I recently found myself in Rome, Italy, on a Friday night, an ocean and continent away from my coveted wine tasting group, traveling with my wife Julie, her son Bobbie and his wife Meghan . In our first night in this timeless city, after walking through its various landmarks for countless hours,  we alighted in Il Barroccio, a touristy restaurant on Via dei Pastini, not far from the Pantheon. It was in a side street full of lively restaurants, their outdoor tables three seats across on each side, leaving a narrow gauntlet for a steady stream of passersby. Drawn by a talented hawker who promised us free champagne we waited inside the restaurant for an outdoor table to open.

Glad to rest our achy legs in the nearly empty interior, we watched a businesslike waiter fetch our bonus drink.He went behind the bar and pulled on a lever,  pouring our champagne out of a tap. It was then served to us in small liquor glasses, a lightly fizzy drink, crisp, fruity and a bit sweet. I don’t know how I would have received it at home, but here in Rome, under the circumstances, as our first drink of a long day, it was just fine.

We perused the menu while we waited and noticed a small but expensive wine list. Their house wine however, at 13 Euros for a liter carafe looked like a good deal. After quickly downing our champagne we asked the same waiter to fetch us a carafe of their house white.  Eager to please, he immediately fetched an empty carafe, returned to the bar and filled it from the same tap. He plopped it at our table, fizzy, with a thin head atop resembling beer.

Puzzled, we called the waiter back.

“Is this wine or champagne?” we asked.

“What difference does it make?” he replied.”Drink up! It’s free.”

We didn’t believe him. But what else could we do?

Resigned to our fate we drank it, this time experiencing it as a frizzante white, clearly low class, especially by my standards. They eventually seated us outside where we ended up consuming more than three liters of this wine with much gusto,  enjoying the lively scene in the street with festive diners, curious tourists, and hawkers displaying their talents. It was another example of a wine I would never have drank at home – as I wrote in a recent blog – but which tasted good in its own place.

My wife documented the occasion with the above photo she posted on Facebook afterwards, adding a caption about her wine-snob husband enjoying such a wine, on a Friday night nonetheless.

A friend responding to the post summed up the situation quite well:

“When in Rome……”

Yet another surprise awaited us when the bill came. True to their word, they had not charged us for all that wine. For what we paid, it was the best wine in Italy.