A night of romance …
Though I had read extensively and was stuffed with knowledge of Italy, it was not enough. I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect the first time I traveled there. My immigrant grandparents spoke little of their country save for how difficult it was to survive. They never spoke Italian unless there was something, like a pregnancy, they did not want me to hear. Goodness, someone was pregnant! Better be sure to keep that a secret. They spoke in a unique Italian dialect, so I never had a chance to understand.
On my first day in Italy, while shopping, I heard a refined, professional answer the phone with an impressive lilting language I had never heard. “Pronto. Si, Si. Ci vediamo.” Every syllable was articulated, every phrase a melody. He also did something the well-spoken do … he pronounced the end of every word. I was captivated, thinking, “I need to learn that language.“ Pride replaced ignorance and started me on my lifelong journey to learn Italian and all I could of Italy’s great culture. Any apology I might have had stopped at that moment.
I began to think that my Italian origins were in some way romantic if romantic meant family, love, trust, good music, and good food. The more I read about Italy’s culture and history, the more I needed to know. Well, what about that first night in Rome?
Our travel companion recommended his favorite restaurant, Meo Petacca across the Tiber, Trastevere. He could not have been more correct. The food, the ambiance, the company, everything was perfect. And for added value, there were strolling troubadours singing Neapolitan chestnuts, songs I heard in my grandparents’ tenement. I wanted to hear my favorite, Non ti scorda di me … Do not forget me.
Our friend spoke Italian. I asked him to request it. He did. The musicians knew it; had to.
The tenor was marvelous. After a bottle of wine, every tenor is spectacular in a Roman restaurant. How could he be anything but? I called across to my friend, “He was so good. I would love to give him a tip. Do you think a ‘deuce’ ( it was years ago) is OK?”
“Don’t tip him. I already did.”
“What’s another deuce? We’re in Rome! He sang beautifully.”
“I’m telling you, I tipped him. No need for any more.”
The tenor leaned over to bark in my ear, ”Gimme the deuce!” I turned in a rush.
“Wait, wait. You speak English?”
“Sure, I just returned from New York where I’ve lived for twenty years.”
My romance was not defeated, only muffled as he pointed to a small sack full of money attached to his belt. “Put the deuce here.” He did say, “Grazie” so as to maintain some semblance of the romance. It wasn’t necessary.
From the restaurant we wandered giddily to our hotel, gazing at history as we inched along the Roman Forum. I was not disappointed. It was Italy, and I was woozy.
- Published in yesterday’s GoLocalProv