One of the things your friendly bartender likes about working in New York, is the chance to meet all the different people who don’t… those people who visit. And because we’re often recommended, dear reader, by several hotels in the area, not to mention our good word of mouth from here to Europe, we get our fair share of tourists along with our regulars. And I love that. For it not only gives me a chance to maybe show off what the hell I know about where they should go, but I also get a chance to learn about where they are from. And sometimes, (as I wrote in this old post), an amazing coincidence occurs from one of those encounters. Now here’s another one.
When Tony our revered greeter (all eighty six years of him now) was still able to wait tables, he always made it a point to let me know when he had a customer who hailed from Pittsburgh. My home town. And frankly I’m glad that he did because it often led to a wonderful exchange of info. You know… the places in common, the things in common, our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, and sometimes a mutual acquaintance on that rarest of occasions. Like this one…
“Hey, Mister Bartender (I swear that’s what he calls me), I got you over here some very nice people from Pittsburgh. C’mere.”
“I’ll be with you in a minute,” I shouted back, “just a sec.” So I finished my pour, I scanned the crowded mahogany to see if it was safe to leave my post without anyone hitting their forehead on the bar weak from thirst, then I made it over to the table-of-five next to Tony.
“Sooo,” I began, ever the gallant host, “where in the Burgh do you nice folks hail from? The last stop for me was a place called Greentree, South Hills.”
One of the two guys at the table spoke up first. “Well,” he said, “we’re actually outside of Pittsburgh from a town called New Castle. Do you know it?”
“Do I know it? I went to Slippery Rock College, for God sakes, just down the damn road. In fact my freshman year roommate came from New Castle. Any of you ever hear of an Eddie (Italian name)?” The table immediately fell silent and all wore Cheshire cat grins.
“I dated an Eddie (Italian),” one of the women then offered, utterly amazed. Now bear in mind, dear reader, this took place rather far from the scene and a good twenty five years after the fact…. we’re not talkin’ last Tuesday just down the road! “Eddie,” she went on, “was the first love of my life, I’ll have you know.” Then all three women giggled as did the men.
“But when did you date?” I inquired, ’cause if this was my guy I had a story to tell.
“All through high school,” she replied, “and all the way through his freshman year of college. As in… Slippery Rock College!!!” Bingo, that’s me roomie. Holy smokes, dear reader, what are the odds???
“Well then all I can say to you is… thank you, thank you for all of that pasta!”
“Excuse me?” she said. Then she glanced across at her friends who were equally perplexed.
I looked back over my shoulder to see if anyone’s head was resting face down on the bartop, which it wasn’t, then I pulled up a chair and set about explaining my statement.
“See it’s like this. Eddie was so lovesick over you that whenever he returned to campus on Sunday after spending your week-ends together, he had no appetite for the food his mother had packed for him. Which I sure did. And because of you and what you did to that poor little guy’s stomach, no one on campus ate better than me Sunday night. And I mean it! His Mom sent along all this amazing stuff…. some stuff I never even heard of… plus all the dishes I knew about like the noodle entrees, the chicken catchatori, lasagna, antipasto, you name it… and by Tuesday I was speaking with an Italian accent. And I freakin’ loved it. It was the best of times and the worst of times… the worst for him and definitely the best for me. So again,” I added with a smile and a wink to the table, “thanks for all of that wonderful pasta and thanks for making Italian my favorite cuisine now.”
Then, after a few more stories in common and a little more Pittsburgh, we all shook hands warmly, I gave Eddie’s Ex a kiss on the cheek then I walked by a beaming Tony who couldn’t believe it. “And thank you, Tony, for the nice heads up,” I added as I passed him by, (Tony who was raised in Turin no less), “how’s that for Pittsburgh with a slice of Italy?”
Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end!