Mamma Mia! Experiencing the Unexpected in Rome

My Mom and I were lingering near a bus stop in Rome, waiting on my sister in a nearby shop.  We were entertained by the group of school children waiting, the Italian mothers, in their three-inch heeled black boots and Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, trying to supervise the chaos. The nuns, in their traditional black habits, were more successful with their stern looks.

We were caught off guard by the nicely dressed gentleman walking up the sidewalk towards us. He navigated around the kids, smiled at us, and said in English, “Two beautiful women out for the beautiful day! Do you have lunch plans?” Only in Rome! We were quite surprised. I think we actually giggled at each other, like the school girls waiting for the bus.

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“Well, actually, we are looking for a restaurant for lunch, but we only have an hour,” I said, which in Rome is about enough time to take your coat off and order.

“My name is Federico. Come to my restaurant. It’s around the corner. We will make you fresh pasta, pronto. Bring your mamma.”

How do I refuse a summons like that! After convincing my sister, who was not so sure this was a legitimate lunch invitation, we walked to the restaurant to take a peek. There was no peeking, Federico was waiting for us and after some hesitation on my sister’s part ~ she does not like being forced into things by strange men ~ we were ushered into the restaurant. The wine was practically poured and appetizers ordered before we sat down. My sister put on the brakes; she wanted to choose her own food. I politely told Federico we wanted to look at the menu; I didn’t want a $200 lunch!

We broke with tradition and ordered one appetizer for the three of us, the mozzarella and prosciutto, and pastas for our main course. I apologetically reminded the aghast Federico we really only did have an hour. He poured me more wine and went off to the kitchen.

It was the mozzarella and prosciutto that calmed us down, won us over. Well, perhaps Federico’s smile and hospitality too. The most perfect dish of mozzarella arrived, like a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with slivers of prosciutto draped around and olive oil drizzled on top. We sat quietly, savoring every flavor of our first taste. It was magnifico! Forget about arriving on time for our flight, we wanted to relish lunch.

Federico was a stereotypical Italian man. Flattering, bold, gracious, outright flirting with my mom. We learned he had been in the restaurant business for 30 years and before that in the Italian stone business.

My Mom and Federico

My Mom and Federico

Our pasta was wonderful, the meal the best we had in Rome. Of course we could not refuse the dessert and coffee when offered. I knew my Mom would order tiramisu, her favorite anywhere in the world. So when Federico brought out the plate of homemade tiramisu, Mom was completely won over!

After dessert, I dug out my $200 and Federico offered to show mom the Italian marble in the bathroom. Priceless. I worried for her for about two seconds. I figured when again would she have an Italian man showering her with attention. When in Rome…

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