The Italian have a special way of making you feel like family. At Don Giovanni, in New York, we were pulled from the heated day and ushered to a small corner table near an open window. Though one half of the entire place was empty, they happily set us at a table with the rest of the lunch community. “Sparkling water or still,” a thin server asked us with a smile. Now sparkling water is great if you are open minded. Do not be afraid to dive in. My initial experience with sparkling water made me never care to drink it again. “Still, please.”
For this Italian dining experience, the restaurant was bursting with midday sunlight and our starter plate of garlic bread with fresh mozzarella made it even better. We looked over the menu debating if we wanted to go with pasta or veal cutlet entrees. My nut allergy sadly stood in the way of plans to scarf down the Broccoli Rusticana, a plate of fettuccine with broccoli, chicken, pignoli nuts, olive oil, and garlic. I resorted to pizza. Pizza can do no wrong. “Is the pizza good?” I shyly asked the server. She began to chuckle and answered telling me they were all delicious. “Pepperoni, please.” It was comforting to know that my husband had chosen a Rustica pizza topped with sausage, spinach, roasted peppers, and onions. I planned to pinch off a bite of his too.
We sat chomping away at our flavorful selections while exchanging smiles with staff pleased to see we were enjoying our time. Initial thought of an Italian dining experience includes “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin playing in the background but this was so much more. Folk Italian music played while families clustered in seats together to preserve atmosphere and to me that is far more warming. Italian dining boasts in simplicity and age. From a young age, many Italians are taught traditional Italian dishes that we all know and love. The joy of family in the Italian experience isn’t only found in the seating arrangements of a restaurant but in every plate. With simple yet perfectly balanced ingredients, you get a pure taste of Italian flavor often embellished with natural herbs. As celebrity chef, Carla Pellegrino, told Las Vegas Sun, “I live by the belief that as soon as I cook for you, you are family to me.” The heart of Italian dining is not the isolated romantic opportunity but rather the opportunity for intimacy and culinary quality time for both family and strangers.