Nov 6, 2011

Buon Appetito

How much money in tips do you think is involved in a waiter sporting a believable foreign accent?  Because every Italian restaurant I go to is staffed by waiters with absolutely charming, thicker-than-Bolognese accents.  Could there possibly be any adult males left in Italy with all of them over here waiting tables and speaking Italian?  The numbers defy the odds. 

Now, I wouldn't be so suspicious except for the following.  For years we frequented a lovely little Italian restaurant in Palo Alto; Palermo.  The stocky maitre d' would greet my husband with a handshake and a pat on the back, give a warm buonasera to all of us, tease our delighted young children, and generally make us feel like he had been awaiting our return and only ours since the last time we dined there, kind of like a dog with his eyes riveted to the door handle in the late afternoon.  It was a comfortable restaurant, never pretentious, and the waiters were all tall, dark, and had rich Italian accents.  They sprinkled Italian words into every sentence. It was buono this and prego that.  We were totally charmed.

Then, one day, without warning, Palermo was gone. Poof!  A Thai restaurant was soon in the space.  And here's the rub.  A few months later we dined at another Palo Alto restaurant, an American restaurant, and were pleased to see approaching our table one of the old Palermo crew. Our faces were open and happy with recognition as he neared our table to take our order.  He looked up when he reached us and his homegrown Brooklynese, "What can I get for ya?"  He saw that he had known us in another time and place.  We saw that we had been played. It was as though the curtains had parted and the Wizard was openly working the smoke machine and shouting into the microphone.  

Still, it had been a good time, that little piece of Italian playacting.  


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