Curtain Call is 8pm
'Ti prendo alle 8, va bene? Vuoi mangiare pesce o carne? Moto o Macchina?'
'Yes, you can pick me up at 8. I prefer not to eat fish. And bring the bike.'
These were the three questions that my friend Marco asked and my responses when he called to make plans for our Tuesday evening out on the town.
In three simple questions it was all set, it was a date. Naturally I thought motorcyle i.e. casual restaurant, more than likely a trattoria than a true ristorante. Most people who know Blondi know that she usually dresses for the occasion or sometimes just the opposite but lets say she is never, never underdressed. My rule is it is always best to be outrageously overdressed than to be ever, ever underdressed. Maybe its the Italian blood that flows thru my veins. Or maybe it is when growing up attending the Lebanese church was like going to a weekly fashion show where the local female parishioners wore two-peice skirt suits, 3 inch stilettos and so much gold jewelry that it made my stylish Italian mother and I look like Swedish Minnesotans.
I planned for practical motorcycle clothes for an average trattoria kind of night out on the town. As I was rushing home in true Roman city living style with only a half hour to spare when I received a text message from Marco saying he was going to be at my palazzo at 7:50pm to pick me up. What?! He was going to be early. My comfortable thirty minutes turned into a rushed 20. I must say it was the first time anyone in Rome has ever made plans with me and been early let alone on time. You are just not on time in Rome. And if you are people think something is wrong with you. So like a true ragazza living in this city I always add 10 minutes to ever appointment I have because I know they will be late which really means 'on time' in Roma. But apparently not tonight. So upon getting the news via SMS, the Italian version of American texting, I run as fast as possible thru my courtyard in my 3 inch cork sandles to get to my 7th floor apartment. As I am riding in the very small 2 person elevator to the top floor of my new apartment building I send a SMS in return confirming he is bringing the bike so I know how to dress myself-trying to save time if possible. I quickly decide to dress for the bike and even if he has the car we aren't going anywhere fancy....non c'é problema. No problem.
I am almost finished with primping myself when I receive the SMS that he decided to bring the car and he is downstairs already. Yikes! Ok, well don't want to change. Actually, no time to change since I am still have to put my lipstick on and pack my purse for the evening. I send SMS in return saying I will be down in 5.
More like 10 minutes later, I am exiting my palazzo to find my date waiting for me on the street by his car. This is where my ride on the fashion rollercoaster begun. Marco knowing that he wasn't bringing his bike and having the knowledge of where we were eating tonight appropriately dressed for the evening i.e. leather trench, suit jacket, bottom down shirt, jeans, and great shoes. Most Italian men have the ability to buy & wear great looking shoes with hardly much effort at all. I on the other hand I have dressed myself in jeans, cowboy boots and a short black leather coat. I am always fashionably prepared, not this night kids.
The first thing out of Marco's Roman mouth is 'You dressed for the bike!'...I am completely mortified. I quickly try to recover from this fashion tragedy and say 'I received your message too late and was already dressed.' He does the typical Italian response 'Va bene, andiamo!'...It's okay, let's go! We get in the car, he tells me we are going to this trattoria, at least I was right about something, but first we are going to drive the car into town a little ways and then take a cab because the restaurant is too in the center of town and we can't drive there. I say that it sounds like a good plan to me the whole time trying to recover from the first 5 minutes of the evening and the dozen long stem peached color roses he just gave me.
Traffic in Rome can be real terrible especially driving around the historic center. But with hardly no hassle at all and no more than 20 minutes later I stepped out from our taxi onto the centurie's old cobblestones with my black boot leading the way. I recognized the area as being near the Pantheon since I take this street when I am leading my walking tours for work. As Mr. Rose payed for the cab I walked to the front door of the 'trattoria'. Looks like a nice & cozy place...wooden door, glowing light escaping onto the street from behind this screen, partition in the entrance. Marco joined me at the door and we walked inside together and that is when the show began!
All of a sudden, the Maitre D'ella trattoria appeared from behind the screen and promptly executed a slight bow and greeted Marco by Signore Ciarla, his last name. I thought 'Oh boy, this is going to be interesting. What the heck is behind this screen? What kind of restaurant am I at? Shit, I am so underdressed.' Well, I quickly found out that this 'motorcycle night out on the town' was turning into eating at a four star restaurant in the center of Rome blocks away from the Pantheon my favorite and best perserved ancient Roman monument! But the staff at this restaurant have no idea that I know that...they are probably wondering where this blondi fauhawk wearing obviously non-Italian chick came from!
La Signora leads us to the dining room around the corner where to my surprise everyone is male and is wearing a suit. Mannagia, damn, I am really going to shake some things up in this joint with my boots tonight. Then a small miracle happened and gave me hope...while the Maitre D' was assisted by two other waiters that kindly helped us get comfortable at our table, I was placed at the table so I was facing the opposite way towards the door, towards the partition. At that moment I saw a large table of Americans dressed in button down shirts and khakis. I was finally not alone in this nightmare of being underdressed...and it was the first time in my life that I was happy to see Americans in Rome.
Back to the excitement buzzing around Signore Ciarla and Blondi. There are waiters taking our coats to the guardaroba, the coat check room, and then another waiter comes and says he will take my purse so I am more comfortable. Where is going to take it to, put it where?! He proceedes to rig this hook on the table and places my small black Prada backpack on the hook. Really nice touch I must say...at least it wasn't a fake or else that might have been the thing that had thrown me over the edge. As my bag was slightly swinging from our impeccably linened table I thought, 'That purse was chosen because I was suppose to be on the back of a bike, eating pizza and drinking beer at a trattoria.' I also realized at that moment that my cell phone was in my leather jacket that had already been swept away and now I can't SMS my BFF in Milano...I knew at that moment I was on my own. Man, dating is SO hard.
I look across the table at Marco and ask myself is this where 10 generation Romans bring their dates? I know a 7 generation Romano and he owns a fabulous secret trattoria, it is actaully a cultural association in 'The Ghetto'. Maybe the longer your blood runs thru the history of Rome the more you love & cherish food and you become restaurant owners. Chi sa? Who knows?!
I am uncharacteristically quite when they bring us the menu. There are no prices. No problem. I cooly reach for my champagne flute of prosecco and proceed to discuss what we should order and I silently thank God that my brother-in-law Derek is an amazing chef and because of this I have the palate and capacity to understand this type of menu and trattoria. I gently remind you I am channeling rocker fauhawk blondi not New Yorkese eating at 4 star restaurant blondi. Oh well, anything goes in Rome.
Marco orders for us because I must admit even though I can certainly order in Italian I was quite speechless at that moment. He also orders an amazing bottle of white wine, I prefer white. The sommelier brings the wine to the table for Marco's approval and then pours our glasses and quickly ushers the bottle to the ice bucket on the table behind me in the corner. Well, that didn't last very long. It only took us 'til the first course to start breaking the rules. As we were sipping our wine and nibbling off our bread basket I asked Marco why did he choose to take me to this place tonight...our first date. He smiled in a devilish way and replied 'I wanted to take you to 'the theatre' so you would be entertained and I knew you would appreciate the food.' Il Teatro, eh...I replied 'My friend once said to me Annie, you dress like you are going to the theatre when you are going to the disco and you look like you are going to the disco when you are going to the theatre. So the next time we go out and have pizza I will dress for the theatre.' Done. Fashion nightmare no more. I was at the theatre, I wasn't at a four star restaurant in downtown Roma.
Over the next few hours I was completely entertained by the characters of the theatre I mean ristorante. Only the sommelier poured the wine, the Maitre D' asked for our order, one waiter served the courses, another cleared the plates, one served dessert, etc, etc, etc. We enjoyed every moment of it and we broke all the rules. We asked for the wine to be placed at the table, we asked for more olive oil on our sushi crudo, we asked for pepper-which is a never because everything is already seasoned just right. It was fantastic to see their reactions and expressions on their faces everytime we asked for something that brought them out of their comfort zone.
Yeah, comfort zone.
I would say for the first time in a long time I was unexpectedly taken out of my comfort zone and ushered to a wonderful 'teatro' where I met a new cast of characters not far from my favorite piazza in the world.
Ahhh, bella roma.