Nov 122007

Every Saturday night, my Pappap and I would go to church. Sometimes we were joined by other family members, or my friends who were looking to score a good meal afterward. (I maintain that this is the sole reason why my Pappap was so adamant, religious if you will, about attending mass every week.) If my step-dad was in tow, that meant we couldn’t slip out after Communion, but instead were forced to return to our pew, pasty wafer refusing to dissolve before first gagging us and adhering to our uvulas, until the priest formally urged us to go unto the Lord. My aunt Susie would join us if she had a hankering for osso bucco and Naple’s was the restaurant of the night. I never wanted her to go because it always turned into a tense night of us vying for my Pappap’s attention. She’d pinch me under the table when I was young and humiliate me in front of cute bus boys when I was older. My Pappap had forged friendships with the owners of some of the best restaurants in town. Fortunato’s was one of those restaurants. I would always order Veal Denny, which was stuffed with crabmeat and had a delicious fromage sauce ladled upon it. It was served on a silver plate flanked with slices of marachino-marinaded apple rings. I loved those apple rings. It was hard to say what my Pappap would order, but it was always Lambrusco filling his glass. There was a whole group of us there one night, a long time ago. Susie was teaching me how to turn ordinary wine glasses into melodious instruments, hoping it would chagrin my Pappap. But the chagrinning would all go to my step-dad, who became obviously flustered as the owner emerged from the back and approached our table. "Oh Jesus, would you knock that off?" my step-dad begged. "You’ve made the owner come out now!" The owner was a robust man in his fifties with a stern face. We had eaten there often enough for he and my Pappap to form a friendly rapport with each other, and I was afraid I had managed to ruin that with my unruly tableside manner. When he reached our table, he brandished an enormous crystal goblet from behind his back. "Try this," he said with a sly smile. That thing produced the deepest, bellowing hum and I have yet to replicate it to this day. My Pappap leaned back and grinned, taking joy in the fact that someone else was able to please me. The owner died sometime in the nineties and his restaurant has since become some run-of-the-mill Chinese dive, which has a really delicious dessert of fried bananas but Henry and I have never gone back. Sometimes I think about that Veal Denny and I wonder if I’d have succeeded in being a vegetarian for so long if Fortunato’s and my Pappap were still around. My guess is no.

Say it don't spray it.

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