Lunch On Italian Time


Restored Ceiling of a Chapel in Sienna Duomo

On Wednesday Alison and John, the hosts of this farmhouse gathering in Cetona, treated everyone (13 of us at that point) to a celebratory lunch at a restaurant on the Piazza Garibaldi in Cetona.  I’d gone to the restaurant with Alison on Monday morning so she could meet with the chef and plan the menu — we’re celebrating many birthdays, both recent and current, while here, and Wednesday’s lunch was one of very many celebratory eating events.

“We’re here to talk with Nilo about Wednesday’s lunch,” Alison said when we arrived at the restaurant.

“He’ll be back in a few minutes,” the waiter who speaks English told us.

“How many minutes,” I asked, wanting to know if we should come back later, if we should do some shopping, if we should just wait there.  “Five minutes, fifteen, an hour?”

The waiter smiled.  “Italian minutes.  How many?” he shrugged and gestured to the tables outside on the piazza.  “Take your coffee.  He will be here.”

So Alison and I sat with cups of cappuccino and soon John joined us, having walked in to town.  He had an espresso.  Before too long Nilo arrived and we began talking about the menu for lunch, with the waiter serving as translator.  We talked about four courses, antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce (appetizer, first course, main course and dessert), but decided that would be too much food and asked for only the antipasto, primo — which consisted of two pasta dishes we assumed would be split and served together as one — and dolce.  By that point, however, the translator was waiting on other customers, and I suspected Nilo thought we were still having the rabbit and chicken as a secondo.  But I decided not to say anything.  This was Alison and John’s party to plan, we’re all in Italy to relax and eat, why worry about it?

At lunch on Wednesday when the primo came out as two separate dishes — ravioli with tomato sauce and then pici with duck sauce — my suspicion of misunderstandings with Nilo about the menu got firmer.  By then every one was in a jolly mood, as new bottles of wine kept appearing on the table and the pace of service gave us plenty of time to talk about everyone’s various adventures in Tuscany so far and the delicious food being placed in front of us.  After the waiters cleared the pici dishes, Alison announced that next we would be having the apple cake with gelato.  Except the waiters gave everyone forks and knives again.

“I think we’re getting meat,” I said, and sure enough, plates with chicken, rabbit, potatoes and small spinach souffles were set in front of everyone.  Everyone who by then was more than full. We’d already been at the table eating and drinking and talking for hours — Italian hours. Now everyone was laughing.

So we did what we had to do.  We ate some more.  The waiters kindly gave us containers to take home leftovers, along with the apple cake.  But somehow we all found room to eat our gelato at the restaurant.

We finished those leftovers last night.  Good thing there’s a cook coming to the farmhouse tonight to create another delicious meal, and a new round of leftovers.

Here are some photos of what I’ve been doing besides eating.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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