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Chapter Twenty – Wild Birds in the Sunshine State
Still reeling from the loss of dear Alessio, we arrived in Orlando, Fla., where my brother picked us up at the airport. With Addy back at her university, Roberto had no one with whom he could flirt. And he started calling Lisa back in Ischia more often to check in and see how she was doing. Being a lady, Addy never allowed anything to happen between Roberto and her. Although I was still disappointed in him for having tried to kiss Addy while his girlfriend was back home waiting for him, I was hoping that he learned his lesson and was ready to be as committed as everyone thought he was.
When we stepped into my brother’s car, we quickly learned that he had a girlfriend, too, now. And we would meet her during our stay. Wow, my brother sounded serious. This was a first for the Casanova of New Jersey. Roberto spoke of his girlfriend, and Tony admitted that he was pursuing a relationship with me. I blushed a bit because I had never really had a boyfriend, and I think my brother was a little shocked, even though my parents had warned him that there was something more between Tony and me.
At my brother’s house, which he had recently bought and I had never seen, we sat down to dinner with Big Antonio, one of his roommates. A character in the true sense of the word, Big Antonio is a portly guy, who is in love with food and drink. Indeed, the love affair makes it difficult for anyone to break bread with him; you’ll always become second to the savoring of his meal. A vagabond, who never stays settled in one place for more than a few years, he is constantly on the go. And even though you can never believe a word he says – he makes up stories to entertain, which makes it hard to separate fact from fiction – he will always have you peeing your pants with laughter, so you can never be mad at him for his exaggerations.
Of course, Tony and Roberto knew none of this, so they were taken aback at first, and they were buying into every word to come out of his mouth. Between Roberto’s broken English and Big Antonio’s broken Italian, the three were able to communicate. After quickly devouring my meal – grilled pork chops and salad – I turned to my trusty computer; I had a lot of work to do to make up for the time I lost will saying good-bye to Alessio. Once it was done, my vacation could officially begin.
While I was typing away, Big Antonio had a little fun with his Italian visitors. I could hear all the rumblings from inside the other room. He told them that they had to make room for some more food because he prepared a special pasta dish just for them. “Pasta Siciliana is delicious and among the best pasta dishes you’ll ever eat,” he said. “Deliziosa!” Roberto was the first to admit that he was full from my brother’s feast but that he could never turn down pasta, especially from a new friend, who wanted to honor him on his first U.S. visit. Tony agreed.
Big Antonio, now wearing a fluffy, white chef’s hat, held a plate of spaghetti and tiny meatballs in one hand and a white dish towel hung over the other. Roberto and Tony, Italian lovers of pasta, had their tongues wagging like dogs over a plate of bacon-smothered steak. To look at it, the pasta seemed all right, perhaps even “delizioso” as Big Antonio described. But when Roberto and Tony put the noodles in their mouths, they both turned a pale shade of green and noticeably forced their jaw to keep chewing slowly so as not to vomit right in front of Big Antonio. Who would want to hurt the feelings of this big teddy bear? After the pair managed to swallow that first bite, my brother and Big Antonio began roaring with laughter.
Finally, they turned to Roberto and Tony and pulled out cans of Chef Boyardee. It was a ruse. This was no “Pasta Siciliano.” This is what people in the middle of the country considered to be Italian food, and neither my brother, nor Big Antonio ever indulged in this garbage. But Boyardee, they got a good laugh out of making the real Italians eat it! Roberto and Tony, confused at first, were good sports about the whole thing. It took them a few minutes to realize it was a joke and there was no special pasta dish for them. They spent much of the rest of the trip asking Big Antonio for that special “Pasta Siciliana.”
Moments later, I finished up my work, took my shower, and headed to dream land, and so did Tony. More friends started to come into my brother’s bachelor pad. Roberto wasn’t going to miss the chance to meet the Floridian ladies. This was a different breed than Addy and anyone he had met in New York, so far. That next phone call to Lisa would just have to wait until tomorrow.
Some names and identifying characteristics of the real people involved have been changed.
Tune into this Web site, Two Worlds, every Monday for the latest installment in my blog about my experiences in Ischia, and every other Monday to ItaliansRus.com for the latest Our Paesani column about all things Italian. Di Meglio is also the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.