It was on a camping holiday at Ca’savio that we met Marco, Lorenzo and Dimitri.
On the first night of our holiday we strolled into the small town seeking somewhere to have our evening meal. We passed several restaurants, posh and beyond our pocket, before we came across the Acapulco, the delicious aromas coming from the kitchens enticed us in.
After a while a waiter sauntered over “I am Marco I am your waiter” he said in English with a heavy Italian accent. We explained we were having trouble with the menu. He suggested a glass of wine while we went through it together. The wine was brought and he pulled up a chair, I offered him a cigarette which he excepted and he patiently went though the menu with us. Order completed he enquired about wine, I asked for a favourite of mine Barolo. Marco expressed regret Barolo is hard to get and the Acapulco hasn’t any, no matter we settle for a Chianti Classico. The meal was superb and later as our coffees are brought to us Marco asks have we ever tried Sambuca,
we confessed we hadn’t he fetched two glasses of clear white liquid each with a coffee bean in it and each flaming. With some trepidation we tried the liquid which will never be one of our favourites but was drinkable in a fiery sort of way. We sat with Marco for a while drinking coffee smoking my cigarettes. He told us of his life, how he had learnt English whilst waiting at a restaurant in London. How he now spent the summer at the Acapulco and the winter at a restaurant in Cortina. He told us how knackered (a word he picked up in London) he got and no that wasn’t a hint. My wife told him in England we said cream crackered. We heard him during the week telling various customers, with a smile on his face, how cream crackered he was. Funnily enough when the bill eventually arrive neither the initial glasses of wine or the Sambuca was on it, when we mentioned the oversight Marco merely shrugged. We knew we had found our place to eat for the week we were there.
The next night as we entered the restaurant Marco pointed us towards a table. After a while he approached us with a bottle of wine and three glasses sat himself down, poured three glasses of wine and helped himself to one of my cigarettes which I had laid on the table and again went through the menu explaining and guiding us. On his suggestion we left the choice of dessert to him. The meal was again superb and the pudding he had chosen was a confection of cream, nuts and Amaretto which again he had set fire to. It was delicious.
We explained we wouldn’t be in the next evening because we were off to Venice. He looked horrified, “Venice much expensive” he exclaimed and summoned another waiter, there was much shrugging, gesticulating and rapid Italian before he told us the other waiter Lorenzo was a Venetian and he would help us. Another wine glass was fetched and amid much doing and don’ting sketches were produced which resulted in a truly wonderful day in Venice seeing all the tourist attractions as well as some of the less grand parts where the Venetian’s live, eat and shop. We were the only ones not complaining on our return of the expense of Venice and the cost of meals.
Marco had told us that Thursday was his day off but when we arrived he was there, minus his white apron, again he showed us to what was now “our table”, fetched a bottle and three glasses sat down lit one of my cigarettes and we went through the menu ritual. After we had eaten another excellent meal an oversized champagne bowl was brought from the kitchen containing lashings of cream and what looked like a small mountain of strawberries topped of with lit sparklers. Marco produced three spoons and we proceeded to demolish this calorie filled confection of delight. At another table a party of finger clicking Americans sent over a large loud man to find out why wasn’t Marco serving them, they had made it obvious they were demanding attention. Marco stood and told them it was his day off and he had come in to look after his friends and then sat down and ignored them. After the meal Lorenzo joined us and enquired of our day in Venice. We told him how much we had enjoyed it and how much better his guidance had made our day. Talk somehow got round to the chef. Marco and Lorenzo, amid much giggling and waggling of their little fingers said you mean Dimitri the Pizza cook. Some time later, long after the official closing time, Dimitri who was tall, very thin and the colour of his own uncooked pastry joined us and we talked of life in Italy, favourite and hated customers, the pace of life in other countries, how much better Italian cuisine was than anywhere else, including France in their opinion. This was the latest night of the holiday, by the time they let us go it was hardly worth going to bed at all. Our next visit was our last. it was time to go home. The performance with Marco was as before except for one final act of kindness. When he had brought our main course he produced a bottle from behind his back. It was Barolo. He explained it had “fallen off back of lorry”. Later he told us his brother worked in another larger restaurant and he had uhm well liberated it. We reluctantly bid our farewells to three thoroughly nice Italians and thought how much we had learnt about ordinary Italian life and how much you miss if you don’t try to be friendly.
Marco, Lorenzo and Dimitri three memorable characters.