Because I have a wonderful husband who knows what I like (and also because I specifically asked for it), I got to eat at Ristorante Bergamo for my birthday dinner. We didn't get to go on my actual birthday since it was a Sunday this year, but we did get to have a lovely date night at my favorite place with my favorite person (and my favorite waitress.)
Ristorante Bergamo (or just Bergamo's as we call it) is a small Northern Italian restaurant in downtown Greenville. It has been open since 1986, and we're hoping it stays around for many years to come. Chef Nello owns the place and even grows his own herbs. The food is amazing, and you won't find any spaghetti or garlic bread anywhere!
We first visited Bergamo's quite a few years ago (five or six, at least), and it quickly became our favorite place. In fact, we used to eat there so much that we started being considered regulars. (A status we still hold despite our less than regular attendence since expensive milestones like buying a house or me quitting my job to finish my degree.) When we go there, they know us by name. Our favorite waitress, Tanya, knows how I love the risotto and always brings me honey for my Earl Grey without my asking. She even knows what kind of wine I like (not that that matters these days.)
My favorite part about Bergamo's (aside from the food, obviously) is the atmosphere. I don't feel like I'm in Greenville anymore when I'm there. I'm in some big city eating at some trendy, little hole-in-the-wall, like one of those uber-hip travel show hosts. (Okay, I secretly have a thing for Anthony Bourdain.) But seriously, it's a place that transcends location.
So Saturday brought Steve and I there for dinner. We requested to be seated in Tanya's section (which they kindly obliged), and then we proceeded to eat ourselves into a delicious stupor. We learned a long time ago not to eat much for breakfast or lunch on Bergamo days, and we had followed that pattern on Saturday. I was postively ravenous when they brought out the bread and olives. I must have 3 or 4 pieces of bread soaked in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and at least 6 olives. I did finally slow down on the bread, though. I've learned over the years of visits to pace myself.
When Tanya came to take our order (there is small set menu and everything else changes daily), I was disappointed to learn that the risotto of the day (or Risotto del Giorno) had quail in it. Since I have to avoid wild game during my pregnancy, the risotto (my usual go-to dish) was out. My disappointment soon abated, however, when Tanya told me that they would fix the white truffle risotto for me if I wanted it. If I wanted it? Where else will they fix you something on the menu "just because"? Happy Birthday to me!
I ordered the risotto (of course), while Steve got the Stilton cheese salad with arugula and tomatoes and the fettucini con gamberi and arugula. The white truffle risotto was divine. I'll never understand what it is that Chef Nello does to make his risotto so perfectly creamy and delicious. My risotto at home, while far from inedible, comes nowhere near the culinary ecstasy that is his risotto. Steve's food was delicious, too. Part of the fun of Bergamo's is sampling each other's food. But I never regret the decision to order the white truffle risotto. Who knew something so closely akin to mushrooms could taste so good? I told Steve that it made me want to run home and reread A Year in Provence. (Different country, I know, but same truffle worship.)
Dinner was capped off by pistachio gelato (homemade) for me and strawberry and raspberry sorbets for Steve. I also had my standard Earl Grey and honey. It was the perfect end to a perfect ending. I told Steve that we can't wait so long to go back this time...even if we have to rob a gas station in Wellford to do it.
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