Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Language Encounters of the the 3rd Kind: Calzoni & una Moglie Ubriaca

Italians are believed to be more tolerant than the French (but then that isn't saying much) in dealing with tourists eager to put newfound language skills to work.  Intrepid traveler and guest blogger Allen Beroza, a retired attorney from Buffalo, New York, put the theory to the test in a pair of encounters, the first in Florence, the second at a Rome restaurant not far from the Spanish Steps. 

Piazza Sant Croce, from in front of the building housing
the Scuola Toscana language school
While attending language school in Florence I discovered a pizzeria located right on the Piazza del Duomo featuring calzone that looked absolutely delectable.  Unable to stop and partake on my first visit, I came back a couple of afternoons later.  Alas, the calzone were all sold out!  Something in me wouldn't let it go.

"Che peccato!" ("What a shame!) I moaned loudly.

Yup, said ye old proprietor, a touch gruffly I thought, they were all gone.

"Sono stato qui due giorni fa" I continued ("I was here two days ago")...

No response in particular...

w I really decided to gild ye old lily, so I said, only partly in jest, "E da due giorni penso dei suoi calzoni" ("And for two days I've been thinking about your calzones...")

Calzone goes
into basement oven
Still nothing.

"Sogno dei suoi calzoni!" ("I've been dreaming about your calzones!")

Oh well, it was just not to be  After all, what could he do?  I actually didn't think there was anything.  My daughter and I trudged away.

A triumphant Beroza, with calzone
When lightning struck, Italian style.  Customers came out of the shop, shouting for us to return.  Ye old prop had decided to make me up a custom calzone.  Though he was the only one tending the pizzeria he left the shop semi-full of customers and took me downstairs, where it turned out he had a full kitchen replete with stacked pizza ovens.  He asked me what I wanted in my calzone, kneaded the dough, loaded it up, popped it in an oven and told me it'd be a few minutes. 

Back upstairs none of his customers who'd been waiting seemed fazed by any of this.

As for me, gotta confess I got a thrill from the exchange, not so much from the calzone.

Via Sistina, looking up toward the top of the Spanish Steps
A little less than a week later I was part of a group of five people looking for a restaurant in Rome on a Saturday night.  We found a likely looking spot on via Sistina called "La Botte" and we went in.

Now this was my first night in Rome, and I was in just a fine frame of mind.  I must tell you that I had been told that Italians have a marvelously colorful way of saying "I want to have my cake and eat it, too."  They say "I want to have a full cask AND a drunken wife!"

And guess what?  "La botte" means "cask" in Italian.

OK, then, as two young waiters and a busboy escorted us to our table I had to try it.  I shouted out "Voglio avere una botte piena..." ("I want to have a full cask...") then paused for a beat before continuing--loudly and in unison with our dining room crew!---"e una moglie ubriaca!"  We instantly became favored customers, swarmed with attention and recommendations throughout our meal, which concluded with grappa on the house all around. 

Allen Beroza

No comments: