onight, I’m in Rome and I’m hungry. I just flew in from Dubai, which is where I’m based. I have a guidebook and a magazine and forage through the center in search of nutrition. Time to look at menus, many of which (on this breezy autumn evening) are posted outside quaint pizza places and small restaurants, even wine bars heavy on neon moon-glow.
Here’s something you should know: I don’t speak Italian. So I’m eternally grateful to those restaurant owners and managers that look out for people like me, the ones that tell me what’s available in a language I understand. Good for them, good for me.
So let’s get started. My first menu lurks behind an inconveniently parked motorbike and advertises many kinds of spaghetti. My eyes fixate on the second item — “spaghettis with the real Vongles.” Not only that, but the real Vongles “are fersh from the seaweter…” Since I don’t like Vongles, particularly when fersh, I pass.
I follow narrow, central street near a pretty hotel that forms a backdrop to a large courtyard. About a block from the hotel is a bustling and promising place that looks like it sells mostly pizza. But wait. The menu also includes “feticucines…” Probably French female cushions. Maybe even seasoned.
I’ve had female cushions in Dubai. Not advisable. I pass again.
Next up — between a coffee bar that has “nices tea” and a stall with “horange juice” — is what looks like a popular place. Behind the windowpane, a young women taps on her mobile. So does the man she’s with. Tables are scarce.
But a young waiter approaches me and takes pity. “You want to eat?” he asks politely.
“Alone,” I reply sheepishly, seeing the many couples.
“No phone,” he responds, and walks away.
Suddenly, I feel like horange juice, maybe even a Vongle.
Twenty minutes into my quest I’m near a place that appears to be called only “Da.” This strikes me as possibly Russian. I’m in Moscow on work regularly. Why not? A Russian restaurant in Rome called “Yes.”
“Da,” which as it turns out includes Vittorio or Vetrina (hard to read), serves “boneless hard steack.” It also has fettuccine (I assume he means feticucines) “wit the sauce of tripping.”
Or, in simpler terms, hallucinogenic feticucines. Otherwise know as tripe, or so I’d guess.
There comes a time after a long flight on an empty stomach that a man must accept he’ll have to settle on a meal of French cushions. I am fast reaching this point when I come to an elegant little place that has no visible menu but seems inviting.
Exhausted, and honestly attracted by the smiling face of a middle-aged woman, I ask in English if there’s a table for one.
She nods and takes me to a corner table: “Please you eat here.”
I sit and ask for the menu but she apparently hasn’t finished with me. “You want me English or Italian?”
“English,” I say.
She hands me the menu and then points at her breasts.
“Today is my veal escalate. You understand?”
No, not really. But glancing more closely at the menu I do see what I’ll be ordering for dessert: “Soccer torte.”