Anyone who has ever driven that stretch knows just one way is a bit of a haul. But to come and go in the same day is madness. There we were though, with full bellies, late at night and a little less than 300 miles to get home. At first it was no problem. We were energized from the meeting and recapping all we had talked about and what we were planning to do in the upcoming holiday selling season. Then around Salado, we started getting tired. There was an AM radio station that played old rhythm and blues and Motown hits from the 60’s. Eugenio lived in Chicago in that time and became a fan of the music, as foreign to him as Gianni Morandi or Rita Pavone was to most Americans then.
The cappuccino wasn’t the kind one finds at the Autogrill in Italy but it was caffeinated. It did the trick. We were out of range for the music station so Eugenio started telling me a story about one night he had in Tennessee.
“I had gone down to one of the cities, I think it was Nashville, because I had an Italian shirt importing company and wanted to go see some of my customers. This was around 1968. In one of the shops I had met this cute young lady, Leanne, who worked behind the counter. I asked her out for dinner at one of the restaurants in town where I had made acquaintance with the Italian owner. She was probably 21 or maybe 22, long dark hair, pretty eyes, a real Southern lass. She was as exotic to me as I was to her.”
“Being Italian I naturally ordered a bottle of Italian wine. There weren’t that many choices in those days, but I found a nice bottle of Bardolino, the kind that used to come in a wicker basket. It was fresh enough and my date thought the bottle was cute. ‘You can take the bottle home as a souvenir if you like, put a candle in it. Something to remember this evening by,” I told her. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t, my daddy wouldn’t approve of me drinking alcohol.’ I guess it was the ‘60’s but this little gal was out on the town and wasn’t going to miss anything life had to offer her.”
“The evening went well, really well, and we finished dinner about 8PM. People ate real early in those towns normally and the restaurants would close up. So we had a few hours. The wine, I must admit we had two bottles; after all it was just Bardolino. Like I was saying the wine had an effect and before I knew it she was suggesting we go back to my hotel room and listen to some music.”
As we were sighting the city lights of Dallas in the near distance, Eugenio wrapped up the story in as few as words as I have ever heard him wrap anything up. “It just goes to show you, Alfonso, never underestimate the power of Italian wine. Even a shy little wine like Bardolino can coax a Baptist preacher's daughter into losing her Band-Aids.”
written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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