Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Que Bella

 Like many of you, we have been enjoying Stanley Tucci's Searching for Italy.

Stanley is no Anthony Bourdain, the undisputed king of "Let's Travel on the Corporate Dime and Eat Incredible Food by the World's Top Chefs Boondoggle", but he does bring his own unique charm. I've always enjoyed his performances and find it surprising he has never won an academy award.

I think we can all agree this is another example of the Hirsute World keeping the hairless man down.

While watching the show with my wife and oldest daughter, a foodie, who we love having around the house but definitely needs to move out, there are a lot of "ooo's and aaaah's." Everything about his journey through Italy looks amazing; the architecture, the quaint villages, the too tight clothing that is supremely unwearable by girthy Americans and of course, the pasta dishes.

Though, in the opinion of this girthy male, the portions are embarrassingly small. 

Like three forkfuls of fettuccini. Served in some torturous half a coffee cup. I'm sorry that's not the way Italian food should be served. Have these folks ever been to an Olive Garden? Have they not heard of the Endless Bread Basket? If a waiter ever put these minuscule plates out in a restaurant in Hoboken or Astoria, fuggetaboutit!

Last week, Stanley was in Milan, a city we visited more than 30 years ago. 

My wife and I had been seeing each other for 6 months when she came to me and said, "I have all these frequent flier miles from business trips, do you want to go to Europe?"

How could I say no? Even though I knew traveling with someone for a 3 week stint could either make or break a relationship, we pulled the trigger.

We flew into Manchester, an American Airlines hub. On our first night about town, we walked into a true workingman's pub. There were men passed out in the corner. And others peeing on the wall. So much for the majesty of the great British Empire.

The next day we hopped on a funny beer-soaked train for the short ride to Glasgow where we ended up singing songs with locals who were all too happy to buy drinks for the Yanks. 

In Glasgow, we met my Aunt Helen and my mother's family who I had never seen before. In my aunt's modest row home in Paisley, we were introduced to the notion of decentralized heating. To save money, they only heat the rooms that people find themselves in for extended periods of time. 

There is no cold like the inside of a Scottish home cold.

I'll spare you the murky details of our New Year's Eve in Paris (Bon Ani), the wild revelers, the overturned cars, and the alcohol-induced confusion of getting lost at 2 in the morning on the Parisian Metro Rail, suffice to say it was an eventful night.

In Switzerland we rented a car and drove through the Alps into northern Italy. At one point I needed to buy a road map (this was long before NAV systems and Waze). We stopped at a gas station and the woman behind the counter, spotting us as Americans, sold me a used map. I think it cost me 800,000,000 lira. 

I'm pretty sure I overpaid.

But we made it. And my wife, who had gotten sick on some bad bratwurst in Lausanne, where we also bowled at the cleanest bowling alley on Earth ("You went to Switzerland and you went bowling? Yes, we did"), was now feeling better.

And thankfully so, because we only had 48 hours to take in all that Milan, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, had to offer. I'd post some pictures but to be honest, there all stuffed in an envelope somewhere in the garage and not easy to find. Though Deb promises to sort through all the old photos, sometime in this century.

Hopefully, with Covid waning and with a real president working (not golfing) to solve this country's problems, we will return to Italy. 

Next time when the weather is warmer. And when some of Stanley Tucci's favorite restaurant's start serving adult-sized portions. 

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