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Silvana cooks up New Year’s special

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Most of the you who read this column will do so in the dawn of 2004. I hope to be one of you – my New Year’s resolution is to start getting up early enough to read the papers at a coffee shop before work.

Happy new year to you, whether you got up early or not. I hope the next 12 months bring you health and happiness.

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Unfortunately, these paragraphs cannot be a report on all the happenings in the Capital last night. They were placed on the page yesterday afternoon.

Unable to describe what I did, I’ll describe what I plan to do. But first a quick story about an Italian woman named Silvana.

There’s a restaurant on Carson Street I’ve passed for years without stopping. I’ve wondered what went on inside that low, shingled building a hundred times, but never been inside.

When I finally walked into Silvana’s at 1301 N. Carson on Tuesday night, they were just closing up. Lisa Borselli answered my questions while she cleaned up behind the bar. I was gazing at an oil painting of the matriarch – her mother, Silvana – when Silvana herself came out of the kitchen in running shoes, jeans and a white cook’s coat. I shook her hand, but when she heard I’d never eaten there, she laid into me.

“Shame on you,” she said in her thick Italian accent. “I been here 18 years. I’m going to die soon, and you never come to eat.”

“That’s a lot of pressure to put on the boy,” said Lisa, smoking one of those slim cigarettes.

The two were going to be up late preparing a special New Year’s Eve menu. The list gave me hunger pangs: fresh lasagna, eggplant parmesan, veal scaloppini, lamb shank, pork medallions.

“It’s always very fresh and very consistent because there’s only one chef, and it’s me,” said Silvana between sips of hot cocoa.

Her regular menu is enticing, too. From tortellini soup and calamari fritti in a lemon butter sauce to a Caesar salad for two made right at the table, everything sounded incredible.

As a testament to the family focus of Silvana’s, most of the entrées are named after a relative. There’s homemade gnocchi dumplings “alla Norma,” seafood pasta Michela and Momma’s spaghetti. Even Dad gets a mention – “Peppe” being short for Giuseppe.

Silvana’s homemade, Northern Italian fare draws a crowd of regulars.

“I’d say 80 percent of our customers have become good friends,” Lisa said. “A lot of them don’t even take menus. I know exactly what they want to drink when they walk in.”

Silvana, who also makes the desserts (tiramisu, panna cotta and rum cake to name a few), says one day she’ll write a cookbook and get rich.

“I don’t have one recipe written down – no desserts, no dinner, nothing. It’s all up here,” she said, tapping her temple. “Maybe one day I’ll lose my mind completely, and it will all be gone.”

Good reason to hurry in and enjoy her cooking. I’ll wager everyone who dined on the New Year’s special last night is happy they did.

Silvana’s, open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m., can be reached at 883-5100.

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As for my New Year’s plans, I thought Genoa Bar & Saloon’s old-fashioned, no-electricity night sounded neat, but I couldn’t find a room in town. Instead, I plan to attend the stand-up comedy act at the Piñon and then rotate over to Red’s Old 395, where DJ Red (Mark Yatsatie) will spin discs. My conscience tells me I should attend Darla Bayer’s New Year’s Eve contra dance at the Brewery Arts Center. I’m a little shy about dancing, but contra is guaranteed fun. It’s good exercise, family fun – and there’s no guilt in the morning.

Contact Karl Horeis at khoreis@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.