It could be the particular food, the servers, the ambiance, or the price that brings us back year after year - or all of the above. It's a place the family relies on for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or even weddings.
If the restaurant survived the decades of recession, it's probably family-owned. I'm not talking a pizza joint or a chain restaurant here, the kind we frequented after our sons' hockey games or baseball practices for a quick meal. I'm talking a place where the tables are covered in white linen with cloth napkins and there is a fresh rose as the centerpiece, maybe a candle, too.
|Outside Trieste, Italy|
On the sidewalk outside DiMeglio's you could smell simmering tomatoes, basil, and freshly-shaved Parmesan. The spaghetti sauce (gravy) had simmered all day in a gargantuan gleaming pot. Portions covered eleven-inch white dinner plates, so we always had left-overs to take home. It wasn't a big place, squeezed beyond some warehouses and near some mills, but the owners knew their customers. Mrs. DiMeglio, in her apron, greeted us with a hug - we became so welcome that our older son was a frequent visitor to the chefs in the kitchen. Diners sat close to each other, getting into animated conversations that often necessitated raising our voices to be heard.
Then DiMeglio's closed. The family who remained weren't interested in continuing the long hours, and the rent soared. We began going to the Old Canteen on Atwells Avenue in Providence, R.I. A little more formal than DiMeglio's - the paint was pink, soft music played, and a mural of Venice dominated one wall.
We celebrated graduations and engagements there with champagne and Veal a la Mike. We celebrated house completions and house sales. We celebrated birthdays and births and book publications. Last week Charley and I went back to reminisce over a marriage that's lasted 50 years.
But the pink walls remained, and the candlelight, and the pink leather chairs. The waitstaff's smiles were there, though they were no longer exclusively male. The sauteed escarole and spaghetti a la Canteen (with chicken livers and mushrooms) and artichokes in l'olio and garlic and my faorite Prosecco were still there, and the Italian families from "the Hill." Our "old reliable" made time stand still, even though we hadn't.