By the time I was settled in my seat, our gracious server and the restaurant’s charming proprietor, Karim Alaoui, were hovering around the table. Asked if we’d like assistance with the wine list, I said, “I’d love something white that isn’t Chardonnay.” He took the challenge and asked me to trust him. Five minutes later, Alaoui poured a taste of Massolino Langhe Chardonnay 2012, a wine from the hilly area of Piedmont, close to where red giants such as Barolo and Barbaresco are produced. Too bad my food was less exhilarating. Calamari was undercooked but tolerable if you tossed it in the subtly spicy Thai-style chile sauce with jalapeños. Lemon walnut hummus with eggplant caviar, feta cheese, and black olives sounded exotic, but the pale mixture was almost tasteless. I picked a filet mignon salad and asked to have it lightly tossed. I was served a bowl of warm grilled romaine, avocado, tomato, and tender bites of medium-rare filet covered with thick lines of Caesar dressing squirted across the top by someone choking the life out of the squeeze bottle. Veal scaloppini was ruined by salt, so much of it I could see it glistening from across the table. Chef Mario Flores has impressed me in the past, and service is always well-mannered and sociable, but it’s going to take more than a sassy wine to lure me back.

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