Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico

Lorenzo's Trattoria, 1933 Edwards Avenue, 314-773-2223.

Jul 5, 2006 at 4:00 am
The Veneto region of northern Italy is shaped like a baby duck, the northern tip being the bald, beady-eyed head, Venice the belly, Verona its rear end and Taglio di Po its webbed feet. In this bird's belly, and pumping through its veins, is prosecco, glorious prosecco — specifically, Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico D.O.C. NV. The Veneto birdie's beak kisses Austria, occasionally burps carbon dioxide across the border onto Grossglockner Mountain, and we've carried this simile far enough.

We're at Lorenzo's Trattoria on the Hill, nestled in a corner. Two flutes of prosecco sit on our table. We're toasting the three little bunnies that are hanging out in the crabgrass across the street. Here's to wind-sprints across vacant lots!

There's some sort of old people's convention going on in the other room. Raise a glass to them, as well! Average age: 67. Average age in our dining room: 58. Notable exception: skater-Deadhead looking totally bummed to be out with his mom, two aunts and grandma. All five of them have the exact same nose. He's wearing a frown, and a T-shirt that says "Bob Marley, Rastafarian."

The people here are eating "rustic" Italian food — a.k.a. vittles di northern Italy. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, they serve "fine" Italian food, with stewed tomatoes, sirloin steak and extra virgin olive oil. Other restaurants in the vicinity offer "hoosier" Italian food: pureed, sugary red sauce and creamy asparagus fettuccini, sponge bread, Country Crock and cheap Chianti.

With its emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce and simplicity, we tend to like the rustic stuff the best. On this visit to Lorenzo's, however, the staff's having a rough night. Service has ground to a halt, as though the kitchen went on strike after the insalata. The tables surrounding us complain, and are given free glasses of wine. We keep our mouth shut — or, actually, plug it with prosecco. We don't feel like ruffling feathers. It's summer, and we're all a little slow. Why can't servers have off nights, as well?

We're particularly forgiving when drinking prosecco. When the food arrives — a bowl of pearly potato-leek soup, and chicken-stuffed ravioli sautéed with fresh asparagus in a white-wine reduction — all frustration disappears.

A few weeks ago Eric Asimov, ace booze columnist for the New York Times, surveyed 25 proseccos. He and his compadres tasted the cheap and not-so, the bland and the vibrant. Some of the proseccos in his analysis were, more precisely, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene — the designation given to those grown in the white grape variety's native Veneto region. Others were simply, prosecco: made with at least 75 percent of the grape.

One of his favorites appears on Lorenzo's wine list: Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico, an inexpensive Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. It rolls across the tongue and down the gullet with ease, like water off a duck's back. It's light without being invisible, as explosive as a million microscopic Roman candles, with hints of both green apple and a touch of cream. In a word: choice. A few glasses will eclipse any restaurant quackery, will make dinner with Grandma and Mom a joyous celebration, will reveal the promise within all of nature's creations, from prosecco rootstock to naked duckies to skater-Deadheads, that they shall mature into (tolerant, forgiving) adults.