No Soup For You! (No Pizza Either)

At noon I set out for La Brace. I’d been told it was the only restaurant in town that served pizza during off season.

The map indicated a one mile (1.6 km) walk. Perfect. I’d had an apple for breakfast. By the time I hiked uphill for thirty minutes I’d be ready for a sizeable lunch.

I was about one-third of the way when I rounded a bend and Praiano appeared in miniature. I crossed the highway to get a better look. The detail! All the major landmarks were there, totally recognizable.

Who maintains this art? How does it survive the ripping winds and rain torrents that slam the coast? My questions, of course, went unanswered.

A shadow slid over the wee village and I looked up. The weather app said no rain but the sky suggested otherwise. I resumed my journey but picked up the pace. I didn’t care what that foreboding black mass did AFTER I was safely ensconced in the cafe eating my pizza.

In spite of the gloom the air was warm and, as I’ve come to expect, I was the only human strolling the streets. When they say it gets quiet in winter, they mean graveyard quiet.

I passed San Gennaro with the blue dome and there was the sign for La Brace. The door stood open and I walked in. A lone gent behind the counter greeted me. “Buongiorno.”

“Buongiorno. Do you have pizza today?”

“No pizza,” he said.

“Is this La Brace?”

“No. That’s upstairs. They’re closed.”

No. Say it isn’t so. All I want is pizza. “Are they ever open?” My tone was accusatory with a tinge of whine.

“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You like pasta?”

Do I like pasta? I haven’t eaten it in years unless you consider the noodles in Balinese mie goreng. But, bottom line, I was hungry. “What kind?” I asked.

“I have pasta with tomato and mozzarella, pasta with clam sauce…what kind you want? You want white wine, red wine?”

So it was decided. I would have the house white with tomato mozzarella pasta.

I settled at a table. Bread, olive oil, and wine appeared. “My name is Piccolo,” my cheerful host said.

The cafe was empty except for us so we chatted. He told me he’d married a woman from Argentina thirty years ago and their son was now 26.

I asked if I could take photos.

“Of course.”

I’d just returned to my chair when a Taiwanese couple walked in and sat at the table in front of me. I said hello and the conversation began. She was an English teacher and spoke the language perfectly. She asked where I was from. In 2004 she was with a tour in Ubud and remembered Monkey Forest.

I laughed. “When you were about twelve?” I asked.

“No, I was twenty-three. I love to travel.”

We’d both been to Budapest. I remembered the bridges. She’d gone to the Turkish baths. In Italy they were touring from Venice to Amalfi by scooter. “You should come to Taiwan,” she said. “Bali is so close. But don’t go to Taipei. It’s just a big city. Come to Tainan. I live there. That’s the real Taiwan.”

I told her Tainan had just gone to the top of my travel list.

Cooking aromas swirled around us. Piccolo delivered my pasta with a flourish.

Mama mia! This was not five-for-a-dollar boxed mac ‘n’ cheese from my domestic goddess days. This was the real deal, cooked by the real deal, served by the real deal.

My Taiwanese friends ordered the pasta with clam sauce. Our feet tapped and heads bobbed to classic American rock playing at just the right volume from the cafe’s sound system.

In the midst of our cheerful intimacy, two men came in carrying a couple of bottles of wine. Piccolo greeted them loudly then called to me. “Sherry! These men have the best wine in Italy.” He herded them to my table and introduced us.

Gaetano handed me his card. “You must come. I have the only grape of this kind in the world. My wine is the best.”

“I think I must,” I said as I studied the gold-embossed logo and the name: Tenuta San Francesco Winery.

“Call me,” Gaetano said. “I will make a special tour for you. Through the farmlands. We are in a beautiful valley.”

They left me and headed for the back table. Piccolo winked. “You are ready for dessert?”

What? Dessert? On top of a week’s worth of pasta?

“Tiramisu?” I asked. What the heck! It’s my month-long birthday celebration. I will eat and drink as often and as much as I want.

“Yes, I have tiramisu. I make it myself.”

“Bring it on, Piccolo!”

There’s tiramisu and tiramisu. This was by far the best I’d ever eaten anywhere. It made me forget how full I was. Made me wish I’d ordered two.

Things happen for a reason. It was the kind of day I’d envisioned, the Italy I’d hoped for. Spontaneity. Connection. Authenticity. Surprise.

What if La Brace had been open?

I’d have eaten pizza, of course.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Feb 12, 2020 @ 02:00:28

    Love love love it all!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Carol Taylor
    Feb 12, 2020 @ 02:35:45

    Loving your stories, photos and comments. Wish I were there!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. stevecastley
    Feb 12, 2020 @ 05:43:26

    All looks amazing. But did the rain come! Will you do the wine tour? Of course you will!!! Keep celebrating that 7th century. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Feb 12, 2020 @ 13:11:48

      The rain did not come! Of course I will do the wine tour! It would be terribly rude not to, wouldn’t it, Steve! Hahahahaha! But I think your counting’s a tad off. Ouch! I’m not 700! ONLY 70. We’re talking decades…not centuries!

      Like

      Reply

  4. Diane Struble
    Feb 12, 2020 @ 15:33:29

    I suspect you will have the pizza eventually and it will be superb.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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