When we were in Santa Barbara I took David to a wonderful little Italian restaurant I’d found years and years ago when I used to go there with a former husband. It’s way up State Street next to a funky old post office and when you go inside, I swear, it looks just like I imagine a little restaurant in Italy would look—crowded, noisy, tiny tables, lots of wine bottles all around and waitresses wearing white aprons carrying plates over their heads in order to be able to walk between the crowded tables.
David leans over the fresh calamari that we ordered. “There’s the owner,” he says in a loud whisper so as to be heard above the din.
Sure enough, it was the owner. I remembered him from the first time. A tall, handsome. slender man.
“Yeh, he’s the owner,” I tell David. “He sold us some fabulous Italian cheese ‘not from the milk of a cow,’ as he’d put it then in his fresh from Italy English. Except he had more hair 10 years ago,” I laugh lightly, noting the owner’s now carefully combed threads.
Before we leave I go to the Ladies Room which is through the bustling kitchen where two probably Mexican men in chef’s jackets are busily preparing all the Italian dishes on open flame stoves.
On the wall over the grill hangs a hand painted sign. “Kiss the Cook.”
On my way out I run into the owner and he smiles and tells me good afternoon in Italian.
“I’m sure you don’t remember me,” I say. “But I was here about 10 years ago and you sold me the most wonderful Italian cheese. We tasted so many cheeses and had such a great time that I’ve never forgotten it.
“Ah, si, senora,” he says as if he does remember me, like any good Italian man would.
“The cheese counter is gone after 10 years,” he says and pointing to his head, “so is much of my hair.”
“I noticed!” I say teasingly, “I just told my husband the same thing!”
I comment that the restaurant has certainly blossomed and that I’m so glad he’s still there and just like that, like it happened every day, he takes my hand and we lean forward and kiss each other on both cheeks. Me, a 70-something-year-old woman, and him a 40-something-year-old tall, graceful Italian man who owns a wonderful Italian restaurant and who has also lost some—a lot of—his hair.
My husband, having witnessed my double cheek kissing scene with the owner is standing waiting for me by our table.
“Here,” he says, “let me help you with your coat before you run away with the guy who owns this restaurant.”
“What a great lunch,” I tell him. “Great food. Great memories. And a great husband who talks to me like I’m a 70-something-year-old woman that 40-year old men from Italy would want to run away with.”
“Hey,” he jokes back. “You’re Italian. One never knows!”