Octopus and New Friends
One of the Sunday street markets of antiques and collectables lines the narrow, crooked, cobbled Via Fiori Chiari. I had found the listing online and it seemed like a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.
Almost as soon as I came up out of the subway, I was faced with the Piccolo Theater and the public art that dominated the intersection. (I thought of Burien’s new Town Square.)
Two blocks later, at the entrance to Via Fiori Chiari, sat the mozzarella bar, Obika. I made a note to go back there, as I watched the woman prepare a broad flat disk of fresh mozzarella the size of a pizza! She laid the cheese out flat, piled it with fresh arugula and freshly sliced bresaola (my favorite cured meat). She rolled the whole thing to be later sliced into beautiful green, white and red spiral rotoli. The place looked sleek and hip, (The prices weren’t so sleek, however. Check out their web site for a lesson in mozzarella.)
Via Fiori Chiari is a mere alleyway, only two blocks long, narrow but spotless, and faced by antique and clothing stores. The restaurants along those two blocks set out their tables and table cloths, their menus written in either cursive or chalk, and umbrellas to shade all the hungry antique-shoppers.
I wandered the two blocks and bought 7 beads. Sure. Come all the way to Italy and buy beads from Thailand! But I liked them. They reminded me of folded paper, and their simplicity pleased me.
Lunch time. I perused the posted menus and the octopus at Il Kaimano kept sounding good to me, Polpetti alla Luciana. I stepped up and was seated with tables one inch away from either side of my own. The waiter handed me a menu, and when I said “grazie“, he looked startled and replied “Italiana?”. I said “si“, and he returned with a menu in Italian. (I was pleased again today.)
The table proximity was cozy… Indeed! And it was on this lovely, just-right-warm Sunday afternoon, sipping prosecco and spooning octopus out of my bowl that I met my first new friends in Milano! I can’t remember how the conversation began with Ewa and Piotr; I think it was that Piotr asked if I’m English, or if I speak English. “Americans speaking Italian usually don’t have such a good accent,” he said. The three of us ended up enjoying our meals together over the next hour or so, speaking with Italian and English blended so well I forgot what language was being spoken!
Ewa (Eva) is a doctor from Poland and has lived here for 30 years. Piotr is Polish and German, and a retired musical conductor. He was especially pleased by the music of the street musician just a few feet away, and thus their selection of this restaurant. He told of being a part of the musical production, Cinderella, at the Kennedy Center in 1962.
It wasn’t long into the conversation that Ewa suggested we get together so she could practice her English and I could practice my Italian! What fun. How perfect. We exchanged cards and numbers and plan to meet for coffee or pizza next weekend. We might make it a weekly language practice!
Just last night I was musing about “living” in Milano. Living in a city is not simply having an apartment and buying groceries alongside the locals. That’s just the mechanics and structure of living. Living in a city is about being a part of community in that city. That’s the heart of living and the key I was wondering how to create. Certainly, sitting in my apartment doesn’t do much to help me meet people, but I had thought, “What? Go to a restaurant alone and just sit there writing in my journal while I eat?” Well…no journal with me today and the tables were only an inch apart. How could we NOT have started a conversation?! It was all so fluid and easy.
Reflecting on friendships, I am so very grateful for the lifeline that NABA creates for me, and the gathering of wonderful people that I’ve met there. Without those friendships this move to Milano would have been an entirely different story. NABA has given me a community to dip my big toe into right from the start.
But since arriving here, meeting Ewa and Piotr began the first spontaneous, independent friendships outside of NABA that have a likelihood of continuing! And that prospect pleases me even more deeply than paper-like beads or being mistaken for an Italian! Grazie a Ewa e Piotr!