Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last dinner

Technically, this wasn't my aunt and uncle's last dinner. But the three of us were heading to Rome the following day while Nathan headed to work. Their plane left out of Rome, so we went up the day before in order to (1) visit the hot spots other than the Vatican, and (2) avoid getting up at 4:30am to make the three hour drive to the Rome airport from our house.

Now there's a back story to this dinner. First, our landlady and her children own a resort hotel nearby. When Mamma Anna, our landlady, found out my aunt and uncle were coming, she said she wanted us to come for Sunday lunch. I'd called her the week before, and as we've already clearly established in this blog, my telephone Italian is sketchy, at best. I was able to get from her that she was out of town and I should call her son, our landlord. That's always an adventure, to put it nicely. Ciro doesn't have my cell phone number (only Nathan's), so when I call, he either doesn't answer due to it being an unknown number or he answers, but I'm not who he is expecting. Which means when I start speaking, he's caught off guard. After our exchange of greetings, our conversations always, always  consist of a version of the same. I say something, and Ciro says, "I do not understand you." I switch to the other language...same response. I speak slower...same. I switch up the placement of words, I cut out all extra words other than the noun and the verb - as in..."pay rent." We hang up with me having no idea what will happen next - either someone is going to show up at the house (Mamma Anna, possibly with a handyman) or sometimes I call Nathan and ask him to have a go at calling Ciro. That always goes much better.

In this instance, Nathan and I had a back and forth for days on who was going to call Ciro. I lost. I called on Monday, no answer. I called on Tuesday, no answer. I called on Wednesday, no answer. So we made dinner reservations at an agriturismo with a beautiful view over the bays. On Thursday, I called Ciro in order to tell him we were ready to pay our rent. He answered (yay!), and when I explained that I was calling about the rent, he said something along the lines of, "Bring your parents to dinner this weekend." We believe Mamma Anna must have told him that he better invite us to dinner. Mamma Anna is a very tiny lady, but she is not one with whom to be trifled! I told him my aunt and uncle were visiting, not my parents, and that this was their last day. So he changed the invitation to that night - come to the hotel that night for dinner. Then he threw out a whole bunch of time questions ranging from 6pm to 9pm, and hung up. I didn't know if were supposed to go or at what time. Time to call in reinforcements - Nathan (if only he'd called first, we could have avoided the middleman, or middlewoman, as the case may be). And no joke, that night at dinner, Ciro gently scolded me for calling him on my aunt and uncle's last day in town. Sometimes, I really just want to cry in public.

Nathan and I had not been to the hotel yet, so we had no idea what to expect. Walking up, a lady at the desk pointed to a table in a nice looking dining area and told us to take a little walk as it would be about 15 minutes. We wandered about the pool deck, enjoying the view over Lake Fusaro and the beautiful grounds, wondering if we are indeed allowed to use the pool this summer as Ciro had indicated at the time of our lease signing. Finally, a man came up and spoke to us in rapid dialect (not Italian!). He finally got us to follow him...around the pool, around a party room that was setting up for some type of disco party, down a garden path, and into one of the the most luxurious restaurants we've seen since we moved to Italy. Our table had apparently been moved to this restaurant that didn't even seem to be open. Frescoes on the ceiling, beautiful carpets and upholstery, creamy white linens on the tables. We sat, our server brought us wine and water, and then Ciro appeared. He did not eat with us, but did ask us what we wanted, so we were able to request "land food." This usually stops the barrage of dishes with octopus as the main ingredient. Our server, a wonderful gentlemen who continued so diligently to communicate with us, despite our complete inability to speak the Neapolitan dialect, brought us dish after dish after dish of delectables and in between these visits, he stood a few feet away, at the ready to help us. We were a little disconcerted at the fact that this restaurant was clearly staffed with a cook and a waiter solely for us. And we wondered why they didn't leave us in the more informal restaurant where our table had been. Had the restaurant staff set us up there, and when Ciro saw it, he moved us to the formal restaurant? Did the staff see that we'd dressed nicely and think we wanted the more formal restaurant? As is normal, we had absolutely no idea of what was going on and why things happened the way they did.

We called it quits after the generous helping of pasta that followed all the appetizers, and the look of disappointment on our server's face just about did us in. Here was this man, waiting only on us, who had been so helpful, and it was as if we'd just killed his puppy. But three of our party of four had barely been able to fit in their pasta course, and one of us couldn't even eat half of it (okay, that was me, I confess).
This is just the cheese plate, for four people, and was one of about 10 appetizers!
 Then Ciro showed up asking if we liked the food and why we didn't want the next course. We tried to be effusive in our thanks because the meal truly was delicious. We were able to sit and visit with Ciro, before he offered to make us nutella pizzas for dessert in the other restaurant. Astonishing how the word "nutella" opened up a huge hole in my stomach. Ciro left us to finish up, and we headed to the other location. And then we found out our server must have been given firm instructions to take good care of we walked through some gardens, around a couple of buildings and down another path, we missed the turn for the cafeteria and were headed to the parking lot. Before we realized it and corrected, this man had come up behind us and told us we couldn't leave because we hadn't had our coffee yet, and he proceeded to herd us back with him to the new restaurant. He was not letting us leave without coffee, at the very least. We enjoyed our coffee and yummy, chocolate goodness for dessert before heading home, well and truly sated and hoping that Ciro had understood just how much we appreciated the dinner.

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