Check out my other blogs What Fresh Hell is This and Chrisfit

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


There was a restaurant I liked to go to when I was living in Rome called "The Goose", not "Il Guzzo" or whatever Goose is in Italian [ed: it's Oca, boy I was way off] but "The Goose". I liked it because it was this little bar, down the street from my apartment, half hidden under under a rail bridge, and not even remotely touristy. When I went in the waiter didn't attempt to talk to me in English and when I struggled through the Italian menu on my first visit, rather than help me, he just looked at me with boredom and half-hearted contempt, as I felt a real Italian should. I also liked it because it was poorly lit, and thanks to my penchant for visiting restaurants at off times, almost always empty. Also, I think it might have been a front for the mob.

One reason I liked The Goose so much was that it served the absolute best version of penne all'arrabiatta that I found in Rome. And because Rome is considered the home of that particular type of pasta, let's just say there were a lot of places that sold it. It's my favorite pasta, I still make it at home because I can't find any Italian restaurants here in Ohio that serve it(the one bizarre exception is The Cheesecake Factory, which makes a not unacceptable version of the dish). In a nutshell, it's penne noodles in a spicy marinara. But when made well, it's so much more than that. It's an intricate dance of tomato, pepper, and basil that when done poorly is just spicy spaghetti with penne noodles but when done well...well it's just....I don't know, I'm not a food writer. Let's just say it's real good.

Anyways, whenever I ate at The Goose I ordered this dish and sat in a booth by myself in a dark corner of the restaurant, trying not to look too American. It let me enjoy one of my favorite past-times: people watching, which because the restaurant was almost always empty, typically just involved watching the bored bartender and waiter watching soccer. I mean futbol. So one day as I sat there enjoying my water and waiting for my food, I couldn't help but stare as a group of middle aged Italian men in fine suits came walking through the door. Now, being that I was in Italy, this shouldn't have been terribly surprising, but I had nothing else to do so I watched as the first man in cowed the bartender with a sharp word, and then they all headed into a backroom separated from the main dining area by a curtain. After walking through, they all sat around a large, circular table and proceeded talking in Italian and laughing (also in Italian, I suppose). Both the waiter and bartender having made themselves scarce, I had little else to do than sit in my corner booth and stare curiously at the men in the back room. I became so engrossed in their going-ons that when the waiter appeared with my bowl of pasta he had to get my attention by snapping his fingers in my face. The sound drew the attention of the men in the other room and, with a scowl and quick gesture by the man I'd seen earlier yelling at the bartender (the "mob boss" as it were), someone stood up from their seat to close the curtain and stand in front of it, arms crossed and staring at me. With that foreboding image in the corner of my eye, I tried to enjoy my meal.

I continued to eat at The Goose but never again by myself or at weird hours. I can't say for sure that I had stumbled upon a mob den that day. Indeed, most of that assumption lies on a rather lazy kind of racism on my part. But still...

But still...