In the mood for a love story?
Anew business invites you to sit down and tuck in
BY KATHY MARCKS HARDESTY
Cinema E Vino Paradiso treats guests to a movie and goodies, likethis pasta al cartoccio and sausage and peppers dish with ItalianChianti.
|Picture yourself and your lover picnicking on a vineyard-coveredhillside in Tuscany. Your picnic basket is chockablock withambrosial delights like sausage and peppers, freshly baked bread,ripe figs, and creamy cheese along with biscotti and spiced popcornfor dessert. And it wouldn't be complete without a special bottleof Chianti (perhaps not that straw-covered version if you're withsomeone you love) to enjoy through eventide. Once the stars lightup the sky, the soft glow of a giant screen with surround soundentertains you with a movie classic mine would be Casablanca, butyou might prefer Some Like it Hot. Romantic summer nights don't getmuch better than this.|
Now San Luis Obispans don't have to reserve seats on an Alitaliaflight to Tuscany to live the experience. At least not since GinaDeGirolamo and Melita Toscano moved to Paso Robles. The duo decidedto create a retirement business they could really enjoy, and that'show they came to create Cinema E Vino Paradiso. As of January, theybegan offering the romantic dinner at various wineries with theopen-air theater described above.
"Who doesn't love the idea of relaxing outdoors on a softCalifornia night, sipping wine, dining out, and watching a favoritefilm?" Toscano asked. "It's such a natural fit for this region andso much fun people are saying, 'Why hasn't someone thought of thisbefore?'"
The partners divide their time each week between their home in L.A.and a home in Paso Robles that they purchased a few years ago.Their plan is to eventually retire to Paso Robles and dedicatethemselves to their business venture. DeGirolamo has worked in thefilm industry 20 years, so the movie set-up comes easily to her.Interestingly enough, DeGirolamo says neither of them have beenprofessional chefs but they both have a "strong family foodbackground." They created the Tuscan menu using their favoritefamily recipes, which DeGirolamo said was easy to increase for alarger audience. The entire affair is designed, produced, anddirected by DeGirolamo and Toscano.
Although they knew they had a unique concept, the partners calledon winery owners, tasting room managers, and others in the businessto hear their opinions of the business plan before moving forward.Last January, they began setting the business into motion and willhold their first Cinema E Vino Paradiso open to the public on June16. The twilight dinners only take place during warm weathermonths, DeGirolamo said, noting that local warm evenings last wellinto the fall, so the duo hopes to continue the events throughOctober and possibly November. DeGirolamo also explained that theirdinner affairs are designed for a specific audience, and let's justsay it's not rated "G."
"A lot of communities do this type of event for families, butCinema E Vino is not a family affair. It's about wine, food, andfilm in a romantic setting," explained DeGirolamo, who describedtheir dinner "like grandma's dinner table brought outside." Theyprovide a picnic basket packed with a freshly made dinner includingantipasti, pasta al cartoccio (a tomato-and-olive-sauced spaghettiserved warm in a parchment package), Italian sausage and peppers,seasonal vegetable or fruit, biscotti, and Ecuadorian popcorn. Thelatter treat is a specialty from Toscano's native Ecuador, whereher mother owned and operated her own restaurant. Guests can bringblankets and lawn chairs or they'll provide them.
"It's catching on like wild fire," said DeGirolamo, explaining theystarted in Paso Robles but are already negotiating with wineries inSanta Barbara County. "We're thrilled, and we know our customerswill be too."
They already have numerous dates available and movies chosen forthose wineries. Check out How to Marry a Millionaire at MaloyO'Neill on June 23, The Pink Panther at Cass on June 30, and ANight at the Opera at Villicana on July 21. You can order ticketsonline and purchase gift certificates. Tickets are $75 per personwith a $10 voucher for wine that must be used the same night. Ifyou don't drink alcohol no worries DeGirolamo says you can use thevoucher toward jewelry or souvenirs from the winery. Online ticketpurchases must be made at least 24 hours prior to the dinner.
"This is the true meaning of la dolce vita," DeGirolamo said.