(Standing in line, waiting to be seated at Mamma Martino’s)
Foodie: A nice man in line told me that the line up on a Friday night typically goes out the door so we’re not doing too badly at all.
Beast: Why do you always talk to strangers?
Foodie: I am so excited! Look at this place? Red checkered tablecloths, crying babies, suburban families, kitchy decor, 14 year-old bussers. This is amazing!
Just then, the 14-year-old host took us to our table which offered a view of Mamma Martino’s tiny patio, and the Queensway.
Foodie: You don’t see 14 year-olds working in restaurants in the downtown. In fact, you don’t see them really working anywhere.
Beast: Sure you do.
Beast: Coffee shops, video stores.
Foodie: No way. Think about our coffee shops and video stores–employees are all in their 20s or 30s. Teenagers don’t have part time jobs downtown.
Beast: I worked at Blockbuster when I was a teenager.
Foodie: But you lived in Leaside jack-ass. I’m talking DOWNTOWN.
Just then our server came over to take our order. The Beast decided on a caesar salad followed by a pepperoni pizza. I chose Mamma’s chef salad followed by a panzerotto stuffed with pepperoni and green olives. Our salads were dropped off before we had a chance to conclude our downtown youth employment debate.
Beast (Eating complimentary garlic bread and his caesar salad): Italian food is great but Italian-American food is fucking awesome.
Foodie: I agree with you. Listen, just because caesar salad and fettucine alfredo aren’t traditional Italian dishes doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Did you know that fettucine alfredo was originally just pasta with butter and parmesan, which is the most basic, most popular pasta around in Italy? It was an Italian restaurateur in Rome named Alfredo who attached his name to it. Apparently he was serving it to Hollywood types, like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin, in the 1920s. When they asked what it was called he told them it was fettucine alfredo, which was easier to remember than fettuccine con burro e parmigiano. And then those Hollywood types brought it back to America and served it to their friends and the Alfredo name stuck. And then sometime after that, alfredo turned into a cream sauce of some sort. And now you can buy it in a jar at the grocery store but you can’t find it in Italy. I just think it’s so interesting to examine how traditional Italian dishes have morphed into their North American counterparts.
Beast: Oh really? I’ve never been more bored in my life. You’ve told me that story ten times!
Foodie: Don’t look now but you should see the fettucine alfredo at the table behind us! It looks incredible. Maybe we should have ordered pasta.
Beast: We’ll be back to Mamma’s, with Nick.
Foodie: Wow. This salad is….is incredible! The dressing is so unusual! It’s like a parsley pesto or something, but without the nuts. I’m shocked.
Beast (tasting it): It is good. You should try making it.
Foodie: What is that? Parsley, garlic, olive oil. Maybe lemon?
Beast: You always add too much lemon to your dressing.
Foodie: No I don’t. I add too much white wine vinegar, but not lemon. It’s the vinegar you don’t like. I was expecting Mamma to serve me iceberg lettuce with bottled Kraft Italian dressing. But no! Mamma serves me iceberg lettuce topped with this revelation! I’m blown away.
Beast: I’m thinking of buying a thumb piano.
Foodie: Oh really?
Beast: What does that mean?
Foodie: Well, you already have two thumb pianos. Do you think that’s a good way to spend your money?
Our server arrived in the nick of time with the Beast’s small pepperoni pizza and my panzerotto.
Foodie: I’m just saying that two thumb pianos are probably more than enough. Don’t you think? Or is this thumb piano divine or something and you just have to have it?
Beast: Did you have to have that that boyfriend blazer you just bought? Or the two pair of sandals?
Foodie: That boyfriend blazer was on sale for $39 and I returned the sandals smart ass. Maybe if you have so much extra money to spend on thumb pianos, you could start buying groceries more often.
Beast: You are being so mean right now!
Foodie: Yes, I think I’ll start leaving you little lists of groceries to buy after work. I think it’s time you started pulling your grocery weight in this relationship.
Beast: I don’t even eat half the shit you buy!
Foodie: What in the hell are you talking about?
Beast: Like yogurt, or…
Foodie: And? What about all the white wine you drink now? I always buy the white wine.
Beast: I don’t know what kind to buy! And you’ll just criticize whatever I bring home.
Foodie: That is a lie! You know you can bring home the Ruffino Orvieto without getting into trouble.
Beast: And I did. Don’ you remember I bought that 1.5 litre bottle?
Foodie: That was ten bottled ago. How’s your pizza?
Beast: It’s amazing. May I have a bite of your panzerotto? Oh wait–you purposefully ordered it with olives so I couldn’t eat it.
Foodie: It’s good. I wish I’d asked for the marina sauce on the side though because it’s getting soggy fast. We’re joke fighting, right?
Beast: Of course we are. Well, sort of. Listen, I know that if we broke things down on paper that you’d pay for more in this relationship. You do all the laundry. You really take good care of me, and I appreciate everything you do. I really do.
Foodie: Now I feel bad.
Beast: I won’t buy the thumb piano.
Foodie: NO! Buy it. I’ll buy it for you!
Beast: No, it’s okay. I’m just a spaz who buys too many CDs and books and thumb pianos. Do you know that I haven’t walked into a CD store in weeks? That’s the only way I can avoid buying a CD–by just not going in. And do you know that if I go to buy a book at Chapters and it’s not there that I’ll buy something else that I didn’t even intend to purchase because I’ll have justified it somehow in my sick head? I’ll tell myself that I was going to spend $20 anyway, so why not get that biography of Beethoven?
Foodie: You do have a problem. But you’re recognizing it and taking steps to remedy it. (Pause.) I think Mamma Martino’s has been good for us…for our relationship. It’s a place you can be yourself, open up, and talk about your feelings. I think we should come every week.
Beast: Like therapy?
Foodie: Yes, like therapy. It’s safe here.
The server brought our bill when we were ready. I had two questions for her: First, what was in that dressing. Turns out it’s parsley, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. I will try to make it at home. And second, where was the closest Wallmart? Turns out it was just down the road a bit near Sherway Gardens. So the Beast and I continued our Friday night on the Queensway by visiting the Wallmart with all the other suburban families. I had to buy jam jars and a new shower curtain. At the register, the Beast smiled proudly, pushed me aside and handed his debit card to the 14-year-old cashier. It momentarily broke my heart. And then I remembered that I paid for dinner.