E&J VSOP Brandy

Luciano's Trattoria, 172 Carondolet Plaza, Clayton, 314-863-9969

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Some nights just don't work out, despite your best efforts. The lady's in a funk. You're in a funk. Luciano's is trying its hardest, yes, but neglects to mention on its menu that its house salad is a bowl of iceberg lettuce. The bread's as hard as your heart, and the eight-dollar glass of Chianti is beyond forgetful. Christmas parties in the bar area are admirably raucous, but this isn't J.Buck's. Luciano's, part of the Del Pietro clan's restaurant empire, is considered a nice restaurant. What's up with all the shrieking? A request from the pretty and sad lady across the table for a "funny story" turns into one about the time you came closest to killing yourself. Like the carpet at Luciano's in Clayton, the world is beige.

We opted for Luciano's because we'd heard okay things about it. Seems like Nelly's there nearly every night, which could be considered either a seal of approval or an alarm call. His tastes, as we all know, are somewhat suspect. But he's got the gravy to eat at the best places in town, so we figure we'll give it a go. It's supposed to be good. It's in Clayton.

Let's skip the meal, because Drink of the Week is a drinking concern, not a dining concern. But come on, iceberg is for losers. The Daffy Duck fettuccini is very tasty, though. The scallops, however, are sandy. Boo hoo hoo. How about a drink?

We've been urged by the Man Upstairs (a.k.a. our editor) to enjoy a snifter of brandy on this chilly night, and we obey. A nice glass of brandy on a December eve can be a perfect panacea for a big case of what doctors call The Bummers. Luciano's serves only one brandy and doesn't even list it on the dessert menu, which gives Drink of the Week pause. Are they hiding something?

Well, no, but they certainly aren't thinking about it, either. Luciano's serves the tier-two E&J brandy, VSOP, which stands for "very special old pale" and is a generic term used to describe a brandy (or its offspring, cognac) aged for no less than four years. E&J is made by the Gallos in California, and it's nothing to write home about, a nose-hair burner that arrives with a big gush of vanilla and Brazil nut, explodes in the mouth to such an extent that it's tempting to grab a candle and spit some fire to enliven the evening. We resist and sip the snifter 'til it's empty, then stay up all night with the worst case of insomnia we've had in years.

Is there a connection? Can't say. We can say, however, that E&J VSOP is a less-than-calming end to a troubling evening, one that we can't really blame on the restaurant, or the company, or the world. Blame it on The Bummers, nothing else, and try to move on from there.

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