We had just settled into the Ristorante Cipriani in the borgo surrounding the castle at Ostia Antica for Sunday lunch, a popular endeavor on the Lord’s day. We’d booked the last table.
At the next table was a family. Doting parents and the young male, the obvious apple of their collective eye. He had what appeared to be an iPhone in his hands which he made use of frequently in an effort to ignore the older folks. Apple indeed.
They ordered. Pasta for the kid. What did he want on it? Ragu? Butter?
“Nulla.” Nothing. Maybe a little cheese? No, he’d gut it out. There was a calculated hardness in his face. He gripped the phone in both hands tightly.
Then it began. His grasp of the phone was not unlike Nuvolari at the wheel of the old Alfa P3, his eyes fixed intently at a point just beyond the starter’s flag. Shortly thereafter the kid’s eyes light up like he’d seen his first breasts.
The flag has been dropped.
So there he sits in the cat seat, this nameless child flanked by his doting parents who eye him with those google-eyed looks parents give their children even when they are being obnoxious. He’s rounded the first bend, the car gives a little squiggle at the end and he adjusts his iCar smartly as he accelerates out of the sweeping curve, eyes big, hanging on as the car gains speed down the little faux straight, then a right, a quick left, a whip of the phone/wheel, a little gasp.
Meanwhile, the pasta arrives. Doting dad pulls the plate to his gut, grabs a fork and starts twirling.
Through the big left bend, then the real straight. Thank God, a time to breath. Then, at this very opportune moment, as the driver’s heart rate tries to return to normal, the forkful of pasta rockets toward his mouth. He sucks it in. It’s a messy thing.
Then, from the left side, Mom is at the ready. A quick swipe of the napkin she’s been holding makes his mouth clean again, a maneuver so quick it needs some kind of instant replay.
He’s not had to look away from the screen. A pit stop like no other. These Italians have a flare for it.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it. And the tonnarelli was good, too.