Eating, of course, is a natural instinct. One does it based on the necessity of survival. Our ancestors journeyed over great distances to find food and watering holes. Happy with the foliage and occasional surprise kudu or gazelle, they likely didn’t get seconds, nor find more than a fist full of grub on any given hunt. In Florence, Italy, the instinct to eat takes on a much more base need. That of gluttony, and appropriately there is generally seconds, and even third helpings.
I should mention, Gluttony is one of most favorite of the sins, right up there with Lust and Sloth. In fact, it’s a bit tough to not get yourself deep into all the sins while traveling in Italy.
Partaking in the evening ritual of vodka martini and snack-goods at the hotel bar, it is inquired as to the best find for a great steak. Without hesitation, the bartender (I mentioned Lust, right?) suggested a local favorite, Buca Lapi.
My friend and I set out on our adventure, map in hand, to find the quasi-hole- in-the-wall eatery. Somewhere down the narrow streets we got a bit turned around and literally found the place on accident. A sweet manager type let us in the locked back door that miraculously appeared (word was that there was a front door, but the cocktail infused brains we were operating with didn’t provide accurate internal GPS, so we didn’t stand a chance of ever finding it).
Led down a long staircase into a cavernous room packed with tables and patrons, we were seated immediately. A waiter appeared and asked “gas, or no gas?” regarding our water preference, and requested to know which bottle of wine we would be drinking with our meal. My friend picked a great red and menus were put into our eager hands. The room was full up with the smell of garlic happiness. My friend and I exchanged excited looks.
I found the beef listings and asked the waiter if it one steak was enough for two people. He shrugged as if to suggest I was perhaps not wearing my big girl pants and said it was up to me. Taking the dare, I requested steak (as did my friend) and we decided on broccoli, potatoes and spinach for the table. We came here to eat, dear sir, and eat we shall! It was at this point the waiter looked slightly concerned as if to preemptively empathize with our sure to be future belly aches.
The wine continued to pour and the Happy Manager popped over, smiling and nodding at the rosy cheeked gals giggling over the tapenade and bread course (yes, they had wheat-free!).
Truth be told, we killed the bottle of wine about five minutes before the steak arrived. Another glass each was ordered (we couldn’t possibly have a whole other bottle).
When you're in a restaurant like Buca Lapi, you're spoiled to the point where you forget there are other people in the room. Noting this, we set about spying on the folks around us, wondering who they were and what stories they held. And then the steaks arrived. Holy Might As Well Be The Whole Cow, Batman! Who cares about the other people! It's time to eat.
In awe, I looked past the monstrosity of cowfulness in front of us and saw the Happy Manager smiling as big as a Texas sky toward the little ladies who had perhaps bitten of more than a pride of lions could chew.
He walked over and nodded yes, yes, everything was perfect, yes? Yes! Yes! But (he gestured toward our glasses) surely we cannot keep eating with wine glasses half empty (ironic pessimism for such a joyful guy), and as if conjuring the bottle from thin air (I think that happens a lot in Italy), he poured us full up. He would return throughout the meal to continue his best Bacchus impression, never allowing our glasses to empty.
We ate. And ate. And ate, until the plates on the table gleamed clean. Then, like a scene straight from Monty Python’s thin mint moment, we were asked the inevitable and ridiculous question: “Room for dessert?” to which, bloated and drunk as any Chaucer debauch, we said there was no way we could…or as the Pythons would say; “Couldn’t possibly.”
Ha! Within minutes, Happy Manager came over carrying a giant decadent, gluten free, lava cake. Yes, we ate it. But only because we had to eat something so as not to waste the additional wine he had poured (one must not be rude, after all).
After a couple of delightful hours, the check came and, upon inspection, we discovered that Happy Manager had given us all the wine after that initial bottle, as well as dessert, completely gratis. I have mentioned in earlier Blogs that Italian men love to watch women eat and there were no exceptions to that notation on this night.
Finished and beyond full, we said our goodbyes and made our way, stumbling here and there, albeit gracefully, to the staircase from whence we came. Of course the door was still locked, which confounded and befuddled us, but Happy Manager, seeing our struggle, journeyed up the steps smiling, pleased for his job well done, and freed us, fat and happy, into the cool night air.