Stefano, a Sicilian waiter friend at Macleay Street Bistro in Sydney sent me a message on Facebook this morning suggesting I look up an Italian ‘cousin’ who owns two restaurants in lower Manhattan. ‘Cousin’ Maurizio is cooking tonight at his Taverna de Bacco in an emerging trendy area off Houston Street.
Jim and I pile into a rattling old yellow cab down to the Bowery and trundle through dark cobbled streets into a labyrinth that used to be a poor Jewish immigrant area. Irving Berlin and Eddie Cantor grew up here. Driving past century-old cold-water flats with fire escape ladders crisscrossing diagonally up the front, I’m wondering where on earth we’re heading. This is an adventure even for Jim.
The place is empty! So much for Stefano’s recommendation! But the staff assures us that it gets busier from 9pm. And it’s only 8 pm. By the time we depart it’s full of young things, who live in the tenements in this gentrifying but still low-rent area, out for a good Friday night – none over 30! None of them even notice us in the best table by the window either. Two cellophane men! Not only do they not look right through us, (as we’ve become accustomed to at this fair age), they don’t even see us sitting there!
Cellophane men to the young maybe, but the waiters, taking their cue from the owner Maurizio, ‘dance attendance’. Flamboyant D’Andre, who looks like his exotic name, along with Italians Elaina and Nello, are particularly friendly.
Too many Pinot Grigios later, I make it back to my hotel and walk into a closing lift door, almost dislocating my shoulder!
Home alone 2.