by Melinda Gallo

A rushed lunch

One thing that I usually love about Europe in general is that people let you sit and enjoy your meal. There are no waiters or waitresses pushing you to leave by handing you the bill while asking if you want dessert. I do love to have lunch with friends, enjoy the food, and talk about everything and anything.

I thought today's lunch would be just like any other. I had met Erin and her husband Chris who have both moved to Florence recently in Piazza della Signoria. We had corresponded for a while before they came to Florence, so this was the first time we'd met.

Alessandro had mentioned a restaurant nearby with only 20 posti (seats) and that people said it was really good.

When we arrived there were only a few people inside, so we were quickly seated at a table. The cameriere (waiter) had only one menu on the table so at first we had to share it. He noticed that we were all hunched over and gave us two others. Sometimes restaurants don't have a lot of menus, so I didn't think of asking.

The cameriere asked us what kind of water we wanted, and quickly brought it to us.

By the time we got our primi (first course), there were about ten people waiting outside on the narrow street. We finished up our primi and the cameriere picked up our plates.

After a few minutes, he came up to ask us, "Volete altra cosa? Dolce? Caffè? (Do you want anything else? Dessert? Coffee?)" I told him that I didn't know, but I'd like to see the menu.

He handed me a menu and as he walked away without looking at me, said, "C'è gente che aspetta. (There are people waiting.)"

I was initially surprised by his comment. I thought at first, OK, I'm going to be nice and order something quick so that we can liberate the table. And then, I thought it was quite rude of him to not say it in a nice manner or explain that he'd appreciate it. He didn't know if I was going to order a dolce or a secondo (second course), so the more I thought about it the more upset I got.

I didn't want to say anything or appear rude in front my two new acquaintances. So, I told Erin and Chris what he said and we decided to go get a gelato (ice cream) somewhere else.

I told me the cameriere, "Mi porti il conto per favore? (Can you give me the bill please?" As soon as it came, I whipped out my cash and placed it on the table. I took my scontrino (receipt) and said to the cameriere as I left. "Ho lasciato qui i soldi. (I left your money here.)" I will not be returning.

I told Alessandro of the incident and he asked me why I didn't just say, "Che aspetti. (They can wait.)" I didn't think of that solution at all as I felt so guilty for being at the table. My American culture deeply instilled in me said that I wasn't supposed to stay at the table even though I felt that I deserved the right to stay there as long as I wanted.

So, no matter now much I do enjoy that in Europe we are normally allowed to eat long lunches and not be bothered, I still felt a twang of guilt when I was basically told that I should hurry up.

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