On our trip to Italy, as on all our journeys, we are finding the roads less taken. We went to Sorrento on Sunday morning to look for a farmacia for suntan lotion. It was a little too hot and humid for a day in town, so we took our expensive SPF 30 on a road trip to Mt. Vesuvius. Betty, as we affectionately refer to our GPS, took us on the "shortest" route, which I am convinced means "most roundabout." It was nearing 2:30 in the afternoon and breakfast was a distant memory. We drove along a side street in Pompeii looking for a pizzeria.
The restaurant we found was a family affair, with six tables outside on a terrace and the inside dedicated to the kitchen, a small lobby and the WCs. A local couple sat smoking and talking with the owner, who smiled and nodded at us. We were far away from the tourist-friendly English-speaking Sorrento. The waitress approached and Vinny said, "Pizza?"
"No pizza, spaghetti," she started, then rambled on in Italian.
"No spaghetti, we'd just like a pizza, " Vinny insisted.
"No pizza, spaghetti," she responded firmly and we knew we would be eating spaghetti. It was reminiscent of the Saturday Night Live routine of "Cheebugga" and "No Coke, Pepsi."
We enjoyed al dente spaghetti in oil and garlic, along with crusty bread without butter, as Italians use the bread to sop up the oil. Satisfied, we decided to be on our way.
The waitress approached again, jabbering on in Italian, but I picked up one phrase "secondo piatti" and realized she was describing out next course. Vinny and I looked at each other, I pictured my afternoon at Mt. Vesuvius flitting away, but we relented when she used her fingers to show how small the carni (meat) would be.
As we waited for the meat dish, I pushed back the plastic lawn chair in which I was sitting only to find myself on the floor as the back legs collapsed. After many apologies, the owner guided us to another table with wooden chairs for the rest of our meal. We received a tasty dish of ground meat surrounding ham and cheese - an Italian version of Cordon Bleu. Vinny and I tried to determine the type of meat, whether it was veal or pork. I asked the waitress, describing the meat with my hands. She determined that I was ordering another course and offered steak and potatoes. We vehemently shook our heads and waved our hands, proclaiming "Fini." She then described something else, which sounded like Pesce, which I knew in French was fish. Again, we protested and she indicated dessert was coming out next.
We received melone and pesca, melon and peaches, not fish, which were sweet and refreshing. The owner's husband came over to our table to say hello. I tried again to ask about the carni of our second course, this time using a picture to describe each course, my fall from the chair and then pointing to the second course, hoping the man would understand what we were asking. He smiled broadly and pantomimed the preparation of the meal, complete with crying to signify onions, chopping of carrots and mushrooms, rolling of the meat around the ham and cheese. When I asked again about the carni, he said something that sounded like Mooka and then mooed for us and we knew it was veal.
At the end of the meal, as I went to pay the check, the waitress and the owners gathered around to ask if we were from Canada. Over the next 15 minutes, I told them about our lives in the US through hand signals, pictures and some questions in broken English from them. It was a most memorable lunch and such an example of Italian hospitality. We felt at home.