“Wine is bottled poetry.” ~ Robert Luis Stevenson
Snapshot No. 3 We had Dinner in Someone’s House
By the time we had seen the Trevi fountain and battled off all the people trying to sell us Selfie sticks, we were exhausted and ready for dinner. So we went in search of a restaurant, a bit off-the-beaten path, and apparently we succeeded, because I’m pretty sure we had dinner IN somebody’s house. The restaurant was on a narrow little street that we had wandered down, pausing to look into gelaterias and bakeries, dreaming of pizza and pasta and all the things we would order once we found a place. We bypassed the fancy wine bar, the restaurant where a whole bunch of people in suits and business-wear emerged from, the women in cocktail dresses and colourful heels, smoking and holding thin-stemmed wine glasses with thin fingers, fragile nails painted shades of gold and red. We bypassed the tables outside, red-checked table-clothes and flower centerpieces. “Too cold,” my friend Melissa explained when we considered the outdoor eating experience, “And if we want gelato…” A voice of reason.
So when we saw “Only 7 Euro, pasta and coffee” on a fold-out sign sitting in front of a café, we went in. The kind elderly man nodded and smiled and led us all into a back room with pictures all around, a dresser in the corner, and a small dining room table. We passed by an older monk who was sitting in the café area in the front of the restaurant. He was dressed in the traditional red robes, and he smiled at us, continuing to tuck away a large plate of pasta. Once we sat down, and the man brought us all the “menu,” which were laminated sheets of paper with seven options of different kinds of pasta, complete with pictures, but no explanations, we took note of our surroundings. “I’m pretty sure we’re in this guy’s house. I think this is his living room,” whispered my friend Tahseen. We all agreed. Was it the dresser that gave it away? Or maybe the stack of books in the corner where a bookcase might have been. Perhaps it was the fold-out screen directly behind us, that we were sure blocked off the private rooms of the house? Or the fact that the man went to a fridge that had been hiding in the corner, pulled out a package of parmesan cheese, took out some bowls from the dresser to my right, placed them on our table, and poured the cheese from the package into the bowls.
But the food was fantastic, and the man was so kind, and he didn’t speak very much English, but he liked the Thumbs-Up sign, so when he came back in a few minutes after giving us our food with a “Is good?” thumbs-up question, we gave him the Thumbs-Up right back. Delicioso, molto bene. He brought us all free pastries afterwards, along with the strongest shot of espresso I have ever had, bitter and dense. And almost felt like we had had dinner with him, that he had invited us over to his house for a home-cooked meal.