After I finished my last entry, we were all resting after a busy day in Treviso and gearing up for family dinner number two. Monday night's dinner was to be held at Elena's restaurant in Mirano. Her son Simone and daughter Sara would be helping with the dinner, and who knew what other local family would show up.
Dad drove expertly with his GPS leading the way with her elegant voice. When we turned onto "Via Dante Aligheri", she said, "Via Dante Alleeeeyeri". Oh, grating to the ears!
Elena's restaurant looked familiar as I'd seen it in the skype background when talking to Sara. In person, it was just as quaint as you would hope a family owned restaurant would be, without the chianti jars and red checkered tablecloths. This was quaint but elegantly simple. The building is from 1882, and Elena has been running it for 24 years.
They set a gorgeous long table in their back room, and we yanks spread out so that the Italians could intersperse. We were all handed Prosecco, which I declined until food was in inhaling distance from my face. For about 10 minutes, plates of food were brought out. It just kept coming. Then the wine kept coming. Then the stories were flowing. Then more Italians came. Then the last few Americans arrived from their jaunt from Paris. Then a little lull to feed the newcomers. Then more food and nore wine. Then more Italians. Then more laughter and stories, which nobody could fully understand. Then more prosecco. Then dessert plates. Then grappa.
It was simply lovely and entertaining. I was called to translate a few times, which really made me laugh. This Italian man was trying to tell them he had just retired, that he had worked for 30 years on the train system as an engineer. Or maybe he told me that he never finished school and had always wanted to be an engineer but cleaned trains for 30 years? Regardless, he was lovely and we ended up having a lovely conversation about the two amores in his life, his previous wife who died and his current wife, the sister of Elena.
Then, one of the Italian women asked me how old I was and then it was all over. It became a game of "Guess how old Maureen is" in Italian. When someone would inevitably say 20 or 21, there would be laughter followed by, "She's 36" and "No!" This led to a lovely conversation with some Italian women who wanted to know how I did it, how I had found the fountain of youth. They decided they would all go vegetarian the next day. They really made me laugh, these women. They smiled with their whole faces, laughed with their whole bodies and vocal cords. My face hurt from all the laughter that evening.
The Italians then gave us these wonderful gifts of Venetian masks and olive oil. So sweet and generous. We all posed with our masks and did the rounds of kissing cheeks and thanking them. It took us another hour to leave because there were more photos to be taken, more laughter to enjoy, more wine and toasts to make. Finally, we said out bittersweet good-byes and left. A truly lovely evening.