samedi, novembre 12, 2005

Napoleon spoke Italian before he spoke French

Dear Wife's birthday was yesterday, and instead of boring you with a long list of my incredibly thoughtful gifts and little loving acknowledgments, I will tell you about our dinner. Well, just a little about it.

We dressed up, me in a suit and Dear Wife in a new dress, bought for her that very day by me (there, I spilled the beans on one gift). I had spied this dress over a month ago, and as we walked through the city on her birthday, I'd cleverly steered her past this shop, and then convinced her to try the dress on—and it was immediately apparent what a brilliant choice it was, because she looks stunning, and the sight left me very gratified. We had made reservations earlier in the week for dinner at a very nearby Italian restaurant named Casa Bini, or Casabini, I'm not sure which. We'd been there once before, and it was pronounced by Dear Wife her favorite meal in Paris, and the place she'd most like to revisit for a special occasion. So revisit we did.

But the wonderful and maddening thing about this place is that it is staffed and run by actual Italians. So when we walked in through the velvet-draped portal, the Maître D is actually the Major Domo, and he greets us with a proud, "Buona Sera," which we answer unthinkingly in kind, our Italian being the most comfortable foreign language for both of us (I say this, and it’s true for Dear Wife, but for me this just means my 7 words of French are dwarfed by the 12 I know in Italian). Then we are asked if we have reservations, I think in French by an assistant Major Domo (a minor domo?), which Dear Wife quietly answers in French. We are attached to a hostess, who’s heard our initial accomplished Italian, and invites us to follow here in the language of the land of Michelangelo. We follow her up some steep stairs, and are then handed off to the overseer of our dining room, who seats us and, not hearing our initial, impressive exchange in Italian, greets us in French, which we then try to answer in kind. In comes the waitress who hands us our menus, and when I continue the line of French by saying “Merci,” (perhaps the Italian was just an affectation on the part of the staff, I think, and I shouldn't push it—maybe I should revert to French now that the actual discourse of the meal is at hand) she answers my “Merci,” with “Prego.”

And I’m totally lost.

After we’ve given our drink order to her assistant in fumbling French, mixing our insecure Franco syntax with items pronounced as if in Italian, ( Ferrarelle, Montepulciano, etc.), I ask to amend my order and add the house aperitif, a “Casabini”, I start with, “Per piacere,” and end the request with, “aussi.”

(Have you noticed my sudden ability to write in italics? All courtesy of Dear Pal Pete, as true a friend as could be—and damn handy with the html, too )

It just spirals downward from there, with grazie’s mixing with merci’s, je voudrais replaced by vorrei, etc., etc. Even language maven Dear Wife becomes totally flummoxed, and reverts to English a couple of times. The staff takes it in stride, and indulges our confusion by answering in whatever language formed the bulk of our statement.

Now that’s class.

Dear Wife had the excellent bresaola with truffle oil for an appetizer, while I had the mozzarella wrapped in “speck,” a very bacon-like dried meat; my main course was the linguine with lobster bits, and Dear Wife had the casareccia with the zucchini, (another pasta dish). It was all damn tasty. We skipped dessert, as I had some sweets stashed back at the apartment (in both apartments, actually, for whatever eventuality manifested itself), and some candles for a happy birthday serenade and wish-making. It was great fun, and we decided to spend the night at the new place instead of dealing with another all-night assault from the raucous revelers at The Moose and The Mystery Club.

A wonderful decision.

CLICK on the pic for a better view--it's un- believable! And this is what we see at the foot of our bed! (Note wooden safety rail)

Dammit, are we ever lucky.

The new place is sweetly silent, and our 6th floor bedroom has an excellent nighttime view of our neighboring buildings, and in the distance, the big Montparnasse Tower. With all those rows of eccentric chimneys sprouting from staggered rooflines, it looks like frickin' Mary Poppins out there!

Vive le Bonaparte!


At lundi, novembre 14, 2005, Blogger Scott said...

how brilliant is that? You must buy a cannon and fire it off every day at eight sharp.


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