Steamer and I went to Buona Terra on California Avenue for dinner in one of those we've-walked-by-here-100-odd-times moves. Turns out it was a wise choice. Home-style but high-style, the exposed brick walls don't scream hipness too loudly; a tiny bar keeps it a place for eating (rather than emphasizing boozing) and our corner table made chatting over the chatter easy. Just European enough to fall on my list of winners (as a side note, I'm not an Italian fan, so that's a big deal) without making you forget you're in Chicago.
It was packed, but we got seated almost immediately, just after tasting the red we had ordered. (Conveniently, the bartender made a smooth and easy transition, waving us off with a pleasant promise to transfer the bottle to both our check and our table). Steamer wanted red, and when we saw the 2003 McManis Merlot on the menu at $25 a bottle, we pretty much blurted out our order.
That particular bottle is a favorite of mine. It's a steal, generally $10 a pop retail. It won the gold metal at 94 points in the California state fair. Still, I put my stock in taste rather than ribbons, but ribbons-wise, this seemed deserving of the gold medal for pie as well. A "fruit forward" wine, the first thing you taste is fruit, and lots of it, thanks to its heavy blueberry aroma.
Which perhaps wasn't the right pairing for our meal: a superb grilled wild boar sausage and risotto special and the veal-stuffed ravioli entree, which Steamer raved about. The meal was the star, and it's hard to give the wine such a backseat. I think I'd prefer it with a less complex dish, like roasted lamb or a rosemary-stuffed whole chicken. Still, our "when in doubt, order two" (bottles, that is) mantra guided the evening into tasty, tipsy splendor.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants.