Tuesday, June 30, 2009
D'Amico Cucina: The second-to-last night
When: Friday, June 26, 2009 • Where: D'Amico Cucina, Butler Square
A few years back I took HH to D'Amico Cucina for his birthday. Last Friday's repeat performance was tinged with nostalgia. The fabled Italian restaurant would close the next day, a casualty of changing economic times, the proximity of the new Twins stadium, and various traffic and parking woes.
It's not that the company is failing--D'Amico and Partners owns Cafe and Bar Lurcat, all of the D'Amico & Sons restaurants, Campiello (although the one in Minneapolis has closed, there are others in Eden Prairie and in Naples, Florida for snowbirds), and Masa, the gourmet Mexican restaurant on Nicollet Mall. The closing is "proactive" and it's rumored that Cucina might relocate.
But the original location was special. It was beautiful, comfortable, and the food and service were amazing. It was also, for 22 years, a sophisticated jazz venue on the weekends and a constant gig for many area musicians. Think Bobby Short at the Carlisle in New York City.
The regulars came out on Friday, and many friends. We sat at the bar, where the music was. Adam Linz and Luke Polipnick were at the other end. Jeremy and Marsha Walker showed up. Benny Weinbeck was on piano, Gordy Johnson on bass, JT Bates on drums. The players changed throughout the evening: Adam briefly took over for Gordy, Phil Hey replaced JT, Tommy O'Donnell sat in for Benny. Scott Fultz brought his saxophone, Benny's brother Henry his cornet, and for a time it was a quintet.
From where we were sitting, we could see the musicians, and while they spent most of the evening playing, there were breaks when they stood and talked together, handsome men in suits and ties, class acts in a classy place. We ate ahi tuna and veal in a sauce and perfect seared scallops, lobster gnocchi and tiny green beens, beef tenderloin and chocolate. The place was packed, the bartenders worked at hyperspeed, it was noisy but fun. The music—classics, standards, swinging and sweet, the kind you can turn to and focus on, then turn away from to toast and kiss your husband, yet you're still hearing it and it's shaping your mood and making your wine taste even better—the music went on and on and then it stopped.
Photos by John Whiting. Top to bottom: Benny Weinbeck; Gordy Johnson; Phil, Gordy, Benny, Scott, Henry; Henry Weinbeck.