I was looking forward to an English pub experience, so suggested we eat dinner at some local place with lots of hardwood and crowded with friendly people sharing jokes and singing folk songs. With the setting sun came bitter cold, so thankfully we found a pub located only a few blocks away from the Inn. Its painted sign was illuminated by the golden glow of a single floodlight and promised a warm experience. I opened the heavy wooden door to find anything but that. Once inside, it shut loudly behind us and a wave of faces looked up from their tankards of ale. It felt like we’d barged into somebody’s living room - a hazy, smoky living room. Two men in work boots and dirty shirts remained focused on the television hanging on the simulated wood grain paneling. Behind the bar, a stocky young man with a full beard kept his eyes fixed on the carpet. I spotted an empty table near the back. We passed a couple that looked like wax figures – frozen with poker faces and cigarettes in hand.
“Folks!” the bearded one barked. “We don’t serve dinner until seven o’clock.” I looked at my watch, it read six thirty. This was our break.
Outside, Chris approached me first. “We are not going back in, Dad.”
“Let’s find another place.” Donna suggested.
We walked past dozens of shops and cafes – all closed. I got a sinking feeling that the town rolled up the sidewalks early on week nights. I was really bummed about the pub. Maybe they weren’t for tourists.
Walking fast kept us warm. The lights of downtown eventually came into view. A cluster of buildings looked half-promising. Jill ran to a window along side one. “I saw this place when we came in today – I think it’s an Italian restaurant.” She gripped her hands on the wooden sill and jumped up a few times, attempting to get a glimpse inside. “Somebody is in the kitchen.”
We walked around front. The sign above the door read Pinocchios. A car pulled up and a very tall young man got out. He looked like a clean-cut Dolph Lundgren. “Hell-o-ah” he said with a big smile and distinct Italian accent. “Welcome, welcome.” He waved his hands, “please-ah, come in from the cold.”
Inside were dark wood beams, rustic brick, and everything else one might expect from an Italian restaurant in England. Dolph escorted us to a table under a painting of Geppetto escaping from the whale’s belly. “How is this-ah?” He spoke slowly and clearly – his friendly voice projected loudly through the empty restaurant – like somebody wearing headphones and speaking over the music.
“Perfect.” I said, and Dolph lit the glass-enclosed candle. He could have sat us on the floor next to the kitchen and I’d have been happy. The aroma of garlic, butter, and herbs was intoxicating.
“I just knew you would be open.” Jill told him as she settled into her chair. “I jumped up and saw your chef through the window.”
Dolph looked shocked. “Did you say…jump?” Jill nodded her head and he looked at Donna. “Possibly, Mama would prefer you say..saltare?
“Excuse-ah…German – ah, springen?
The confused looks on our faces must have been priceless.
“You see.” He continued. “Jump means – ah – sexy.” The kids managed to hold their laughter until he walked away.
Dolph returned, holding the menus at his chest, the way girls used to carry their books in high school. He distributed them with such finesse – as if each were a prized document.
Chris lit up. “Yes! They have pizza.”
A well dressed, older man walked into the restaurant. He carried an air of importance. Dolph seated him then brought a bottle of wine and a glass to his table. A disheveled group filed in next – one man, two women, and four kids. Dolph sat them at a table next to us. The women took off their coats to reveal halter tops. “Think they’re wearing enough eye makeup?” Jill whispered. One lit up a cigarette and it dangled from her mouth as she fitted the kids into their chairs.
“She looks like Uncle Glenn.” Their giggles got nearly out of control.
Dolph returned to our table with his notepad.
“Do you have pepperoni?” Alex asked.
Dolph looked perplexed. “Green peppers?”
“Sausage.” Donna added and Dolph looked relieved. “Ah, yes.”
Dolph did a remarkable job as the lone waiter. A little girl at the other table suddenly burst out crying – evidently she’d lost something. Dolph sprinted to the kitchen then returned with a pen light. He got down on his knees and disappeared under their table with only his huge feet sticking out. After a few moments he popped back up holding a tiny necklace. They all cheered.
The food was heavenly. My shrimp was wrapped in bacon that was so lean I swear it didn’t come from a pig. The kids agreed the pizza was the best they’d ever tasted. This place was dripping with joy. I thought we should go straight to Italy and skip the countries in between.
RECIPE: Mouth watering for some good Italian food? Find a recipe for Itailian Garlic Shrimp recipe on MWDI facebook