Friday’s ramble: Dinner in a small town in Italy

‘Wilder’ is sent off for edit, so I threw myself straight into ‘Sweet Water’, the next book in that series, and – finally. In that story, there’s this girl with an enormous need for peace of mind, and I know just where to take her. I wrote a guest post about it for Mama Reads Blog a while back, but if you missed it, here it is again.
I think I’ll go and make myself an espresso now, and attempt to do the impossible; find a quiet corner in my busy house. Then I’ll kick off the weekend, sniffing my coffee and trying to catch that zen state I often end up in when I have dinner in a small town in Italy. Maybe I’ll find it, though most likely I won’t, but regardless, I’m sure the weekend will be great.

Hope you’ll all have a good one too!

Dinner in a small town in Italy
In a small town in northern Italy, there’s this place that I love. It’s just a small restaurant, not fancy at all – but just like anywhere you go in that region, the food is amazing.
I’m usually the first one to sit down at a table. They open at 7 pm, which to a Swede is well past dinner time, and when I walk in five minutes past the hour, the staff always smile widely. The waitress sweeps her arm out in a wide arc to indicate that I can indeed sit anywhere I like. I usually pick a small table in a corner, with my back against the wall.

The pizza baker always shouts a friendly ‘Buonasera’ from behind his counter and wiggles the wooden spatula he uses to shuffle the pies in and out from the huge oven. Then the waitress comes with the menu, and pours me a small complimentary glass of Prosecco, sparkling white wine. The first time I was there I protested, saying in my limited Italian that I’d prefer Lambrusco, the sparkling red from the area. She looked at me and replied gently that yes, of course I did. For dinner. This was Prosecco, to start with.

So I sit there, inhaling deeply. My nostrils slowly fill with the smell of garlic and tomato, mushroom and whatever vegetables they’re cooking in the kitchen. It’s quiet and peaceful, and I sip my Prosecco wondering what to have for dinner, knowing that I’ll end up having a pizza. Nothing tastes like the pizza at that place. It’s thin, with just a splash of tomato and a thin layer of Mozzarella. On top of the cheese is the ham, from Parma, of course, and perhaps a few cherry tomatoes. Finishing it off is a handful of Arugula, and if you feel just a little bit crazy, you can sprinkle it with the chili flavored oil that always has its place on the table.

Then people start to fill the restaurant. Slowly the sounds are increasing, people are talking and laughing, glasses are clinked, and there are soft sounds from cutlery scraping across the plates. The smells from the kitchen intensify, the staff walks faster but they still never seem to rush. Once the kids are fed, they walk around freely, and they never disturb anyone. They don’t run and don’t shout; they just blend into the crowd somehow.
Sometimes people come up to me to talk, and I try to reply but my Italian is mostly a mix of French with a few words of Spanish so unless they speak English (and they normally don’t) we end up smiling and nodding before they move on.

I can stay there the whole night, and I never get any dirty looks from the staff for lingering. They offer me espresso and Nocino, a sweet walnut liqueur, and let me sit there for as long as I like. Sometimes I write, and sometimes I draw, but most of the time I end up with my pen in my hand, head leaned back against the wall behind me, just watching.
I haven’t included this place in a story yet. Somehow it’s too precious, and I haven’t found the words to describe it just right, but one day I will. When one of my heroines finds herself desperately needing peace of mind, I’ll take her to my special place. Until then, I’ll just keep it to myself.

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