Some things in life are so beautiful you never want them to end. Slow sex with the man of your dreams, sharing happy Christmas mornings with your family, a delicious meal under the Italian sun. The Italian dining experience is one that needs no further writing. The world does not need one more sentence documenting the merits of a succulent veal escalope washed down with caraffes of local wine in a tiny restaurant in Positano or Padua. It doesn’t need one more word about how the fat tomatoes taste like sunshine and make for the most honest arrabiata sauce ever tasted, or how the local wine in Lecce tasted of honey and heaven when you tried it with antipasti di mare in a coastal ristorante.
But what I am going to inkify are the details of a visit to an ice cream parlour in the Vale di Comino, Frosinone. I promise not to rave on about the gelato. In fact, I’ll just mention it once, I had a cherry ice cream. There, it’s out of the way, so I can tell you about the evening in Gelateria Persichini.
It was after seven on a hot July evening when we arrived. The huge car park outside was packed and the crickets had commenced their evening chorus. The lights of the villages high up in the mountains twinkled in the evening heat. Fireworks sparked off from the direction of Brocostella or whichever village was holding its festa. My friend spoke to one of the waiters, who looked around at all the full tables, muttering ‘aspetta’. Then, as if by miracle, three people arose from a table on the front terrace and went inside to settle their bill. The waiter led the three of us in the direction of the vacated table.
He left us with some enormous laminated menus and busied off to a nearby group. The customers reminded him that they had been waiting over an hour for their order. He apologized and again uttered ‘aspetta’ as he disappeared inside. Dario already knew what he wanted, he never deviated from his Copa Fragola when he comes back to visit Italy. Lara decided on a pistachio affair that sounded ambitious, even by Italian standards. I already mentioned what I ordered, and do apologise for mentioning ice cream a further twice, but when in
Rome a gelateria…
Twenty minutes passed, and we had discussed our sunburn, the day by the pool in San Donato and how early we’d need to get up in the morning to miss traffic on our way to the beach at Sperlonga. The family at the next nearby table were still ice creamless. We hadn’t yet ordered. A look around at the other tables showed that only a few had been served their dishes. Most tables were empty. Most eyes were on the door, desperate for the return of the waiter, or anyone in gelateria officialdom who could preside over the delivery of their preferred dish.
Dario took a call from pals up in Casalattico. Would he be up soon? They were at the bar, the Macaris and Apriles had arrived back from Dublin today and they were all out. By the sounds of the call, the bar was where all the fun was at. We’ll be up soon was the gist of Dario’s response. And so another twenty minutes passed. ‘Aspetta’ came to take our order. We talked on about the beach, about going to Rome on Saturday, about taking a trip to Ischia next week. The nearby family finally got their order. And another table too, near the plants by the front.
Lara had been to Ischia before on a school trip. She recommended we stay in an agriturismo because hotel rates would be insane this time of year. Unless the three of us wanted to share a room, she suggested, to which Dario had a minor fit.
-Noi tre! Insieme? Va *******! It’s not happening. What if I meet a woman? Where do I bring her, back to my room with the two of you? No, no, no.
-Da, you reckon you’re going to meet a woman there? When was the last time you met a woman you liked in Italy? Lara said.
-I want to keep my options open, he replied.
-Va bene, she said. But you know the answer!
-Si. A long time, per o, I am feeling lucky this summer, he said, and swiped across his phone screen again to check the time. Madonna, they are slow tonight.
We googled an agriturismo on Ischia and found one with two nights availability next week so booked it. An hour had passed. We hadn’t smelled an ice cream.
A man at a table next to us finished his box of cigarettes and cursed that he had no more with him. I got a text from Ireland that took three texts to answer. A further fifteen minutes were spent. I no longer wanted ice cream, I craved wine. Or vodka. Or anything with a respectable alcohol content. But still we persevered.
One hour and fifty nine minutes after we sat down, the waiter arrived at our table with our order. Two sundae glasses were laid in front of Dario and me, and Lara was given a dish that resembled a miniature canoe. Alas, I will keep my promise of not overbearing on the gelato. Suffice to say, we devoured the contents in ecstatic silence. Some things in life are worth the wait.