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Gino Campagna Headshot

The Theater of Food

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Abbot Kinney is the trendiest street in Los Angeles's west side and along this trendy street are a bunch of trendy restaurants, and it's at the trendiest of them all that I decided to have lunch some weeks ago with a couple of friends from Rome.

My friend Davide and his lovely wife own a restaurant in Rome, The Perfect Bun, where they cook Tex Mex in the heart of Rome. They claim to make the best hamburger in Europe.

My friends are citizens of the world and I thought that the Venice hot spot was the perfect place for lunch. The decor is absolutely fantastic and so is the clientele. We sat next to Elijah Wood and other Hollywood big shots.

The service was slow but who cares? We were having fun.

The pizza we ordered were a little too greasy for my taste but my italian friends seemed not to care too much. It's when I ordered the cheese plate that I went crazy.

I love charcuterie or cheese plates. Back where I come from -- Parma, Italy -- it's the thing to do. You sit outside and enjoy some nice Prosciutto or Parmigiano, sipping Prosecco... or at least that was the thing you did in Parma; nowadays when I visit everybody wants to take me out for sushi!

But back to the trendy Abbott Kinney restaurant. The cheese plate arrived to much fanfare. A small ceramic disc with four minuscule morsels of different cheeses, some honey, nuts....

The waiter sat the plate in the middle of the table and started declaring each cheese's history, the place it came from, the method of preparation. It all sounded amazing, wonderful, exciting....

I was not impressed by the size of the cheeses but I started tasting, expecting greatness in every bite. What I tasted was disappointing. Every cheese had the same flavor: none. if you had blindfolded me and fed me the little morsels, I would have thought you fed me the same cheese four times, and a bland cheese at that.

Why, oh why? I asked myself, spend so much time and effort presenting this plate if it tastes like nothing?

I call it the Theater Of Food and it's not a compliment. One time i was in an "Italian" restaurant in Brentwood, Calif., and I saw in the menu Prosciutto and melon. Great, nothing simpler and more delicious than that. When the food arrived I noticed that the Prosciutto was San Daniele (as I said I come from Parma but I'm not prejudiced when it comes to Prosciutto) and the melon was... six different kind of melon! Yellow, green, orange -- from different areas, with different flavors (or so the waiter was explaining)... but when I started to eat I realized that none of the melons were ripe!

Why? Oh why? I asked myself, then even bother putting this particular item in the menu that day? There's only two ingredients in the recipe, Prosciutto and melon.... If one is not good, no amount of theatrics will make the recipe right.

I complain often in my blogs about raising American kids' and families' food IQ but the Theater Of Food tips the scale too far to the other side.

Less theatrics and more wholesome good food, please.

I love a great story when it comes to food but I need it connected to a great taste, an unforgettable experience, a food to remember.

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