French, Italian and Carla
Hotel Del delivers cocktails, apps for price of a Bud and a couple of burgers
Seeing we’re in Coronado (see Sticker Shock), and seeing we’ve spent, like $35 for burgers…it’s now around seven and Carla suddenly says “Let’s go get you a French and Italian at the Del. Just in time for sunset.”
Guess I sound like Brer Rabbit saying “The Briar Patch?”
“Look, we just paid out $35 for burgers. Danny's, right? You got paid Friday, right? Let’s make $35 the limit. Have some style, Bedford. Think Great Gatsby! French and Italian…”
She says it like Delilah offering Samson a haircut. Seductive.
French and Italian's a cocktail my bro has always ordered with great bluster. I've even come to like it. A lot, when I can get it.
“Okay,” I say. In for a penny, in for a pound.
So two minutes later, we’re heading in with the crowds to the mighty hotel, skirting around it and down to the seaside gardens.
Just before the Duchess of Windsor’s cottage, right in front of THE most expensive restaurant in the Del, “1500 Ocean,” is this outside bar, beside a rack of fire-pit tables.
The Sunset Bar (Hotel Del, 1500 Ocean Boulevard, Coronado, 619-435-6611).
Lord. Haven’t been here for four years, must be. That time I lucked out and found José Palma, who’s a legend among barmen. Not many cocktails he doesn’t know. And yes, he knew what a French and Italian was. And miracle! There he is, right behind the bar. I have three words.
“French and Italian?”
It takes him a moment. “Of course,” he says.
“And ginger ale,” says Carla. “Thanks for asking,” she hisses to me.
“Sweetheart, I was just about to…got caught up in the French and Italian thing…”
"Of course," José says again and disappears back inside to the main bar.
“You’ll pay, of course,” Carla says, as we sit down under a heater. “We are going to have a snack.”
Man, I’m gonna be eaten alive. A snack here is like a 3-course dinner at Denny’s, cost-wise.
But here is the surprising thing. Hidden among the $40 steaks, whatever, is a little line of “sides,” $7 each. Fork crushed potatoes, green asparagus, sautéed snap peas, roasted mushrooms, and hey hey: charred Brussels sprouts, my new go-to side.
“Can we just have a side?” I ask the waitress.
“Of course,” she says.
“We can get you bread.”
Result: I have this little triangle of heaven to sip, warm, aromatic, with sweet red vermouth (Italian), dry white vermouth (French), and a splash of gin and a slice of lemon to add tang. Reddy brown. Carla’s ginger ale looks pretty cool with the setting sun’s rays shining through too.
José - not José Palma - brings our plates.
My sprouts, with little baguettes and butter, are crunchy, carbony, beautiful. Quite a lot in the oval plate.
Plus Carla’s ’shrooms mix well with them. They’re lush and garlicky. Bit of thyme in there too.
We eat like parolees who know they’ve gotta get back to the real world.
But here, kids play on the lawn, A whole ring of people sit like us, looking out to ol’ Huey, sinking off Point Loma.
We take bets on what the bill’s going to be.
“$35,” says Carla, and you know what? She’s right on the button. Have to tip, of course, so make that $40 when all’s said and done.
“Think of it this way,” she says. “It’s like Danny’s, right? We're just missing the French fries."