The Restaurant of His Dreams

by Amber Bacon

His weathered hands hold on to the railing that lines the sun soaked seating area of II Migilo as he relaxes against the metal for support. His gaze is carefully following his wife, Maria, as she bustles amongst the tables, making sure that every customer that is seated at her table(s) is satisfied with their lunch time meal. The restaurant world once use to be something that consumed his everyday life, but now he silently watches from his current post, his eyes peering out from under his salt and pepper brows, keen on what is happening within the restaurant.

Their life together began over 20 years ago in a restaurant similar to II Migilo. However, on warm summer days like today, it’s the sounds of wine glasses clinking and friends laughing together over various “antipasti” that compels him to check in on this corner side restaurant. It’s a window into his beloved past, even though this Italian “pizzeria” is far from what he is used to.

This restaurant is a quiet sanctuary compared to the eateries that he managed in days gone by. Back in England he was the director of a restaurant that saw 500–700 customers sit at his manicured tables during the lunch time hour. The stubby cigarette in his hand trembles as he recounts his time in his old haunts in a place that is slightly less serene. “It was tougher back then, between two baby boys and a wife the money was the only thing that made it “worth” it. But you still long to be free.” Back in his hometown of Orvieto, Italy, the days are more tranquil, and longer. To him, freedom in Orvieto means the ability to breathe air that is untouched by sticky pollution and the ability to walk safely back home after a night drinking with friends.

Franco has always viewed the concept of “eating out” as an experience rather than a job. It’s not always about the piles of food that comes out on clean, and atheistically pleasing, beige colored platters. Today his hands stop trembling as he recounts the card tricks he would effortlessly use as a young man in a black tuxedo to entertain the wailing and weary children that once graced his tables. This is Franco Melfi, the man who once saw his paychecks reach over 12,000 pounds a month. Franco doesn’t see that same amount these days, but that’s not what matters. It’s the smiles on content and satisfied customers that keep him going on days when his dialysis treatment becomes harder to deal with.

“I stopped managing restaurants when my arms were too sore from the (dialysis) shots to continue on a 14hour day. It would have been a lot harder to leave though if Maria hadn’t still stayed on here.” His disease might have been what motivated him to leave something that once consumed his every waking hour and return to the sleepy town of Orvieto, but that’s not what makes him want to stay here forever. It’s the people, the experience, and the restaurants. It’s the slower pace of life in Orvieto and now it’s a town and culture he proudly takes the chance to relax into.