Here’s a little-known but interesting fact. Fans of The Godfather series will of course remember the character of the old Jewish mobster, Hyman Roth, played so brilliantly by Lee Strasberg (“This … is the business … we’ve chosen!”). In the film, after a series of crosses and double-crosses, Roth returns to America after an Assange-like quest for asylum first in Israel than in Latin America, only to be shot by a Corleone button-man before he can give testimony to the Senate about organised crime. End of story? Not by a long shot. The footage may have wound up on the cutting room floor, but in the original screenplay Roth survived the assassination attempt and was spirited out to country NSW, where he settled down and used his savings to set up a little wine bar in the town of Mudgee. Roth’s Wine Bar, to be exact.
Don’t believe me? Well, you shouldn’t, though the idea of a notorious, ancient American gangster settling into the obscurity of the mid-20th century Australian bush is an amusing one. But you should, if and when you have the chance to hit Mudgee, drop in on Roth’s, as we did Friday night after driving up from Sydney. Backstory: Mrs Prick and I drove out in celebration of the Prick’s birthday – an event I’d usually let slide, but which others insist on marking – joined by the outlaws, who are perfect travelling companions for this sort of mission.
Roth’s is just the ticket to revive the weary driver. We pulled in pretty much straight from the office and the staff had us pegged as city types right off the bat, which accounted for an initial standoffish-ness: Later we saw a table of eastern suburbs princesses berate a staffer and storm out for not serving food after 10pm, and I thought, well, under the circumstances, I’d hate us as soon as we walked in the door as well. (We had a laugh and apologised to the barmaid on behalf of Sydney, and suddenly we were best friends with everyone in the joint.)
They’ve got a small but comprehensive, mostly-Mudgee wine list (we tucked into a rich Lowe Shiraz, a lush but restrained Montrose Barbera, and a really dry and dirty – in the best senses of the word – Rosby Cab Sav), and not much of a menu (pizza and tapas), but what they do, they do right. Arancini balls, light and bright, stood in contrast to the heavy golf balls of starch one too often encounters. Little skewers of lamb gave a protein hit. And the pizzas … well, I think we wound up ordering three of the prosciutto and anchovy number. Roth’s also has a back yard where they play music; Friday a weedy kid with Justin Bieber hair and stovepipe jeans was hacking out tunes on a guitar, but I am led to believe they have other offerings as well. Best check ahead, or sit in the front room, as we did.