We were so fortunate; Amazing Food, Wine and Service

Written by Contributor. Posted in Community News & People in the News, Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Published on November 10, 2021 with No Comments

For they provide us with so much more than food 

By Kevin Nevers, ONE GOOD MEAL…AT A TIME

We measure our meals, the flow and ebb of the table, in different ways.

At a French restaurant, we measure the meal in courses. At a rodizio, by the skewer. At a hibachi, by the cadences of the knife.

At a trattoria, the meal is measured by the glass, and at the best of them—I highly recommend Scarpe in Valparaiso—it’s a near-run thing whether the wine complements the food or the food the wine.

Scarpe – “shoe” in Italian – is operated by Sommelier Adam Shoemaker, of the Shoe’s Pizzeria Shoemakers; and his fiancée, Executive Chef Olivia Fisse. They’re young, CIA trained, precocious in taste and acumen alike, and in Scarpe they’ve created a clean casual space where both diners and vintages have ample opportunity to breathe deeply.

ADAM SHOEMAKER, OLIVIA FISSE, KEVIN NEVERS, MEREDITH NEVERS.

On Friday, Oct. 29, Meredith and I had the great pleasure, at the end of a long-wired week, to uncoil at Scarpe, to linger and sip over a marvelous two-hour meal, of the sort we enjoyed before the days of children, when time was not a commodity and food something more than fuel.

Our only moment of anxiety: ordering. For while Executive Chef Fisse’s menu is tactful, it’s also enticing, splitting the difference between rustic and refined, with dishes rooted in the traditions of the Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy, home of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, among other delicacies. In the matter of wine, we deferred to Sommelier Shoemaker, whose cellar is extensive and well selected.

Full disclosure: I’m not a regular drinker of wine, I’ve adapted my palate to spirits instead, and I haven’t an oenophile’s vocabulary. Which is why I and Meredith appreciated Shoemaker’s expertise and his time at our table. His is an unpretentious love of wine and made me wish I had named a different poison in my youth.

My meal fell neatly into halves—a red half and a white one—and its logic was determined by my choice of antipasto: a Salumi Misti of Prosciutto di Parma, Nduja Calabrian sausage, and an excellent Capocollo by the Smoking Goose Meatery of Indianapolis, with giardiniera and marinated artichokes. A starter not to take lightly, stout and piquant, in need of a bold pairing. Shoemaker chose for me a red of great means, as rugged and earthy as the meats: a Nevio Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. I tarried over both, as an old man does over his memories.

Meredith, for her part, ordered a salad, the Insalata Autunnale, with the Prosciutto, Garwood Orchard Bartlett pears, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a Scarpe-made creamy Stracciatella cheese so “insanely good” she dreams about it at night. Meredith’s pairing: the Tormaresca Chardonnay whose notes of fruit—berry? peach? she was unsure—made her Insalata a cozy celebration of the harvest on a chill October night.

I forewent a pasta—though Fisse’s offerings are clearly odes to the family table and Nonna’s recipes—for a more buoyant main course. I ordered the Piccata Di Branzino: fillets of European bass, skin marvelously crisped, in a lemon-caper sauce, with fingerling potatoes and green beans. Shoemaker paired it with a Pieropan Soave, a fine dry white which played nicely with the tang of the sauce. The dish was as composed as a still life, the fish grand, and the Soave as refreshing as the Montepulciano was full-blooded.

Meredith had the special: linguini with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce, whose heat she cut with another white—my Mer eschews reds—a Cantine Colosi Grillo, fractionally drier than the first. She found the pasta and the pairing exceptional.

We were full at this point. By the great Bacchus, we were full, and satisfied, and glad in our hearts. But—specifically instructed by my publisher not to neglect dessert—we gamely ordered one, Meredith the Lemon Ricotta Cake, I the Raspberry Sorbetto. I also thought to end the meal leisurely, with a sweet wine. But Fisse from the kitchen overruled me, and sent a sparkling wine, a half-glass of Ruggeri Prosecco Brut, with the suggestion that I pour it over the sorbetto. I did, and it was a revelation: an airy acid bubbling which made the raspberry dance. Of her cake, Meredith says: “Warm, creamy, delicious!”

We were in no hurry that night. We nipped at our wines and let them set the pace. Ours wasn’t the only table either to dally, to postpone the rest of the night with a final glass. Three others—and two gentlemen in the wine bar—shared Scarpe with us nearly throughout the whole of our meal. Our server, it should be said, Ashley, was warm and attentive, intimately acquainted with the menu, with a knack for knowing when to visit us and when to pass by.

Scarpe opened in June 2019. Alas, its doors will close on Friday, Nov. 12. Not for lack of business, Shoemaker says—far from it—but for the same reasons other businesses are struggling or worse in post-pandemic America: staffing shortages and supply-chain snafus. “The last 18 months have been entirely challenging.”

“As for our location at 66 W. Lincolnway, in Valparaiso we will hopefully be announcing who will be taking over soon. We look forward to new projects and opportunities on the horizon. Until then, we would love for you all to share your favorite memories about food, wine, and experiences at Scarpe on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/restaurantscarpe.”

In the New Year, Shoemaker and Fisse will decamp for Atlanta, uncertain of their next venture but with a resume already to be proud of. Their regulars at Scarpe, sadly, will need to find elsewhere to dawdle of an evening.

About: Kevin Nevers worked as a reporter for the Chesterton Tribune for nearly 24 years, until it closed at the end of 2021, after 137 years of continuous publication. He is now the public affairs liaison for the Town of Chesterton. He and his wife, Meredith, have made their home in Chesterton since July 1997, along with their daughters—Kate, a freshman at Purdue University; and Andie, a senior at Chesterton High School—and numerous cats, absurd, ungrateful, but well loved.

CUTLINES:

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: ADAM SHOEMAKER, OLIVIA FISSE, KEVIN NEVERS, MEREDITH NEVERS.

SCARPE, LOCATED AT 66 W. LINCOLNWAY, IN VALPARAISO WILL SERVE THEIR LAST MEAL ON FRIDAY, NOV. 12TH.

TOMATO AND PEACH GAZPACHO, WHIPPED MASCARPONE, PROSCIUTTO. CUCUMBER, SEASONED CROSTINI

GRILLED OCTOPUS WITH ROMESCO SAUCE, BLISTERED TOMATOES, CRISPY FINGERLING POTATOES, HERB OIL

‘PEACHES AND CREAM’, SWEET CORN VANILLA CREAM, CARAMELIZED PEACHES, BASIL, PUFF PASTRY

STROZZAPRETI ‘PRIEST STRANGLER’, LUMP CRAB, BOTTARCA, ANCHOVY BUTTER, LEMON, CASTELVETRANO OLIVES

FRESH MOZZARELLA WITH BASIL, PROSCIUTTO, SALAMI, MARINATED MIXED OLIVES, HERB ARTICHOKES

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