Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White- The Italian Restaurant

"A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White,
Whatever Mood You'r In Tonight!"
- Billy Joel

Let's face it. Your average Calvinist (and Calvinism exerts a very powerful attraction on American culture) is simply appalled at the Italian restaurant, especially the local kind with a neighborhood ambiance and a regular clientele. It may be just a pizza joint, or offer a full array of pasta, seafood and meat dishes. And if it's really on top of things, it will offer good coffee, espresso, cappucino, tiramasu, cannoli and cheesecake at the end of an enjoyable lunch or dinner.

The Italian restaurant offers enjoyment as its portal to subversion of the dominant Anglo culture. Besides the cuisine itself - tasty, comforting, predictable, modest- there is the joy of lingering over conversation. Conversation where one listens to one's family and friends, not participating in an exercise in food snobbery. You eat, you drink, you listen, you talk, you observe. The Italian restaurant is an uncongenial environment for that most Anglo of pastimes - the disguised lecture for the disguised Calvinist - ever worried that someone, somewhere may be deprived of their enlightened opinions. Now the Italian restaurant is not immune to the entry of blowhards. But is hard to declaim in the WASP style in this setting. Wise, skeptical eyes will puncture one's pretensions over the wine bottles even if their owners don't say much. The speaker will get the message soon enough. Unless it's a family or friend type of blowhard, in which case the speaker is part of the evening's entertainment!

If you need relief from the screeching and opinionated talking heads, let alone virtuous and hectoring politicians, make a date at the trattoria of your choice, and get going. You'll be glad you did!