This weekend we got together with our friends for dinner out on the town. Without a specific destination in mind, we took off around the backside of Piazza Navona, a zone with lots of great eats and lively street action.
What makes Italy, and the people who make it (Italians) is their steadfast stick-to-it-ness to the time honored traditions. This is what keeps the food so pure and local, and also keeps the young people shut out of careers. It’s clearly a win some lose some situation. In this same vein, one of the best traditions are the long, lingering dinners that last longer than the digestive process. I have never, never, never had anyone bring the bill without a clear eye contact and requesting “Il Conto!” It simply doesn’t happen. Pushing a bill to turn a table must be forbidden somewhere in the Italian constitution.
Buuuuuuuuuut, alas! The twist in tradition. While out to dinner with our friends, we witnessed and partook in a very covert and sneaky (important Italian trait) departure on the Italian Linger Law. It bordered on treachery, but by definition the bill was only brought upon our request, saving the waiter, and the restaurant from damnation.
Here’s how it went down: In the first place, we spotted the restaurant because it was full of real, bonafide Italians, a sure indication of the quality of the establishment. It was packed, and we know we were dinner cruising in dangerous waters without a reservation, and agreed to the two minute wait outside on the street. Even after waiting in Italian time (multiply by 10), we were still standing in the street.
Just as we were about to find another joint, a waitress came out the door with four classes of Prosecco. Oh! Wow! Thank you so much!!! We were truly appreciative of the gesture; they realized our great pain of the wait and brought some of the Italian bubbly. Truly a great offering.
We waited another ten minutes, and finally after one more request, were briskly ushered to our table, old coverings being quickly changed out for new ones as we took our seats. We ordered, ate, and conversed in a timely fashion. As soon as we finished, the waiter arrived – “Anything more? Dolce? Cafe? ” Nothing we said. He swiftly turned on heel, and returned no more than a minute later with 5 shot glasses of Limoncello. Yes: 5 glasses of Limoncello. Before we could make sense of the extra glass, or why we were even receiving more free alcohol, the waiter said “One, two, three!” And before we knew it, waiter and all take the Limoncello as a shot. We’d only every had Limoncello as the slow sipper that it should be after a meal lasting the length of War and Peace.
And there we were, the proud recipients of not one, but TWO free drinks, and ready to leave! Feeling spectacularly pleased, we left, and couldn’t help but notice the crowd gathering for dinner at OUR restaurant.
And then it hit me: they found a way to turn a table without actually placing the bill on the table. Not only this, but they also kept us hooked on a long waiting line to get our business. Somewhere a round Italian grandmother is rolling over, and somewhere else some slick Italian is praising the ingenious loophole that our restaurant had found.
The restaurant, company, and FREE beverages were great. Being rushed was alright because we had other plans anyways. Not knowing we were being rushed until we came down from our prosecco/limoncello high – was well – Italian.