Tales of a wandering lesbian

Men in white coats

It rained my last night in Venice.  Hard.  I seriously contemplated eating in the hotel again.  But it was my last night in Venice.  Earlier in the day, I’d stopped by Trattoria alla Madonna, a restaurant in the Rialto neighborhood that my Friend Frank had recommended.  I talked with a waiter about the menu as he shouldered an armful of plates bound for a table.  Yes, they had pastas I could eat, and a whole table of vegetables that he waved at like a spokes model on the Price is Right.  They opened at 7PM, and didn’t take reservations.  That was good.  I don’t really like making reservations.

I left the hotel at about 8PM, after a quick shower and an incredibly long day.  The 20 minute walk to the restaurant took me past some now familiar sights, dramatically lit as the rain started to fall.

Firehouse at night

Venice is a strange place.  Beautiful, but strange – as if it’s another world.  This night, I saw two or three different men in different parts of town – wearing capes – like it was totally normal.

Cape

I honestly think they were probably meeting to raise a glass to “the boy who lived”.

Finding anything in Venice is a challenge, and finding something after dark in Venice is a special treat.  Fortunately, the Trattoria had a big sign, and huge, green lanterns placed at the entrance to the little street it inhabited.

Sign and Lantern

While the sign is enormous, the door to the restaurant is totally understated.  The sign actually hangs over the kitchen door, confusing tourists.  The actual door to the establishment was identifiable by the occasional man in a white coat that would dart out to somewhere across the little street, and then dart back in, laughing and talking with passersby (mostly confused tourists looking at the sign).

I spent a moment in the street practicing the Italian phrase that would help get me a seat.  But, when I stepped in, I was virtually swept into the restaurant by one waiter who was on his way to deliver plates of food to diners.  I’m not sure I even got a word out before I was seated.

The dining room was a bright, tall room with chestnut-beamed ceilings, filled with families, couples, and the ultra-efficient wait staff.  There was an army of guys in white coats bustling around:  delivering food to tables, taking orders, deboning fish on a side table.

Coat flash

My waiter looked at me and asked a one word question:  “Italiana?”  Unfortunately, I answered with “hum?”  And that triggered “Inglese?”  Too late to recover.  He reached into the drawer of a nearby hutch and pulled out an English-language menu.  One glance around the dining room and It looked like there were at least three, color-coded menus.  Mine was pink.  It served as a big pink flag to the waiters that I was an English speaker.  And, though I thought that at least I wouldn’t have to translate the menu, I was wrong.  I still had to ask.

My waiter and I got through the usuals – dining solo, don’t speak Italian well, vegetarian, etc. – and we found something for me to eat.  I’d been looking for gnocchi, but it was listed on the English menu as “potato dumplings”.  Of course.  So I ordered a plate of gnocchi with pomodoro sauce and a plate of mixed vegetables.

I swear to you, I sat no more than 5-7 minutes before the gnocchi arrived.

Gnocchi

They were good.  And they were big.  I’m pretty sure that what I’ve had since I’ve been in Italy are gnochetti.  Little gnocchi.  These were the real deal, bigger than my thumb and with a substantial mush to them.  The almost melted in my mouth.

While my waiter prepared the vegetable plate, I did a little people watching.  Venice seems a good place for that.  There were no men in capes, but plenty of swooning lovers and English-speaking children.  I think the people next to me might have been speaking Russian.  I wonder which menu they used.

And then the veggies arrived.

Veggies alla Madonna

Unlike almost all the other places I’d eaten in Venice, these were cooked in butter.  Mmmm.  Butter.  And there was nothing on the plate even remotely related to ham.  Bonus for me and my curly-tailed friends.  I would like to take this opportunity to disagree with anyone who thinks that vegetables aren’t comfort food.  The carrots were perfectly done and sweet.  The spinach was simple and tasty.  The peas were meat-free, the zucchinis entertaining, and the tomatoes were as sweet as the carrots.  It was perfect food for the stormy night.

I powered through the plate, enjoying every morsel and wondering if I’d have dessert here, or at a gelato shop on the way back to the hotel.

My waiter ran through the list of dolce.  I had only one question, “che fatti en casa?”  I’m pretty sure the sentence structure is incorrect, but the question almost always gets good results.  He smiled.  “Tiramisu e buono.”  He didn’t even wait for a response.  He virtually jogged to the dessert table, scooped  out some tiramisu and presented it proudly to me.

Tiramisu

It looked good.

It was good.

I waited for the alcoholic punch that I’ve experienced with other tiramisus.  It didn’t come.  This was pure, unadulterated yum.    Excellent.

Leaving the restaurant, I took my last nighttime stroll through Venice.  I noticed that there were a lot more of the water-blocking panels that are placed in shop doors at night.

Water-block

And I got just a little worried when I saw shops that had removed EVERYTHING from the floors.

High water shoes

But I didn’t think much further about what that might mean for me.  I just continued through the city, noticing the beautiful scenes, and (with a bit of annoyance) the way I felt.  Somewhere along the way the old fears and twinges of doubt had crept back in.  That pissed me off a bit.  Here I am on this great adventure, and nothing has changed.  Nothing has changed…

And then I saw my shadow.

The Shadow knows

On the glittering streets of Venice.  And it made me laugh.  Okay, maybe things have changed just a little.

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8 comments

1 Frank { 12.05.09 at 4:46 pm }

You definitely made the right dessert choice. Tiramisu was invented in Venezia (some claim the inventor was actually the pastry chef at the Madonna). Its name is Venetian dialect for “Pick me up!” , the implication being that it restores your energy after a heavy meal. Until the 1960s, believe it or not, you couldn’t find it anywhere but La Serenissima Repubblica Veneziana. Then it took the world by storm.

Wonderfully atmospheric piece K. Your Italian travelogue gets better and better. Seems to me and quite a few other Barghigiani that you shouldn’t be leaving, what with a promising literary career underway, although I have a feeling Dad and Big Mama won’t agree.

2 KFlick { 12.06.09 at 5:32 am }

Thanks, Frank. I’m blushing. Just a little.

No worries. This is just my first leap. I’m fairly certain there are more to come. I’ll be back to Commune di Barga. In the mean time more adventures await in Idaho, Hawaii, Australia, and beyond. My time here has been damn good, though – thanks in no small part to the good folks here (you included) who have made me feel so welcome.

3 Scapo | Mid Leap { 12.06.09 at 9:11 am }

[…] Comments KFlick on Men in white coatsFrank on Men in white coatsMen in white coats | Mid Leap on Venice Day 4Dad on Lo Chef ConsigliaAnt […]

4 big mama { 12.07.09 at 3:45 am }

I think Frank is right……you are right, also!! There are many places to see and you have many talents. Wherever you choose to be I just want you to be happy doing what makes you feel the best……you are the best, you know!!
Italy certainly has brought out the best in you! Frank is very wise!

5 Frank { 12.07.09 at 6:44 am }

Unfortunately, wisdom only arrived with advanced age

6 KFlick { 12.07.09 at 11:35 am }

So like Thursday?

7 Ant { 12.07.09 at 4:59 pm }

Ah Frank, better late than never! And to the fears and twinges, remember yin and yang. Can’t have one without the other. And one makes you appreciate the other. Word

8 Transitional | Mid Leap { 05.04.10 at 1:28 pm }

[…] newness of a foreign environment and the challenge of not having my own place.  I rejoiced in the magic of timeless cities and grieved the aloneness of my […]

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