Saturday, January 2, 2010

private party 31/10/09

Our cameriere has the waitress way, ‘cosa volete ragazzi, sieti pronti?’ 'what are you having guys, are your ready?’ They know where they stand with her direct approach. It takes me ages to understand and write down all the extra ingredients they want in ther panini. I got caught with a bunch of Panini customers who wanted to know all the different kinds of ham and meats available, words I find hard to pronounce since I am not a meat-eater. I struggled through the tongue-twisting list: prosciuto crudo, prosciutto cotto, salami, bresaola. Then I said excuse me to lift the big yellow menus from the table, but the girl didn’t move much, just kept gassing away. So the big floppy menus passed close to her face, and I said excuse me again, smiling pleasantly but she just made a face as if to say how awful. I took their meaty made-up Panini order to the kitchen. As if the wonderful split pea soup with toasted cumin and chilli pepper will ever be requested. There was a surplus of mushrooms and so I made a mushroom soup, seemed the logical thing to do, following a lovely recipe from the Avoca book. But mio marito was surprised and made a face when he stirred the gloopy mixture. I took some just now to mio suocero for him and the nonni (grandparents) but he was surprised too: ‘oh we have mushrooms with pasta,’ he said, as if that was the only way. I know, I said, so do I, but we also have mushroom soup, a classic autumnal lunch. They will think it is heavy no doubt. But is a great soup. They will appreciate the gesture anyway I guess.

I was having a quick pasta dinner when people started arriving for the private party upstairs, so I ate round the corner in a less conspicuous spot. Mio marito was over like a flash; you always eat on the high tables in front of the bar, why not tonight? He demanded. He was perhaps tense because the private party was for the 30th birthday party of an ex from many years ago. This girl is not a regular, lives in the next town and in fact I don’t think has ever been over to our restaurant. But she wanted to spend her 30th birthday here with us. Great.

I went up to check if all was running smoothly once they had started serving the buffet food. I spotted the cameriere behind the serving table and was on my way to him, when whom did I spot but mio marito standing with arm round the birthday girl posing for a photo. In her glamorous shiny dress and heels and feather I thought someone got Halloween mixed up, but such overdressing (she could have been going to a wedding – her own) is typical here in Sicily, where things are best done in extremes, if they are done at all. Arms round each other, he tucking her in close to him by the waist, smiling away all the charm turned on. I could have turned and gone down the stairs. Or just calmly watched from the stairs, but no, nothing like being spontaneous. I marched over and pinched his waist so he sprang back. I pinched hard too. He was justifying it later, ‘I have been working hard all night,’ he kept saying, ‘you just came at that one unfortunate moment, she had just said facciamo la foto.’ (‘let’s take a photo!’) Of course she did. She turned and recovered herself well, ‘tu sei la moglie’. (‘You’ll be his wife.’) Not just a pretty face I thought, and just smiled broadly when she offered her hand and said, ‘piacere’. ‘I recognize you,’ she said, ‘from Facebook.’ So she is one of those Facebook people, of course she is. I am not a jealous person, (seriously) but this felt like an invasion of my place, the place I have created with mio marito.

It wasn’t very busy below, even though it was a nice mild night. The English architect students came along. The girl came out with her usual totally accurate comments in her very bizarre drunken way. She said there was no one in the other bars. She laughed, ‘oh no it’s winter, no one leaves their houses now. What do they do?’ She asked, perplexed. She heard the music from the party upstairs and said oh is that the group who played before, Milazzo’s best eh? They love it.’ The boy said, ‘hey they are attempting to play Michael Jackson live, that’s brave!’ She laughed, ‘But they don’t realize how crap they sound.’

Three guys stopped me when I was going up the stairs and asked if they could come too. I said it was festa privata and not worth it. They laughed and got me to chat to them and one seemed familiar. He was just back from Sevilla where he had been for 6months as physio to the football team. He said he had loved it and lived with his sister there. His friend had come to visit and liked it too. Which is better Milazzo or Sevilla, they asked. And laughed when I said Seville. But I said the islands were good and the volcanoes. Il barman was watching me chat to them coming over to wash things at the sink, ears pricked. They were asking what I was doing here, was I on holidays. I said I worked here and they laughed, thinking I was joking. La cameriera had a good look too, carrying a tray of glasses past. The three guys wanted to know what I did exactly. They nearly fell over when I said I ran it with my husband. Which one is your boyfriend? They asked in their funny English. Oh no, is he going to beat us up they joked. But disappeared at the earliest opportunity when a girl broke a glass on the table behind. No one stares at mio marito when he talks to customers.

Upstairs one of the party guests was chatting to the guitar player. ‘Have you heard her sing?’ he asked, ‘It’s sublime!’ the guitarist looked taken aback at such high praise. The guest said he had thought I was from Argentina when he heard me sing. Don’t worry, I said, it is a little known secret that I am Irish. Most people think I am Brazilian, including the staff!' The birthday girl was whispering about me slyly into the ear of another guest, whose glance over at me gave her away. He didn’t seem too interested though, and left her to it. I asked her was she having a good time, and she said she was, that the food was very good and they had been like vultures. That’s the important thing, I said. At the end I came up to give the waiters a hand to start closing up, and found a huge spray of red wine on the white wall. A nice job for the next day. Cigarette butts all over the floor. Birthday girl sprawled in a chair with feet up on a table, boyfriend stroking her legs. I have to pee, she said, and wobbled drunkenly off to the toilet. She gave me two kisses upon leaving and I thanked her; business is business. Her party will pay the suppliers.

Lola

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