I'm walking slowly, quietly, carefully, down the road in Pascoso; the rain is still drizzling as it has been doing on and off all day. Drizzle, rain, drizzle, rain. The cobblestones are glistening from the coat of water that has clothed them; it tickles my skin as I pat down the frizz in my hair. Eva opens the door to the big stone house on the corner; we all step inside.
Its a Tuesday night, but every table is filled with Italian families apart from one - lucky we made a reservation this morning, I think. A lady greets us and mum mentions Fausto; ah, yes, she knows, and points us towards the vacant seats.
There's five bambini, kids, scattered around the room; two bushy headed boys in front in their terrible twos; one baby on its mother's breast at the same table as the terroristi; and two girls in dresses to my left. There's also a table of four workers in well worn, yet collared shirts at 11 o'clock. To my far right, a group of expensive looking strangers. We are out of place, and I can feel it.
After about 15 minutes of scanning the menus, we are eager to order a drink. Mum catches the lady of the house out, "Scusi", excuse me, could we get a bottle of white and - ... She cuts mum off with a brutish, "Un momento, ok." And she's off again.
Cricky, we think, what a start to the night. Everyone is exchanging looks across the table, all of us weighing up whether we should do what any normal person would do if confronted with such a situation in Australia - walk out again and go to another restaurant. But the problem is, Fausto, the owner of our casa, has organised this reservation for us and we don't want to be kicked out of this small town on day 2. We are going to have to grin and accept.
We pass the eternal time between the abrupt order refusal and the lady's next appearance at our table by throwing glances around the room, trying to find a comfortable place to rest our eyes upon. The waitress whizzes back and forth, and is clearly ignoring us. She is making no secret of it either; everyone else is being served, only we go without.
Luckily, the room's attention is drawn to one of the two little brats in front of us. My guess is his name, along with that of 60% of the remaining Italian male populace, is Giovanni. He's about 2, as I mentioned, with little arms and legs dangling out of the high chair, and a scream that would pierce even a dolphin's ears.
He's wriggling around and around, a huge fork in his little fist that goes up and down on the table. His mama tries to quiet him with whispered threats, but its pointless; she'd have to thump down on him with an enormous basta!, enough!, for anything to pass through the ears of this spoilt little bambino. Nothing unusual for Italy, I think. All the kids here seem to have the pants on in their families.
The father of aka Giovanni says something to him in Italian that I don't understand, but it only makes the kid wail even more ferociously. That's when I realise what he's been moaning about this entire time; the gestures of this piccolo man were not unplanned, nor even unsynchronised. My ears prick when I register and understand the meaning, even the melody, of his drama.
Out of his little mouth have been pouring, over and over and over again, the words "Mio, mio, mio", me, me, me.
I like this little trouble maker now and am smiling broadly because he's making music. He nearly sings the words, his arms and legs moving in motion with the intonation of "mi" before dropping down on the "o". Try it, its a melody.... Mi-o-mi-o-mi-o.
All of a sudden, I see a little Bocelli, Pavarotti, sitting in that high chair, putting on a performance that no one seems to appreciate apart from me. Oh, if only I could lament my worries in such a magnificiently theatrical way.
As I'm watching him, the waitress returns; in sync with my lifted spirits, she has also changed her tune. She's trying to accomodate us and explain questions we have in her broken English. Her name is Daniela; another work of genius when pronounced in Italian, just flowing off the tongue so that you can impossibly be angry with her.
Once she's with us, she's as quick as a fly you cannot catch. The wine is in front of us, sparkling water, there's the carpaccio of salmon and fresh pane, bread. I realise now for the first time that Daniela is throwing this whole show herself; about 35 patrons, and she does everything from welcoming to ordering to pouring and serving drinks. She wasn't ignoring us at all, I begin to understand. There just a different way of doing things here, far more efficient and pleasant than ours, really. I gain instant and enormous respect - her job is no easy feat.
The pizzas arrive. What can I say... WOW. If a madman smashed in the window of the ristorante with the butt of his rifle, then let off a shot that bounced off the steel frame of the flickering lamp and straight into my heart, I would die a happy signorina. We have a margherita, the classic; a Tandem, fresh porcini mushrooms from the Pascoso forest and prosciutto; and a Tonno e cipolla, tuna and onion. They are all delicous, mouthwatering, divine, worth giving large amounts of money and/or possessions for. The bases are thin, but not too thin; the topping is scarce but not too scarce. I don't know how I have gone this far through my life without them.
I vow right there and then to return to Pascoso for as long as it takes me to eat my way from the top of the three page menu to the bottom, and then all the way back up again.
We return to Daniela two nights later and she is geniunely happy to see us again; favourites are the Pizza Tandem and the Pappadelle alla Capriolo. Don't delay. Book your tickets to Italy this very minuteband call her at La Sosta for a table before the rest of the world finds out.
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