Monday, October 27, 2008

A Poet's Travels: I Had It "Made" for a while!

The house still smells like coconut shrimp and mango sauce. A friend from my old job brought me a box to try, and I couldn't say no! I will have to admit it was delicious, and the sauce is what made it even better. The funny thing is less than two years ago, I wouldn't have touched shrimp, or coconut anything! I have loved almost all foods, but did not like either one. I have been eating things with coconut, and shrimp every since my Grandfather in Georgia made me some fried shrimp. I know all about the mercury in fish, so I try to limit myself to eating it all the time.

The moral to my little story is (Don't be afraid to try new things, or food you hated as a kid)
Taste buds change over time, and eating certain things continually, will seemingly burn you out! There are many types of food I could eat all the time, and one is Italian anything!

My old friend Franko, who lived near Chicago owned a wonderful little place. It was a little white church, turned into a restaurant. On the front of the joint said "Bachi" in red letters. (Which is weird for a church restaurant, an Italian friend told me last year that it meant something naughty?) It was on Lockport Street, in the town of Plainsfield, IL.

Franko was Italian, and his place was full blown Italian food. I walked in there one day, and he says to me "Have you had the Pizza yet, No! Then its on the house, and every day that you come in here I want you to try something new, and let me Know what you thinka! And I don't want your money! Mario, don't ever take these two guys money! It's on the house"

Needless to say I went there all the time, and that included the wine list! I still gave great tips, and helped him on some small "Jobs."

I met all the people in his crew, and we HIT it off. "I was part of the Family"

I was working as a salesman in Chicago, and was staying in Hotels. The cheapest hotel I could find was near Plainsfield, and the BEST ITALIAN FOOD EVER was for FREE! I couldn't complain, I was doing alright. I loved many things about this time in my life, and almost worked as a male model, but chickened out. I don't regret it either, has anybody seen "Zoolander" when he's dancing like a monkey! :)I feel that would have been me! I almost got a job as Window washer! The ones who wash the windows on the skyscrapers, I didn't mind the heights, but in the "Windy City!" (Thanks but no Thanks)

Back to the restaurant, I was doing OK, and one day he approaches me, with a BUSINESS proposition. He Offered my friend and I a job, catering his food to business corporations in Chicago. I had the van, he had the food, and all we had to do was get the big food warmers for the van. He said "He Would take care of everything, and that we would make a lot of dough. That it was in our hands, if we wanted in on his BUSINESS." My friend Minor and I , only knew this guy a short while, and he seemed to good to be true! That we would be delivering "Food" to places, and driving around Chicago traffic. We would waltz into big corporations with unopened dishes, and that would be it?

My friend backed out, and I still entertained the Idea, because I try not to judge a book by its cover. That was until I sat and notice things, like all the shops on the street were owned by Italians, and some of his people made numerous trips to the bank?

One day I was sitting and eating at the restaurant, and a beautiful waitress comes by. She smiles at me, and I smile back. Later My friend comes out and says "Do you think she is pretty?" I replied "Yes"

He says to me "That is my niece from Italy, and she would make a good wife! If you want I could introduce you to her, and let you two get acquainted." He calls her over, and walks away. Leaving the two of us alone. She was an amazing girl, but I wanted him to return as soon as possible. He returned a few minutes later, and sensed that I wasn't happy.

I was so shocked, but upfront with him, and said "I mean you and her no disrespect, but I'm kind of trying to work something out with a girl, and I'm not looking for marriage right now! I believe you when you say that she would make a good wife, and I would like to get know her as a friend. Like with you!" He looked as if he was shocked and pleased at the same time.

Then he says to me "I like you! I like your honesty, and the fact that you are a strong individual. I meant you no disrespect, only wanted to offer you the chance to find some happiness, and be a part of my family. I hope this does not get in the way of our business opportunity, or our friendship!"

I told him that everything was fine, and that I appreciated the offer. That there was no disrespect by is invitation, and that I hoped he was alright with that. His niece and I did have dinner that evening, and it was very pleasant. We had the top of the restaurant to ourselves, and laughed and talked for some time. We listened to some amazing Opera music, some of the Rat Pack tunes, and drank some wine. The night lasted longer than I anticipated, and the moment carried over till morning. We both knew that we were not going to see each other again, so we made the best of our time. It was a good night, and a wonderful morning!

After I declined on the business idea, he offered me a job at the the restaurant. Until I figure out what I wanted to do, and got a decent place. Somehow he persuaded this lady that turned me down a month ago to rent this great place! It was above the local Newspaper, and he said he could get me a job there if I wanted it. At this point I was freaked out, and didn't know what to say. I told him I had a family emergency back home, that I would return in a couple days with an answer.

I returned a couple days later, and told him that I appreciated everything he did for me and my friend, that I had to respectively decline. That I was going down south for some sales work, and would call him when I came back into the area. Time passed and life had other crazy plans for me, and I didn't make it back to the area for almost a year.

Franko welcomed me and Minor with open arms "Anything you two guys want it is on the house, and bring the best bottle of whine we got!" After we hate and had a couple bottles, he told me that "The wine we were drinking, we could not get any more, that some of the greatest writers, and Italian artist drank this wine! I can't remember the name of the wine, and didn't get to see a bottle, but it was good and strong! I could tell it was an aged wine. I won't pretend to know a lot about wine, but it was Delicious!

I don't know why things were the way they were, but can say it was fun. I can't tell you everything, for fear of a horses head in my bed, but can say it was an experience that I will always remember!There is more to this story, and I would love to tell you all the details. But I fear I have said too much, and must be a Good Fella, and not rat nobodies out! Ha HA

I can still hear some Italian sayings that echo in the my mind! But one sticks in my head like the cheeses in the lasagna, "Il tempo idenaro" Time is money! I heard him say that one often, to his employee's. Another one I say to my wife and daughter, "Tu are splendido" You are beautiful"

We talked about the last year, and that we loved his friendship and his food! I told him that I would return, and tell all my friends about the place. It was about a couple years later, and I went back with a girlfriend. I went to ask about Franko, and his brother told me he moved to Arizona, and that he was well. I told him to tell him that one of the "two guys"says hello! His brother was kind to me and my date, he gave us a meal on the house. I discovered after all these years, that it was kindness that ran deep in his Family!

So, in memory of my my past, and to all the good people. I raise a glass and say "salute" and "Grazie"

I hope you all "Buona giornate" and "(Milles) Grazie" for stopping by!



Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

The coconut shrimp sounds fabulous, and yes, the mango sauce is an absolute necessity :o)

Your recollection of the Italian Family restaurant was a pleasure to read. Glad you did not get in too deep.

Beth said...

Franco sounds like a great guy...but I'm glad you stayed on his good side!

Indigo said...

Ah yes, living in NY for the past 25 years, I've gotten to know some "Nice" Italian people. The Coconut Shrimp and Mango sauce sounds like it was delicious. (Hugs)Indigo