Enough time has expired now that I think my story is safe to tell. It all started in Rome, Italy and justifiably over a bowl of pasta.
Let me start by saying this was not an ordinary bowl of pasta, but the famous Cacio e Pepe at a restaurant called Felice a Testacio. Reviewed as one of the best in Italy by the New York Times, this restaurant was known for leaving a lasting impression on its customers. So much so that before I left to go abroad my sister made sure to email me the NYT article and state that under no cirucumstances was I to return home without having had a meal there.
Hopping on a plane from Madrid where we were studying, my friend and I grabbed a bus to downtown Rome, skipped the Coliseum, and navigated our way to the front door of Felice a Testaccio at 7pm, just in time for dinner. Within a split second we were approached by a waiter….not to seat us, but instead to remind us that if we wanted to eat dinner at such an early hour we should try McDonalds. When we told him we were looking to make a reservation he smiled to himself and flipped to a date three and a half weeks out for the first available table. We were crushed and I immediately got that same feeling I had when I first realized I was never going to be play in the NBA.
Now we could have settled for a bowl of pasta at any of the many trattorias, but we were not going down that easily. We devised a plan. We were going to return to the restaurant and ask to speak to the owner. We would tell him that we were the son and daughter of the New York Times food critic who had written about them once before and were being sent to get an update on the current quality of the restaurant. With the brashness of twenty year olds, we proceeded with confidence.
Returning to Felice e Testaccio, we executed our plan making sure that the words “mother” and “New York Times” clearly crossed the language barrier. Arguing ensued between the manager and three other men all robed in business attire. The arguing grew louder and included words that even without comprehending any Italian were unmistakably profanities. Then the manager experienced a sudden change in heart. A table was available for us and we could be seated at that moment before the restaurant even opened.
It was as if in a matter of seconds we transformed from peasants to royalty. We had two waiters and our pasta sauce was made from scratch at our table. However, what made the meal memorable was not that we ate like kings or queens, but the way we played like jokers.