I’m about to tell you a story that I’ve been trying to tell you for several months. Pull up a chair, kiddos, it may be kinda long. (Note, the title of this post comes from one of my favorite poems. You can read it here. It’s number 18.)
My initial reaction, when all of this went down, was to rush to write about it- to dump the story here. But that wasn’t the right approach, especially since I realized that I hadn’t actually spoken about any of the players in this story on this blog. So I’ll start from the beginning.
In September, 2013, we moved into our house here in Vicenza. I could write a research essay about the mind-numbing process of securing housing in this town, but I’ll spare you the details and simply say this: it wasn’t fun. At all. We considered ourselves lucky because we found a home very near to where my husband would be working. Since we didn’t have a car at the time, this was an incredible boon for us. He could ride his bike to work, we were right on the bus line, and there was a small grocery store on the next block. Score! Future explorations showed us how fantastic our neighborhood actually is. I can easily walk to three grocery stores, several small cafes, a few bars, a bakery, a post office, a toy store, a dry cleaner, a thrift shop… The list is quite long. It probably took us two months to discover the restaurant which would become our second home- Mayflower.
Mayflower Ristorante specializes in Paella. (In Italian is is pronounced pie-EH-la.) It’s a true hidden gem of Vicenza, nestled in the far corner of an uncommonly large parking lot that services the offices of the Rangers, the group that guards the nearby prison.
Mayflower is owned by a charming chap named Piero. Note: the restaurant is actually co-owned by another man named Luca (I think) but he is more of a silent partner. I have met him a few times, and he was perfectly lovely, but I think he prefers the business side (and the beer runs to Belgium) while Piero is the heart, and tastebuds, of the restaurant. Piero dashes around like a madman, filling the glasses, cooking the food, schmoozing with his patrons… He runs the restaurant with a devilish grin and possibly an off-color joke if he knows you like that. You leave the restaurant knowing that you matter.
We’ve spent a lot of time over at the Mayflower. Don’t feel like cooking tonight? Mayflower! Need to impress guests? Mayflower! It’s after midnight and you can’t sleep? MAYFLOWER! I can’t tell you how many Tuesdays I would sit in my art room with the windows open, listening to the cacophony of karaoke emanating from Mayflower’s hallowed halls. Live music? You betcha. I’ve been a live music fan for a very long time. Most of our social life from our pre-Italy days involved live music in one way or another. We were pretty bummed when we arrived here and discovered that Vicenza isn’t quite the mecca of arts and music that we were expecting, but were positively delighted when we found a great source right in our own yard, sorta.
Mayflower’s broom closet was made with chalkboard doors, and within weeks, my husband had volunteered to adorn them with all manner of fantastic art, advertising upcoming shows and events.
This last picture isn’t for a band. This is La Befana. I wrote about her here.
Over the months, I became somewhat disenchanted with my Mayflower visits. One of the great unmentioned secrets of Italy is that while they cherish their mothers, daughters, and especially their grandmothers, Italian men generally don’t talk with women. Perhaps it’s just me because I’m a straniera, or foreigner, but anytime my husband and I would walk over, Piero would greet him by name, and me by, well, “Ciao, moglie!” (Which means, “Hello, wife.”) At first I laughed it off, but after awhile, it irked me, bigtime. So I started going to Mayflower less and less. I didn’t feel very welcome. My husband went often, and consequently and he and Piero became very close. Some nights my guy returned home around 5am, jolly drunk and full of great music, food, and stories. One night, I’d had enough.
“Why won’t Piero learn my name?! It’s not that hard!” I declared. “He knows your name,” I continued. “He needs to know mine too.” I stewed for awhile. Assertiveness isn’t necessarily my strong point, you see, so it took a few months before I found the courage to say something. One night, we went back over and I hoped for maybe more than a grin and a passing cheek-kiss. Nope. So I sat there, eating my favorite pizza and brooding (and drinking). After I’d had one or two (or perhaps a few more), I stood to leave and spotted Piero. He was taking a rare break, sitting at a table with friends. Was it polite of me to march over and interrupt him? Not in the slightest. But did he know my name ten minutes later? He sure did. And he never again missed an opportunity to use it. I think he began to respect me that night, and not just see me as his wife’s friend.
I’m going to stop here and start working on the next installment. I think I’m going to tell this story in serial format. I couldn’t tell you how many chapters will be in it, but I’m interested to see how it goes. Stay tuned for part two.