Category Archives: Essays & Rants

Excerpt from Hanging Out on A Sunday Afternoon

Excerpt from Hanging Out on A Sunday Afternoon


Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

“Hey, Sam the knish guy is coming down from Houston Street. Let’s go get one.”
An old Jewish man named Sam passed by with his cart just about every day selling hot potato knishes. Joe got his with mustard. Mine was plain. I knew it would take the edge off of my appetite for Sunday dinner but I couldn’t help myself.
Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon
Joe said, “Let’s go back to Dom’s and get a Lime Rickey to go with this. It’s funny; I like Lime Rickeys, which you can only get in the summer, but I can’t wait for colder weather when the sweet potato guy sets up his cart on Allen Street. I love those things.”

Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

“I know who you mean but I’m not too crazy about sweet potatoes,” I said.
Joe paid no attention to me. He was feeling nostalgic again.


Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

“But what I really miss is the old guy who used to sell jelly apples all winter outside the school at three o’clock. He’d dip them in hot jelly when you ordered one so the jelly would still be hot and soft as you ate it. And if you wanted, he’d roll it in coconut – no extra charge. I haven’t had a good jelly apple since the old guy died.”


Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

We ate our knishes and talked as we walked to our building. I asked Joe if he wanted to have dinner with us. He declined but said he would stop by later. We climbed the stairs and he went into his apartment as I entered my crowded kitchen where dinner was being prepared. My mother, aunt and sisters were cooking. My father, although he didn’t help except to grate enough parmigiana cheese for the meal, often seemed to find reasons to pass through just to see what was going on. When we finally sat down to eat, the dishes seemed to just keep coming. There was someone constantly getting up to bring still more in from the kitchen.
Once, a high school classmate of my older sister joined us. She wasn’t Italian and asked for a knife to cut her pasta.
My mother sometimes took offense when someone simply asked to pass the salt, saying, “Why, I didn’t put enough salt?” But this time she said, “Hon, let me show you how to twirl your fusilli on a fork.”
Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon
Dinner ended with the inevitable question, “Who wants black or brown?” meaning espresso or American coffee. As the coffee was being served there was a knock at the door. It was Joe who wanted to see if I was ready to go out.
“Come in, Joe,” my mother said. “We’re just finishing dinner. Come in and have something to eat.”
“Hello everyone,” he said as he entered the dining room, “No thanks. I just ate.”
“Well, sit down anyway and have some coffee. You know everyone here. This is my cousin Gloria from Staten Island.”


Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

“I remember Joe when he was a little boy,” Gloria said. “Have a piece of Blackout cake. I got it at Ebbingers on the way over.”
“Honest, I’m really full.”
“All right, sit down anyway. Somebody cut him a piece of cake to go with his coffee.”
“OK, just a little piece.” Joe knew he couldn’t win.


Hanging Out on a Sunday Afternoon

Latkes for Chanukah

Latkes for Chanukah

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’m Italian-American and most often post Italian recipes. But not this time. I grew up in New York and specifically on the Lower East Side so that means I grew up with Jewish food. Latkes have always been one of my favorites and my grandmother used to make them. If you think about it, a Jewish latke isn’t very different than an Italian  potato and egg frittata.
My father’s mother, Amalia came to America from Italy in the early 1880s as a young teenager. Her family settled on Prince Street in what was to become Little Italy but was then a mix of Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. Her first job was in a nearby Jewish garment factory and being surrounded by girls and women speaking nothing but Yiddish, that was the first language she learned in America. English came later.


My Aunt Sis told me that once when she was shopping with her mother, she saw a coat she liked. Grandma said it cost too much and started to leave the store.
One of the shopkeepers told the other in Yiddish, “These Italian mothers always give in to their kids. She’ll be back for the coat.”
My grandmother turned to him and said in impeccable Yiddish, “It’s too expensive but I might buy it if we could negotiate a better price.” The surprised shopkeeper did just that.
I remember family dinners at her apartment and there were often some of her garment worker friends invited. Grandma spoke perfect English and Italian and it was always fun for us grandchildren to hear her conversing with her old friends in Yiddish.
I think I’ve figured out the Latke recipe she used although it’s possible she fried them in olive oil. But whatever kind you use, the oil is a reminder during Chanukah of what was burned to keep the eternal flame alive the temple.

Latkes for Chanukah

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and pepper in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and stir until the flour is absorbed. Use the coarse side of a grater to grate the potatoes and onion. Latkes for ChanukahDo this right over a dish towel and then squeeze out and discard as much of the liquid as you can. Add potatoes and onions to the flour and egg mix and blend thoroughly.Latkes for Chanukah

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. Put a tablespoon of the potato mix in the pan (I use an ice cream scoop) and flatten it with a spatula. Don’t worry about rough edges – they’ll get crisp and that’s what you want.Latkes for Chanukah
Cook them for about 4-5 minutes and turn them. Then the same on the 2nd side. When they’re done, drain them on a paper tower (or a brown paper bag like Grandma did) and sprinkle with salt. Serve them hot with apple sauce and sour cream. Happy Chanukah!Latkes for Chanukah

Click here for updated GALLERY II – a special Italian Grandma video today

Writing Site  and  Yelp

Talking About the Movies

(John Ford’s  STAGECOACH, staring John Wayne – 1939)

Talking About the Movies
They speak about hardware, software, LANs, WANs and USBs. These are the usual topics of conversation whenever I join my wife, Bridget at a business dinner. She’s in information technology – electronic communications to be specific. My wife is terrific, but if she’s with people in her field she becomes a strange and different person and although she normally uses English when she speaks to me, her language changes to “Hi-Tech.”

Typically these dinners are with another couple, one of whom is the techie who works with Bridget. The spouse is in the same boat I am so we usually have a separate conversation. I’ve met some interesting people this way, and as a night out it’s not too bad.
A couple Bridget had worked with in Chicago was passing through New York recently and invited us to go out. I expected the worst since this time, not just one but both of them were “computer professionals” so I would be the only one not able to communicate in the common language. To soften the blow, we picked one of my favorite restaurants, Gallagher’s Steak House on West 52nd Street, so I would at least be sure to enjoy the food if not the talk. Talking About the Movies
They seemed nice enough, and at the beginning of the meal everyone tried to include me in the conversation as we had our crab meat cocktails and little necks on the half shell appetizers.
I’m considered fairly proficient with a computer, but they were light years beyond me. Every time I tried to change the subject, it inevitably went back to their shop talk. I gave up and simply smiled and nodded while I thought of other things and ate my sirloin. Then I began to daydream and eventually just zoned out.
While I was in this state of deep boredom, some of the conversation from an adjoining table got through to me. My ears perked up because they were discussing movies and were in the midst of an argument about the name of an actor. Talking About the Movies
I heard a female voice ask, “Who played the corrupt cop that Michael Corleone shot in The Godfather?”
I couldn’t see who was talking because their table was behind me, but I heard a male voice respond, “I don’t know, but he was the same guy who played the crazy general in Doctor Strangelove.”
 A second male voice said, “That’s Robert Ryan.”
The female spoke again, “No, they just look alike, but it wasn’t him. Let’s ask the waiter.”

Talking About the Movies

The waiter didn’t know either, but as he was walking away, I called him over and told him the name they were looking for was Sterling Hayden. He went back to tell them and actually got a round of applause. At this point, I asked myself why wasn’t I having dinner with these nice people who were engaged in such civilized and amusing conversation? When the waiter told them it was I who had come up with the actor’s name they looked my way, and one of them said they had another question they’d been wondering about.
“My husband says that Mean Streets was the first time Harvey Keitel worked with Martin Scorsese. Do you think that’s right?”

Talking About the Movies

I happened to know that while Scorsese was at NYU, he did a student film called Who’s That Knocking at My Door and that was the first time he and Keitel worked together. My response got me an invitation to join them. With a wink at Bridget, I excused myself from my table, picked up my wine glass and took a seat with them.


Talking About the MoviesLa Dolce Vita and Stardust Memories


Talking About the MoviesThis Gun for Hire and Rome, Open City

We spoke about John Ford and John Wayne, Fellini and Woody Allen, Film Noir and Neo-Realism, and even listed some of Hitchcock’s blonde heroines.

Talking About the Movies

Madeline Carroll, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Grace Kelly

None of us had any professional connection with the film industry, but we all just loved the movies. The language at the first part of the evening might have been “Hi-Tech” but now I was with my kind of people, and we were speaking pure “Classic Film.”
When they left, I went back to my table. I don’t know what her friends thought of me, but I was sure Bridget understood.

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Writing Site  and  Yelp



There’s the basic Plain Bagel, then Poppy, Sesame, Onion and even Pumpernickel – Bialys too. After that it starts to get a little crazy – blueberry? cinnamon walnut? jalapeno? Well, I guess there’s something for everybody.
As a New Yorker, it goes without saying that I like bagels. All New Yorkers do. We grew up with them. It’s a standard New York practice for mothers to give their babies a smooth plain bagel for teething.
With butter or a schmear* and coffee for breakfast or with Nova** for lunch, it’s perfect. Go to a New York event – a seminar, corporate meeting, workshop – if it’s in the morning and it’s catered there will be bagels. And if it’s just muffins, there will be complaints.
When I was in the army and stationed in the South in the late 1960s, I tried to order a bagel in Augusta, Georgia. The response was “What’s a bagel?” I was offered a honeybun instead, which wasn’t bad. But now, at least they know what bagels are, even if honeybuns are still more popular.
Without getting into too much history, I can say this – the bagel originated in Eastern Europe, it’s Jewish and the name is Yiddish. New York City bagels are supposed to be the best in the country because of our water. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t but when friends visit, having a New York bagel is on their list of things to do because, they say, they can’t get a good one back home.

* a schmear is Yiddish for a thin layer of cream cheese

** Nova – Nova Scotia is like lox but a little less salty




According to the Global Language Monitor, the English language has over a million words. The million mark was hit in June 2009. With so many words and so many choices, why do some people use the same ones over and over and incorrectly at that?

I was waiting my turn at a coffee shop and heard the customer ahead of me place his order.  The exchange of words was fine up to a point. It ended with the man behind the counter saying to the customer, “You can pick up your coffee at the cashier.”

The customer’s response: “Awesome.”

No, the Grand Canyon is awesome. Notre Dame and the pyramids at Giza are awesome but not coffee. Awesome is breathtaking, astonishing, even fearsome, and as much as I love coffee, getting a container of it isn’t any of those things.

Out of those million English words, I always thought there were enough verbs, but I must have been wrong because people are creating new ones. Since we’ve been speaking Middle English, the word for ‘to transfer possession of’ has been give but lately the noun gift is being used in its place. Give, giving and gave has become gift, gifting and gifted. It seems to work but doesn’t that make a ‘gifted child’ someone’s son or daughter they no longer want and pass on to a friend at Christmas?

There’s another verb that although also around for a long time, has taken on a different and contemporary definition.  It’s rocking, and is being used in place of wearing, as in ‘wearing clothing.’ But you have to be careful about which types of clothing you apply it to.  It goes perfectly with Air Jordan Super Flys and skinny brim hipster hats, but no one will ever rock Birkenstocks and babushkas.

Here’s a verb that’s changed by, I’d say, about ninety-percent. Decimate is currently being used to mean ‘to destroy a large part’ but it originally meant ‘to reduce by ten percent,’ and only ten percent. Its root is the Latin decem or ten. When a Roman legion’s mutiny was put down, they were decimated. The soldiers were lined up, and every tenth one was beaten to death by nine others, a very precise and deadly way of reducing by ten-percent.

A sector that’s often guilty of not so much misusing words, but using them pretentiously, is the corporate world. Limits become parameters, detailed becomes nuanced and accountability is now transparency. There’s also a belief in that culture that the more syllables a word has, the more important the speaker must be.  Functionality is three syllables better than function, and they’ll never use use when they can use utilize. An exception to that corporate multi-syllable rule is shop. Calling a corporate center or office a shop gives it something it doesn’t have. A shop implies physical creativity as might be found in an atelier or studio. Edison had a shop at Menlo Park. Spreadsheets and Gantt charts just don’t come up to that level.

There are some other words that are fine when used alone but not when combined with certain other words. One is hone. Its misuse is so common that it’s almost become accepted. Hone is defined as ‘to sharpen or make perfect,’ like when someone ‘hones their skills.’ Lately, it’s being used incorrectly in place of the verb home, as in, ‘to move toward a goal’ or ‘to guide to a target’ like a homing device on a missile or even a homing pigeon. You can hone something but you can’t ‘hone in.’ There’s only a one letter variation between ‘home in’ and’ hone in’ but what a difference that makes to anyone who knows the difference. Another common but incorrect combination is ‘most unique.’ Unique already says it all, and it can’t be topped and made more superlative. Saying ‘most unique’ is as pointless as saying ‘most best’ or ‘most favorite.’ The adjective is just not necessary.

I’ll finish with a commonly used pronoun that signifies ‘no matter what’ but has recently taken on a very powerful new meaning. The word is whatever. If you want to end a discussion by implying that the discussion is beneath you and the person you’re speaking with is inconsequential and thereby dismissed, simply say, “Whatever!” and walk away.  It’ll do it every time.

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

The Ham Sandwich

The Ham Sandwich

Rushing home to get on my computer for a one pm meeting, I still had time to stop at the deli and get something to go. I’d mute my mic while I ate and no one would ever know the difference. Glad there was no line when I arrived, I was upset to see Ali the Master Sandwich Maker wasn’t behind the counter. He took pride in his work, as any craftsman should. But he wasn’t there. Instead, a pretty young woman new to the deli stood in his place. Pretty or not, could she fill Ali’s shoes and live up to his excellent sandwich making skills?

“Hi, where’s Ali?”

She smiled but didn’t answer. Maybe she didn’t hear me.

I let it go and said, “Ham and Swiss cheese on a roll with mustard and lettuce, please.”

She held up two rolls, one on each side of her cheerful face, sesame on the left and poppy on the right. Now that was something Ali never did. He’d just pick up any old roll and that’s what I got. I pointed to the poppy and started to think that maybe his replacement wasn’t going to be too bad after all.

I got home and to my desk just in time, about two minutes to one. The meeting started and I muted so they couldn’t hear the crinkling of wax paper as I unwrapped my ham and Swiss. It was a good thing they couldn’t hear me because I said something unprintable when I saw orange American cheese instead of the Swiss I had asked for – very disappointing. As I explained some figures on a spread sheet to my associates, I quietly began to peel off the offending American cheese when I almost cursed again – mayo instead of mustard.

That was two strikes against the new sandwich maker. As quickly as I could, I ran to the fridge and grabbed the Gulden’s, reached in a drawer for a knife to spread it and got back to my meeting before anyone missed me. Most of the mayo was on the lettuce so I removed it and scrapped the rest of it off the bread. My desk began to look like a compost heap.

I thought I was finally ready to eat but no, I couldn’t. She might have been pretty, but she didn’t understand the underlying structure of a well-made sandwich. One has to be built, with each item carefully placed to evenly cover the bread to the right thickness, as Ali did. She cut a few slices of ham, folded them over and just laid them there leaving one side higher than the other. And she left bare spots, where a bite would result in a mouthful of bread and nothing else. I had to relocate each slice and by the time I corrected her amateurish mistakes, my keyboard was smeared with mayo and mustard.

American instead of Swiss and mayo instead of mustard.

Could she have sabotaged my sandwich on purpose? She seemed so sweet I couldn’t accept that. The only other explanation was that she didn’t understand English, and not just that, she must have come from a culture that didn’t understand sandwiches. When I made my order, she got “ham” and “cheese” but all the rest seemed to have been guess work on her part.

I half-heartedly ate my sandwich and continued with the meeting but I was distracted. I thought about the time Judge Sol Wachtler was in the news a few years back. Dissatisfied with the way the New York grand jury system worked, he felt it should be done away with. He said prosecutors had so much influence they could always get an indictment. They could even get the jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” If ever a ham sandwich deserved to be indicted, it was the one I had just eaten.

Another meeting, another sandwich – just right this time.

 Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp


Act Like a New Yorker
I want to point out a few simple things that could make a big difference on your next trip to New York City.

Tourism is a big industry in New York. We appreciate your business and, trust me on this, most New Yorkers would actually like tourists if only you tried to be part of our City and not just stand back and watch us as though you were at a zoo.

In winter, don’t dress like you’re going to a ski resort or in summer, a beach resort. This is a city so dress for the city and not a national park. How can you expect a good table in a white table cloth restaurant when you show up wearing sneakers, shorts and a baseball cap?

Manhattan isn’t just Times Square, so be adventurous and go see the neighborhoods. And New York City isn’t just Manhattan. Since you can have authentic Italian espresso in a café in Bensonhurst, Greek coffee in Astoria and café con leche in the South Bronx, why look for a Starbucks where their coffee will be no different than in the Starbucks at home in your local mall? And don’t forget Staten Island.

Skip the Olive Gardens, Burger Kings and other chains you’re used to and go local. With over 40,000 restaurants in New York, you can easily find one that suits your taste. It isn’t necessarily going to be more expensive and might even save you some money.

Explore the City the way natives do, by foot and public transit. It’s easy with a map and some common sense, keeping in mind you shouldn’t stop to look at your map at the top of a flight of subway stairs during rush hour.

New Yorkers move fast and walking too slowly or three abreast is almost as bad as reckless driving on a highway. Navigating the sidewalks of New York is a lot like your driving back home: keep up with the pace of traffic, don’t randomly change lanes and make no unexpected stops. You can cause accidents, traffic jams or at the very least, bad feelings.

When you come to an intersection, it’s fine if you don’t want to jay-walk but don’t block our way when we appear to be willing to risk our lives to get to an appointment on time. To New Yorkers, a “don’t walk” sign is just a suggestion. Assume we know what we’re doing after years of practice.

Please don’t  think I’m just another nasty New Yorker, because honest, I’m not. I’d really like you to avoid tourist traps and see the real New York. I want you to feel like you belong here and experience the city the way we do and all you have to do is act like a New Yorker.

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

An Italian Dinner

An Italian Dinner
You can have things pretty much your way in an Italian restaurant. You are the customer and they’ll try to accommodate you. It’s different when you go to an Italian home for dinner. You don’t want to offend your hosts and you want to be a good guest so here are a few things you should know.
Don’t show up with your hands in your pockets. Bring a little something for your hosts. Flowers or some wine always works. Maybe a box of pastry from a good bakery. Except for pastry, don’t bring any other food. Only certain family members and very close friends should bring an agreed upon dish.

Dress nicely (more formally than you might think). Unless for religious reasons – don’t wear a hat at the table, even if it’s your favorite team.

Expect to start eating at seven or later. You’ll arrive, have a drink, maybe the antipasto served buffet style and then sit down for the main meal to start. The exception to this is that dinner will be served at two or three in the afternoon if you’re invited on a Sunday.

Italians eat a lot over a long period of time and serve multiple courses. Typically, an Italian dinner will include antipasto, pasta, a main plus many side dishes, then coffee, so pace yourself and don’t take more than you can finish. There will always be enough for seconds and thirds.

It’s not a restaurant so don’t expect parmigiana, spaghetti & meatballs or other American dishes. Your hosts might serve you recipes that have been in their family for generations and are probably not typical to American Italian restaurants.

Bread isn’t served as an appetizer to start the meal like it is in a restaurant. It’s on the table throughout the meal. And don’t expect butter. Look at it this way – if your bread needs butter to be edible, maybe you should be buying better bread.

Salad will not  be served as a first course but as a side dish along with the main course. The salad will be dressed simply with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.

If your hosts have children, unless they’re babies, they will be at the table. If you have children they’ll be invited too. The kids will be at the table eating the same things you do (not specially prepared PB&Js or chicken nuggets). Italians believe that their children learn social skills by being in social settings.

There will be salt and black pepper and maybe red pepper flakes on the table. Don’t ask for any condiments not already on the table. No mustard for your prosciutto, no butter for your bread, no ketchup or mayo for anything and especially no grated cheese for any seafood dish. In some household that is considered a mortal sin punishable in hell.

Italians don’t drink a lot but a variety of drinks will be served throughout your visit – a cocktail, prosecco, or an aperitif when you arrive, wine with the meal and a cordial or digestif afterwards, so pace yourself.  Adolescents/teenagers will be served wine during the meal.

Dinner will end late and no matter how late it is, coffee will be served. That will be espresso, not decaf, not tea – only espresso (which can be sweetened with sugar or more likely, Anisette). There definitely won’t be any cappuccino. Italians feel that cappuccino is strictly for the morning and drinking it later in the day is like eating corn flakes for dinner.

Dessert isn’t a big part of our tradition. Typically, besides espresso, you’ll find cordials and Asti, perhaps fruit, fresh or dried, possibly in autumn, nuts, or maybe just some biscotti to dip in your coffee. If someone brought pastry it would be served with the coffee.

 “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!”  (Everyone to the table to eat!)


Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

Nick and Nora Glasses

(Nick and Nora with Asta in the middle)

Nick and Nora Glasses

I love going to steak houses. They’re known for big portions and big cocktails glasses. Two drinks and you’re fried. Well, there was a time when glasses weren’t huge and I learned about it in an old movie.

I was always a big fan of “The Thin Man,” with Dick Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a husband and wife detective team. They were stylish, elegant and an all-together classy couple. The story takes place in New York between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. It seems that rather than solve a murder, Nick would prefer to stay mildly drunk.

There’s one scene where Nora tries to catch up with Nick’s drinking. She asks the bartender how many drinks he’s served Nick. When she’s told “six,” she orders six Martinis and says, “Line ’em up.” They’re served in beautiful little cocktail glasses that were popular at the time and are now know as “Nick and Nora Glasses.”

A Nick and Nora is about 3 ounces, compared to the steak house 8 – 10 ounces. In a smaller glass your drink stays cold until you finish it and if you want more, simply order another one or maybe another six.

If you’d like to see “The Thin Man,” you can get it on Netflix .

Just Google NICK & NORA GLASS if you’d like to get some.

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo at Yelp


 I grew up wanting a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. I wanted friends and relatives to come and visit our house with its pumpkins on the porch and autumn leaves on the lawn and hear their car tires crunching on our gravel driveway as they arrived. I wanted them to admire the turkey and pumpkin pie my mother made for dinner. But I didn’t get that kind of Thanksgiving growing up Italian-American in an apartment in Manhattan. To start with, there was no porch or lawn.
My mother made turkey but dinner began with an elaborate antipasto, then, because it was a holiday, ravioli with all kinds of meat simmered in a Sunday-style gravy, and if you were still hungry there was turkey. She also made pumpkin pie for dessert, but it was served along with espresso, anisette, cannoli and sfogliatelle. She had about a thousand Napolitano recipes in her head, but when it came to turkey and the trimmings, she relied on Betty Crocker. This wasn’t Norman Rockwell at all, and as much as I tried to push my family in that direction, they just weren’t interested.
When I was older, I met Rebecca whose heritage was Protestant, American, and Anglo-Saxon before that. Thanksgiving was in her blood. She suggested we spend the holiday at an inn in Connecticut that specialized in a traditional Thanksgiving. It seemed like a terrific idea so we made reservations and arranged to meet her cousin William and his fiancé Barbsie there.


We arrived early in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. The inn was a sprawling wooden building and on the National Register of Historic Places. We unpacked and went to wait for William and Barbsie at the bar. A fireplace in the lobby had a large iron pan on its hearth filled with chestnuts. It didn’t take me long to realize I was actually witnessing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” This was a great start to the Thanksgiving I had always dreamed of.


William and Barbsie arrived and after introductions suggested we order their family’s “traditional” start to a Thanksgiving dinner, Martinis. It wasn’t my tradition, and I was sure the Pilgrims didn’t drink them but what the hell, when in Rome…
I wore a three-piece suit, white shirt, and tie while William was dressed in khakis, a pink polo shirt, worn blazer and Topsiders without socks. I felt overdressed, and I supposed this dressing down might have been another tradition I wasn’t familiar with.
Barbsie admired my suit but then said, “It looks like something Al Capone might have worn.”


The bartender served us a platter of crackers with American cheeses, all in varying shades of orange. After her second Martini, Barbsie said she was glad there were no Italian selections on the plate because “their cheese making standards aren’t very high.”
Hmm,” I thought, “Barbsie seems to have an issue with my ‘Italianness’


When we got to our table, after one look at the menu, my spirits brightened. I could see the chef understood the Rockwell Thanksgiving concept thoroughly. There were lots of things on the menu I’m sure the Pilgrims ate when they invented the holiday, and there was no pasta in sight. As tradition dictates, the center of the meal was turkey, and it would be served with very American sides like acorn squash, corn bread, and sweet potatoes topped with melted marshmallows – something my mother would never have considered.
After we ordered, Barbsie mentioned there was something in the news recently about a body being found in the trunk of a car, and it was a suspected mob hit.
She turned to me with a smirk and said, “So Robert, aren’t you Italian? You must have the inside story on this.”
Rebecca cringed, but I forced a smile and replied, “I guess those pesky Mafiosi are at it again.”
Barbsie caught the sarcasm and didn’t speak to me for a while after that. I tried to shrug it off, but I was unable to keep from being offended. My mood turned dark, and the already bland food lost whatever flavor it had.
I couldn’t stop myself and asked Barbsie, “Do you suppose they purposely don’t use the spices associated with the ethnic groups they don’t want to come here?”
She replied in a huff, “Well, everyone we know thinks the food at the inn is excellent.”
Our Thanksgiving dinner continued going downhill, and conversation became strained. Rebecca and her cousin William caught up on family news with forced cheerfulness as I silently picked at my food. It became more and more uncomfortable, and with each drink, Barbsie’s rudeness got worse. I stopped responding to her and hardly responded to William or Rebecca.


I thought about the festive chaos of my family’s Thanksgiving with kids laughing and playing and the adults all talking at once. It was loud and confused with an abundanza of great food, and I missed it. Our disagreeable dinner at the inn eventually came to an end. We said goodnight and William and Barbsie drove home since they lived nearby. Rebecca apologized to me for Barbsie’s behavior, and I apologized to her for responding as I did.
We drove back to the city the next morning, and after I had dropped off Rebecca, I went to see my parents. I was hoping my mother might have some left over ravioli.

Click here for updated GALLERY II

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp