Thursday, January 7, 2010


Lunch is highly underrated! To our great detriment, Americans are incredibly hardworking. What are you talking about? Smoking crack again? Nope, not this time. We work so hard, that we rarely savor lunch. Lunch is something we grab and slam! Possibly even in the car! It is not fair. Have I mentioned that John and I live to travel? No, really - I thought I mentioned that. We work hard to play hard.

Part of playing hard is taking a ludicrously long lunch, Italian-style or Brazilian-style, while on vacation. We are not eating alone. We have joined others on their lunch "hour." I look at the next table: wine, pasta, salad, cheese and yes, dessert with more wine AND conversation, laughter and sometimes arguments. It is a blast.

One summer we were in Venice with my kids and my lovely in-laws. Europeans tend to eat later than Americans. We arrived (starving) around noon to a fantastic restaurant that was recommended by one of our favorite regulars, Sr. Carlos Basualdo. The man not only knows art, he knows food. Our early arrival was greeted with, "Now? You want lunch now?" We smiled sheepishly, "Si, ho fame!" They replied that they, the staff and kitchen, were going to sit down for a quick bite, but they would happily seat us with some bread sticks and water if we did not mind waiting. The smells coming from the kitchen were too much and we agreed. Eating well in Venice can be challenging. It is a city based on tourism and with that comes terrible restaurants. Y'all know what I mean.

Our table, shaded by umbrellas, was situated outside by a small canal. The restaurant was in a neighborhood that once harbored the city's prostitutes and there was a Ponte de le Tette (Bridge of..well, Boobs) to our side. It was quiet except for the clinks of silverware and the murmurs of conversation along with one heated argument followed by roars of laughter coming from the restaurant. Occasionally, someone would appear with two more bottles of water and a fresh basket of bread. It was an out and out lunch party. 90 MINUTES LATER, the same attractive polite man who sat us, came out and handed us menus with a pleasant smile. My little guy was about to cry.

We quickly ordered. Immediately, individual glass bowls of perfectly fried whole shrimp, no larger than a dime, were delivered salty and hot. Compliments of the chef. After the first glass of wine, we started to laugh. Two and 1/2 hours later, while my little guy slept leaning against the restaurant's outer wall, we were finished. Our stomachs hurt from the glorious lunch and from laughing so hard. The neighboring tables were finishing up as well. Business men and women, not tourists, returned to where they first came. It was a monumental lunch for the Reitano Clan, but just lunch for others.

Why can't lunch be more important? Since moving to our Big Kitchen, lunch is survival. I don't want pizza or subs everyday. I want a delicious salad or fried chicken from Meme. I want long lunches. I cannot have them. I am American. I can have some delicious soup from Capo with a perfectly toasted panini. If I cannot have the time, I must have the quality. Join me, Love Lunch. Improv Everywhere agrees!

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