The Public Eye

printed 03/06/2020

It came too late this week to do a story, but my friends, Karen and Pino Tomasello, have sold their Sello’s restaurant in West Ocean City and are retiring from that business with perfect timing.

I say that because I concluded this week that my belief that red wine is a vitamin-packed anti-oxidant health food might be off the mark.

To put it another way, I can no longer argue that consuming more than half a bottle of red is a pro-active way to restore my oxidized innards to their original condition.

Also, I find it less than sympathetic to hear my dining companion say, as I trudge downstairs on a Saturday morning after having dinner out the night before, “Oh, I see that you’re anti-oxidizing this morning.”

Before people get the wrong idea, the fact is I don’t do this sort of thing on a regular basis. In that regard, I’m a little like the former most-interesting-man spokesperson for Dos Equis, who says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer …”

My refrain would be more like, “I don’t always drink, but when I do, I have over anti-oxidized on occasion.”

But immoderate anti-oxidizing is not what this is about. It’s more about all the things I’ve learned over the years that the Tomasellos have had restaurants.

It was at Fresco’s, which was conveniently located across the street from my office, where I discovered that many Italian people believe drinking something that tastes like shoe polish will do wonders for the digestion after a big meal.

As it happens, all my meals are big, which means that a digestivo, as it’s called, would be in order. For me, that began with Amaro Montenegro, a concoction of 40 different plants and probably stray squirrel. It’s a little on the bitter side, but then again, so’s everyone I know.

That was followed by Cynar, which contains the essence of 13 herbs, alcohol and artichokes — no kidding — so my excuse for drinking that was artichokes contain lots of potassium, and are a good source of vitamin C, folate and magnesium. In other words, it’s definitely a health drink.

Then came Averna, which was originated by Benedictine monks who said, “Let’s make something no one else but us will drink and then we’ll have it all to ourselves.”

Alas, there’s something about a drink that’s as bitter as a bad divorce that appeals to me, not to mention enough secret herbs and spices to cook a truckload of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Finally, there is Fernet-Branca, which is Italian for, “If you can drink this, you will live forever.”

I’m addicted to it, possibly because it tastes like something used to cure cholera, or a missing leg or something equally upsetting.

Pino swore it was good for me, and I believed him. He also told me not to drink more than one, which I didn’t believe until I digestivoed all the live long day.

Now, he and Karen are turning their place over to Brittney and Justin Acita, who also own Pickles Pub. So congratulations to the Tomasellos and to the Acitas, who will, I am told, keep the Fernet-Branca on hand for my anti-cholera needs.

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