Running Away With A Guy Who Owns a Little Italian Restaurant — A Love Story

I take David to a wonderful little Italian restaurant I’d found years and years ago when I used to come to Santa Barbara with my first husband. It’s way up State Street next to a funky old post office and when you go inside the restaurant, I swear, it looks just like I imagine a little restaurant in Italy would look — -crowded, noisy, tiny tables, lots of wine bottles all around and waitresses with white aprons, their hair tied up in knots carrying plates on the flats of their palms over the tops of their heads so that they can walk between the aisles.

David leans over the fresh calamari that we ordered — -sauteed in olive oil and garlic with crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside diced potatoes and braised celery on the side.

“There’s the owner,” he says in a loudish whisper so as to be heard above the din.

Sure enough, it was him. I remembered him from the first time. A tall, handsome, slender man.

“Yes, he’s the owner. He sold us some fabulous Italian cheese ‘not from the milk of a cow,’ as he’d put it then in his fresh from Italy English. Except he had more hair 10 years ago,” I laugh lightly, noting the owners now carefully combed threads.

Before we leave I go to the Ladies Room which is through the bustling kitchen where two probably Mexican men in chef’s jackets are busily preparing all the Italian dishes on open flame stoves.

On the wall over the stove hangs a sign. “Kiss the Cook.”

On my way out I run into the owner and he smiles and tells me good afternoon in Italian.

“I’m sure you don’t remember me,” I say. “But I was here about 10 years ago when you just opened and you sold me the most wonderful Italian cheese. We tasted so many cheeses that day and had such a great time that I’ve never forgotten it.

“Ah, si, signora,” he says as if he does remember me, like any good Italian man would.

“The cheese counter is gone after 10 years,” he gestures and pointing, “so is much of my hair.”

“I noticed!” I say teasingly, “I just said the same thing to my husband!”

I comment that the restaurant has certainly blossomed and that I’m so glad he’s still there and as I’m about to walk away, just like that, like it happened every day, he takes my hand and we lean forward and kiss each other on both cheeks.

Me, a 75 year old woman, and him a 30-something year old tall, graceful Italian man who owns a wonderful Italian restaurant and who has also lost some — -a lot of — -his hair.

My husband, having witnessed my double cheek kissing scene with the owner is standing waiting for me by our table.

“Here,” he says, “let me help you with your coat before you run away with the guy who owns this restaurant.”

“What a great lunch,” I tell him. “Great food. Great memories. And a great husband who talks to me like I’m a 76-year-old woman that 30-year old men from Italy would want to run away with.”

“Hey,” he jokes back. “You’re Italian. One never knows!”

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