led us downstairs.
Villa del Lupo's cellar is a real cellar, with shelved wine bottles surrounding the long oak table. The overhead roof is almost claustrophobically low. When the waiter closed the thick door behind him we were in a soundproof room, almost like a cell.
So when Anthony DePalma, the 1998 Canadian correspondent for the New York Times, called me with his odd request I knew just the room. The "four guys" turned out to be the touring members of the Newfoundland band, Great Big Sea.
As we six entered the wine cellar DePalma bowed his head to duck the beams that run the length of the 1.75-metre-high ceiling. The thick door was closed behind us. "Perfect," proclaimed DePalma.
Great Big Sea did not eat. On the New York Times's tab they drank single malt Scotch all evening. DePalma, a professional journalist of the highest standard, was not tempted by the Nonino's on the restaurant's special grappa list.