Confessions of a closet smoker…and a 4-hour dinner

Posted on January 23, 2011

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Dear Lucky Strikes,

Today I caved and bought a mini pachetto di sigarette! My NBFR (NewBestFriendinRome) smokes these and I have become a social smoker with her. I spent the entire day with her so I smoked a few times more than I intended. EVERYONE smokes around here it is very normal and accepted. Italians are some of the most healthy people who I have witnessed yet they all smoke a little here and there. Even here, where I live, the parents smoke. Not too often but they smoke at least once a day, maybe more. I promise not to smoke ALL the time I know how bad it is but I won’t lie about it.

Today was a really sensational day! It would have been even better if it wasn’t raining half the day but nothing I can do about the weather. I left the house before noon and returned almost by midnight. L and I walked a lot and window shopped! Luckily, here on the streets it is almost as fun just to look as it is to buy. We were both trying to not spend a lot of money so we were careful all day. For lunch we stopped at her friends pizza place and he actually bought us our lunch. Very generous and really great pizza. So far zero Euro spent! I had a piece with zucchini and tomato and another with tomato and mini mushrooms. Free always tastes 10 times better! We were pretty full and had nowhere to go so we aimlessly walked around under her large umbrella trying to figure out where to be for cheap or free and warm!! It is such a wet cold here! It was only barely 2:30…dinner was very far away!

I knew that I needed a caffe break around 5 and we were complaining of the cold so we slid inside a quiet caffe and wine bar. Pretty tasty ginseng! She really only prefers a latte macchiato and this place impressed her. We downed our caffe but still were not ready to face the cold. I was thinking about another round and then she said she wanted another! We laughed and asked the guy to make us each one more. It was still too early to go have dinner and now we were full of caffiene and on a super coffee high. I reminded her that I wanted to go to this specific restaurant for dinner to check out a guy I met the last weekend so we scoped out my map to try to figure out how to get there best. She does not read maps and admits that she has no sense of direction. At least she has a sense of humor! I, on the other hand, have a pretty good idea of where I am and can read maps so she just agrees and will trust me. At times I hope for the best but we always get to our destination.

By the time we reach the place it is only 6. Still to early here to sit down for dinner. I am trying so very hard to adjust to eating late and eating for a long time. Many courses and slow (but attentive) service is what is enjoyed here. People don’t rush meals. You sit and visit and enjoy each bite. You pair wine with dishes, you enjoy the bread, you chat with your waiter, and you take you time going into each course. Too early to sit so we walk around the bitter cold and “ventrina” (window shop) a little more. By the time that we can’t feel our toes we end up back in front of the ristorante. A man opens the door for us and tells us to come in. I ask, in Italian, if Michele is working tonight. He smiles and raises his eyebrows at me and nods excitedly. Stepping down the stairs  we look around the empty place. Usually can be a bad sign but in this case it was because it was still early. Michele greets us and I introduce him to L. He does remember me and cannot believe that I actually came back. What he really means is that he can’t believe that I remembered where it was! He forgot my name but we laughed because he says he tells people all day to come back and no one really does. I assure him that if I say I will do something I follow through. He tells us to sit wherever we like and he will be our waiter. Knowing that it is early to eat we tell him that we plan on being there for a while and taking our time having dinner. On the way there I was thinking that I shouldn’t have wine because I am trying NOT to spend that much but soon as he shares the wine menu he tells us that this particular Chianti is good and we need it. Once wine is that close to me I can’t say no! A half bottle is fair priced so we agree. The menu looks really great and we notice that it is written in four languages…Italian, Japanese, Russian and English. Since it is not busy he gets to chat us up and tell us about everything on the menu. I point out to her that “production made” is how they explain “home-made” and we laugh! He asked us what what so funny and I share and he rolls his eyes. Her and I like the price of the fixed menu selections and he tells us that we can have whatever we like. We also decide to just share since we are not that starving and servings can be large for one person. Our selection starts with some bruschetta with cheese. Delightful and simple. Then it is on to Penne alla Carbonara. I asked if we could have penne instead of the spaghetti and he tells me, “For you, whatever you want. It can be done.” with a wink. Not a creepy wink either it was a nice wink. L already likes this guy as well. unlike that “snapper-head!”  I told her he is the reason I wanted to come back here! I joke with him that since it is so dead in there that the chef should make our food extra special. He assures us that he already told him that we were some special guests. He then tells us that it is raining again and that we should just stay here with him until he gets off. Laughing, we realize that we have already been there almost 3 hours! Midnight seems way to far and we both planned on going home after dinner. I tell him that we can meet again another time. He seems disappointed but is happy again when I give up my number. After our generous shared portions of penne we have some lightly pan-fried chicken with fresh lemon. Perfectly cooked, not dry and perfect size to split. The restaurant is starting to fill up after our second plate. He doesn’t get to visit with us as much but still stops by plenty to make sure that we are satisfied. I feel as though we are at someones house while dining here. It is very cosy and we have a little smoke break before dessert and caffe. He asked us to join him outside since it slowed down enough for a break for him. L is addicted to her cell so he made a comment to me about it. I agreed and said that she is always on it! She has a boyfriend in Iraq so they text all day everyday. Sort of made me miss my phone but not enough. She tells him that she is “naked without her phone” and he doesn’t understand the saying. He tells us, “uhhh…I am naked without my clothes but naked without my phone? No. I don’t feel naked.” We laugh and try to explain that it is just an expression to “feel” as though you are naked. He says that he gets it but I still think that he pondered about it later.

On the way back to the table he takes me over to the dessert display and tells me to choose something. I ask him to tell me about the cakes and soon as he says “nutella” is in one I say, “Yes! Done! That one!” I return to the table and she asked me what we were doing. I tell her about the desserts and she says whatever I want is fine. We both only want a bite anyway.  He brings our dessert out with a fork stabbing the cake and a veil of powdered sugar and chocolate. He says something too quiet for us to understand and I tell L that I think he said that if we eat too much of that we will get fat!!! The cake stares at us now with two forks jabbing at its center…

After a few minutes the cake wins this staring contest and I take a bite! It is pretty good and anyone would get fat if they ate this all the time! It is like a fluffy coconut/marscapone/ricotta filling with a light cake like layer of chocolate and Nutella to hold it all together. It looks better than it tastes is how I can best describe it. A few bites into it we cannot do anymore. He then offers us a cappuccino. I know this is protocol but he really doesn’t want us to leave! After 3 caffe we finally get our bill.  There were 3 caffe because the first one L sent back because it was not what she asked for. She is like me: not a complainer; just specific about what she wants! Only 19 Euro and 4 hours later we say our goodbye. Fantastico! He tells me to come back tomorrow and he will reserve “my” table, in fact, he says everyday that can be my table! Free wine, cute guy, good food and great service? I will be there.

 Lunch? Free. Wine? Free. Dinner for 2? 19 Euro. A goodnight text from “the guy”??? Priceless.

He is reason to pay for more minutes/texts on my cell here. The phones are all “pre-payed” phones and you must go to the stores and “re-up” your usage minutes/texts. I have yet to do that since “Tim” the company that I am with is the “worst” and most “expensive” one. As of now I can receive text and calls but I cannot make calls or text back until I pay up!

…Oh no! I might get addicted to this phone and start to feel “naked” with out it!!!

Texts in Italian are already soooo much better…haha… wink~wink~

Nancie

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Posted in: When in Rome