Or, like me, wait until you’re sent an innocuous article referencing one damning detail of the affair (an enticing recipe for drunken pasta swimming with clams), and against your better judgment find yourself calling at nine in the morning on a Wednesday with all the breathless desire of a Mills & Boons heroine, wailing for vongole with breakfast.
The attraction appears less mutual. I’m told dispassionately to turn up at a more appropriate noontime hour and try for a walk-in table (in a compromise with current trends, half the restaurant cannot be reserved). Ever the willing wench, I concede, and a second date with the Merchant is made.
I rope in an accomplice to provide objectivity to my assessment. He orders the gnocchi and proves suitably less convinced.
Gnocchi, ragu’ de cinghiale ($20)
A real looker but the gnocchi is a mush-mash of textures, soft but not supple. More than a little disappointing, considering we’re at a Grossi. The accompanying spiced wild boar ragu is exceptional, however, as fulsomely rich and tempestuous as its name suggests.
Meanwhile, I'm finding it difficult to empathise; my cravings are being convincingly corrupted by a genuinely charming dish of spaghetti with clams.
Spaghetti ca le caparele ($23)
It’s as generous as I remember, the clams taste fresh and clean, and the lithe, light sauce of garlic and white wine sensuously clings to every strand. My only jibe was that it was slightly under-seasoned, but this was readily remedied by a sprinkling of salt from the table.
To prolong my Merchant encounter, the dessert menu is requested, but I pick a beguiling slice of chocolate tart from the display instead.
Chocolate tart ($8.50)
The tart is neither the sleek nor shiny production I’ve come to expect from Italian pastries: coarser in texture, laced with orange, and requires forking with pressure. I ask for some accompanying vanilla ice cream and a very intense version is brought to the table, which I irresponsibly finish with a hefty chunk of tart to spare. I'm addicted, and a second scoop is speedily decimated.
Later, I’m told I can write in for a list of the ice cream ingredients if I’d like to recreate my poison at home. I suppose it’s as close as I’ll get to a night in with Merchant!
First impressions are great, but Merchant and I are in it for the long haul. And I reckon that matters more.