September 29, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Pro as in secco

By |2018-03-21T19:03:43+01:00December 22nd, 2014|Food & Wine Archive|
Call me Heidi, she said. "From Switzerland."

ilan, a stone’s throw from the Duomo. He rolled in after dark, walked up and snorted. “You clean up good, Pescatore. Big date?”

“Pathologist,” I said. “There’s one more thing I need to check.”

“I thought you were done.”

“Just about.” I hadn’t even started. “Something to drink?”

“Prosecco,” said Johnny.

I showed the barman two fingers and turned back to my boss. “Autopsy report coming in tonight. Suicide, I hear.”

His face fell. “That’s all?”

The barman slid the glasses over the marble counter. I reached for mine, sniffed and took a sip. Blehh. Too sweet, and warm. Took the heat from the glass.

Johnny grabbed a handful of peanuts. “I thought you had an angle.”

I shrugged and shifted into headline mode: VATICAN BANKSTERS SNUFF SWISS FINANCIER.

“Not bad,” said Johnny. “Anything to it?”

“Not a chance,” I said. “Shot himself in the head.”

“Ouch.” He took a gulp of wine. “So who are you meeting?”

I set my glass on the counter and pushed it away. “I got a call from this doc, said she wanted to see me.”

“She?” Johnny jacked up his eyebrows. “That explains the shave.”

“And the tie,” I said. Red. Silk. Made me look good. I snuck a look in the mirror back of the bar, loosened the knot. And there she was.

Straight-out-of-Hollywood blonde, slinky, the voice all smoke. “One of you gentlemen Pescatore?”

I whirled to face her. Johnny slapped up a smile. “Piacere,” he said. “Call me Pete.”

She looked him over. “And I’m Beyoncé.” A soft smile.

“Right.” I grabbed him by the arm. “Johnny, Doctor Kirsch.”

“Call me Heidi,” she said. “From Switzerland.”

“My boss was just leaving.” I gave him a little shove toward the door. “He has a date with his wife.”

Johnny scowled and jabbed a finger at my chest. “You’re on deadline, Pescatore. Midnight.” He walked out.

I was sure she could feel my eyes on her, taking her in, humming along her borderlines, drifting and sliding around her curves. I tore myself away and turned to the barkeep. “Prosesso,” I said. “And make it a good one.”

Prego?” A smirk on his lips. “Pro-?” He launched a hand toward the ice bucket.

“Not that one,” I said, the heat rising in my face. “Gimme the real thing.”

A long arm reached under the counter, pulled open a fridge.

“You mind?” I took the bottle in hand. Chilled. Borgoluna. Prosecco DOC. Brut. “Va bene.”

She had eyes on me now, looking me over. Up. Down. She turned to the barman, flicked a nod in my direction and said, “I’ll have what he’s having.”

And we took it from there. One sip, two. Perfect. “Tell me about this wine,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

“I couldn’t agree more. Crisp, dry, light-hearted. One of Italy’s finer achievements.”

“It feels French, like Champagne.”

“Different process,” I said. “Fermented a second time in high-pressure vats, a method invented not by Charmat, but by an Italian, Federico Martinotti.”

“You’re a fount of wine wisdom, Mr. Pescatore.”

“Thanks.” I sent a hand to my tie, adjusted the knot. “Can I tempt you with another glass? It gets better. Better than Champagne.”

She thought about it. “Don’t you have a deadline?”

“What deadline? Let’s go.”

I led the doc out into the night. A tram rattled by, draped with sparkling strings of light. It put a smile on my face — I felt that way, too.

We had another glass in the Galleria, the high-gloss heart of Milan. I ordered a DOCG from Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Prosecco territory north of Venice. “Man,” I said. “Try this in New York-at the first sip you’re in Italy, and by the last you swear you’ll never leave.”

A sigh from Heidi. “I’m sorry, Pete, but I didn’t come here to talk about wine.” The sparkle in her eyes was gone. “The man shot in the head? I found water in the lungs. He was already dead.”

Next morning I found Johnny at his desk, smoke curling up around his ears. “You’re late, Pescatore. Pop your cork?”

“I wish. The good news is, it wasn’t suicide.”

His eyes lit up. “And the bad?”

I shrugged. “He drowned. It wasn’t murder, Johnny.”

“They always say that.” And then he rapped out a line on the old Olivetti: VATICAN ZOMBIES DROWN MOB MONEY MAN.

The first glass of prosecco wasn’t worthy of the name. The second was a Borgoluna Prosecco DOC Brut. The third, superb, was from the house of Andreola: “Dirupo” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut. In 2012, for the first time, Italy sold more Prosecco than France did Champagne. To Gualtiero Marchesi goes credit for the line: Al primo sorso sei in Italia, all’ultimo vorresti restarci — roughly, your first sip is in Italy, after which you don’t want to leave.

About the Author:

Pete Pescatore is the alter ego of a Milan-based American crime writer whose eponymous column ran for between 2014 and 2015. His novel is is "Suicide Italian Style".