There’s this place on Rodriguez Pena, near Santa Fe, that I have walked by almost every day for 7 months now on my way home after multiple hours of pumping iron and flexing my glutes at (!!!)MEGATLON(!!!). This story is not about La Chuleta (whose locro I still need to try), El Salto de las Ranas (which I’ve heard from real live Mexicans is a horrible imitation with crappy burritos and overpriced margaritas) or Dody (God bless…). I’m talking about Rigoletto Cafe, that prim little Italian-enoteca-style wine bar and restaurant one block away. As I am still searching for the low-key, wine-bar with small plate snacks and no neon lights to go to a friend with on a Wednesday night when I want to treat myself special (kind of like what Coppa would have become for me if I had stayed in Boston long enough to appreciate it), I had been thinking about this place, wondering if it would fit the bill. It looks cool from the outside, is pretty close to my house and always seems to be full, but not packed. So when an old friend asked me to pick a venue to catch each other up on our lives in, I finally took the initiative and texted her “Rod P. 1291. Wine Place. Rigo-something.”
The vibe of the place was exactly as I expected it to be after the countless times I’ve peeked in through the window. Tiny tables very close together, cozy booths lining the walls, liberatingly high ceiling, alternating black-and-white square tiles below your feet, elegantly set tables, dusty wine display behind a beautiful wooden bar. People leaning in across the table to speak in hushed tones, wine glasses clinking against plates, busy, bow-tied waiters rushing around with bread-baskets and sides. The host greeted us warmly and waved us to a small table in the center of the room.
It was the first seriously cold night I’ve gone out in pretty much since December in Boston so I didn’t hesitate to order a red, in this case a San Felipe Malbec 2010 which, considering it was $38 pesos for a 350 cc bottle, was hideously overpriced. Nevertheless, it hit the spot and warmed me up, not to mention the fact that it went perfectly with the earthy little snack I ordered, the Bruschetta ai Funghi. The latter consisted of two crispy spears of grilled focaccia crossing each other elegantly on the plate, topped with a generous amount of warm, tender button mushrooms sauteed in good olive oil with plenty of dried herbs, cracked black pepper and garlic. Again, a bit overpriced for the size and for the fact that there was only one type of mushroom in the topping (I was expecting some kind of forest mushroom blend), but it was perfectly prepared and exactly what I wanted in the moment.
I will be coming back here every once in a while. Not because the food is sensational or because the wine list is abounding with appropriately priced stuff I’ve never tried before (far from it…), but because the place has a vibe, a warmth. It is beautiful and I feel beautiful in it.