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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spontaneous Tourist Date - Little Italy, NY

After a week filled with a number of pitfalls including flat tires, a busted boiler, a broken toe, I'd been hoping for something fun. Maybe even a cocktail? Saturday brought the need to do list, but seeing I'd had enough, my hubby said, "Want to go to the city in the morning and you can take pictures? Want to go tonight, dinner?"


1. We do not live around the corner from the city.

2. Clearly, this would be a real date - do we still do that after 23 years of marriage?

3. As semi-empty-nesters, it is our obligation to learn to be spontaneous.

"Give me 5 minutes. Let's go to dinner," I answer.

Jacket, camera, extra charged battery, wallet, cell phone, "Ready!"

We are dressed very casually and have no destination in mind. Who does this? Not us. I begin typing things in the browser on my cell phone and realize, "I've never been to Little Italy. Can we just go there?"

Ah, tourists. And, why not? We are tourists. I want to take pictures. We are not dressed to blend in with the natives, just call a spade a spade and be done with it. Down the highway, over a bridge, into the innerworkings of the city and poof, we find our destination AND street parking. No hydrant? No restrictions? Is this a trick? A high five for our luck and we are off.

We want to walk around and see the sights, the neighborhood, everything. It is already beginning to get a little too dark for me to shoot, but I don't care. Tourist photos it is! And then we stumble upon it, a kitchen store (to you, maybe not very exciting, for me a must see)!

Is this designed for the natives or the tourists? Does it really matter?

Doesn't everyone take pictures of the front door?

So much to see and wonder about - to dream of fresh foods and exotic tastes.

To me, they are like jewels, shiny and sparkly...

Is security watching me take pictures? Do they care or are they merely amused? Hubby points out the chicken and rooster themed dishes and we smile. A story, a thousand years old, that we share from his youth. Christmas Eve shopping for his Mom and a glass chicken candy dish - the details are ours, part of the threads that have woven our story.

We exit the store and bid the security guard in his suit a good night.

We walk along and see the world famous Lombardi's. And the line that wraps around the building. Tourists?

Street side entertainment for those who wait. I am sure he loves having his picture taken, feeling like a goldfish, stared at and photographed for the amusement of others.

More eye candy for the tourists and I fall for it...

And so we head to the restaurant we had passed earlier. The sidewalk specials had caught my eye and I knew they would have something we would each enjoy. Hubby is frightfully predictable and traditional and typically orders chicken marsala.

No chicken marsala?

Well, they do have "chicken and mushrooms in wine sauce." Whew.

I start with a French Martini. I know, I know, I am in an Italian restuarant, but that is my latest favorite. Then the Escarole and Bean in Brodo soup and the Seafood Risotto special.

Escarole & Bean in Brodo (broth)

You will need:

Garlic (my bowl alone had about 3 cloves) to taste
Cannelini Beans
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Restaurant used Vegetable Broth - you may substitute chicken if you like...

* Grated parmesan for at table

Saute garlic in olive oil in medium pan. Add escarole and wilt with a pinch of salt. Next add broth and beans, simmer until beans are heated through and tender. Once soup is ladled into bowl, sprinkle (or grate or pile on) parmesan.

It is the simple things that are sometimes the best!

I could not properly photograph the soup, the restaurant is fairly dark and trying without flash leaves the images blurry as the shutter is held open long enough for me to shake and with flash, the image becomes washed out and unrecognizable. The same problem happened with my meal. But, his chicken dish, was amazing! To smell, to photograph, to taste. Served with a side order of gentle ribbons of linguini in a light tomato sauce. A soft kiss on the cheek of flavors.

Our meal ends and we decide not to try to eat another bite. We may have dessert while walking around a bit more. Goodbye Rocky's and thank you for the food memories.

And then we enter it, the real Little Italy. Cameras flash. Cigarette and cigar smoke fills your nose. Crowds. Vendors. Souvenier t-shirts and post cards. Does this mean we had eaten where the natives may eat?

What makes me look down? I have no idea. Handwritten on the sidewalk, "Here Lies Jimmy Hoffa." We laugh and walk among the tourists.

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