Italian Sun In Vienna
At Restaurant Sole guests feel they just crossed the border
At the end of a busy city day, I often long for a cozy little place, where I can relax, have a glass of wine and a satisfying meal, detaching myself from the crazy comings and goings on every side. The other day, I found that place, and strange as it sounds, it was a coincidence.
Walking down the Kärtnerstrasse, gloomy and crowded in the rain, the relentless drops were soaking my hair. We (two friends and I) absorbed in trying to avoid the puddles below and dueling umbrellas above, turned onto a side street to get out of the line of fire, hoping to find a quiet place for lunch. What we found was Ristorante Sole, at Annagasse 6-8.
From the outside it didn’t look like anything special, small doors with a green frame and a single, bright yellow sign hanging overhead: "Sole," Italian for "sun," which on this dreary day seemed like just the thing. A smile and a collective shrug – why challenge fate? – we went. Glancing around, it could have been a sea side bistro in Italy: on the left a large block of ice draped with fresh fish, on the right several wine coolers, with layers of exotic, regional wines.
We followed the waiter, a jolly older fellow, smiling and joking as he led us to a secluded table. Along with the menus, the old man handed us a big, heavy, blue book with photos and newspaper clippings about the restaurant. It has long been a favorite of Austrian celebrities, we learned, and as we took a closer look at some of the entries, we found the faces of dozens of opera singers and actors we vaguely knew. Even opera singers need a break from the music sometimes, my friend "C" told us, and here prefer to dine in peace and quiet, without anything playing in the background. Fair enough, we thought, and turned to the wine list, settling on a bottle of Bardolino, whose fruity scent filled our nostrils, and proposed a little toast to the evening.
At that point the doors opened and a young couple entered the restaurant. The old waiter greeted them with a smile and a "Bongiorno" and helped the young girl with her wet coat. They too had got caught in the downpour. What a nice couple, I thought to myself, as the young man surprised the waiter by speaking Italian. Clearly delighted, the waiter began a very lively conversation; making us feel we had just crossed the border… it was exotic and very relaxed. The couple took their seats at the table next to us, and the young man leaned over and congratulated us on our choice of wine. I strained to identify his accent; I was pretty sure... Well, what did it matter?
At our table, talk flowed about new courses, a little gossip and old jokes. We all had a management final exam coming up – too much to learn, too little time.... Better not go there. We moved on to the real news: Madonna’s divorce! The guys looked dismayed (as if she had left them instead of Guy Richie) and said they felt really sorry for her children, who "had to go through all of this." Couldn’t we talk about something more cheerful, I wondered?
While we laughed, in came our waiter, with three plates balanced skillfully on his arm. I had ordered my favorite traditional Italian dish, Mozzarella di Buffala (€11.50), which I had been craving for several days: slices of the milky cheese topped with tomato, splashed with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and basil, glanced up at me from the large white plate, neat, fresh and delicious! "R" and "C" both ordered Carpaccio, one made from fish and the other a traditional beef sliced paper thin with rucola salad (both €€13.50). The fish Carpaccio looked amazing: each slice nearly transparent, topped with a strawberry. It was all very tempting, making it impossible to resist sampling from the other plates. This was particularly grievous as our fourth companion, who, claiming to have already had lunch and thus ordered nothing, proceeded to steal shamelessly from the rest of us.
It was easy to let time slide by... But suddenly reality was upon us, and we had to hurry back to the university. We divided the check, giving the waiter a nice tip for the superb service. Sliding our jackets on, we made our way to the door, reluctantly leaving our little Italy behind.
Opening hours: 11:00 - 23:30
1., Annagasse 8 - 10
(01) 513 4077