My Mum and I get invited to lunch or dinner once a week by a good friend of ours. Mostly on weekend, he lets me decide if I want to eat Italian, Asian or something else, and then we go there.
My absolute favorite is a little Italian restaurant in our town. Not only because the food there is so tasty it should be illegal, but also because there is that one elderly waiter – Italian himself- who always makes my day.
The first time we went to that restaurant, we were not served by that guy, though, but by a younger, unlikeable young waiter. He didn’t greet us, brought the wrong drinks and didn’t once smile or anything.
The whole time, I felt quite uncomfortable around him, but I got a glimpse of that elderly waiter in the background, watching with a frown. He caught my interest because he looked just as uncomfortable by the younger’s display as I did.
And then, the young one made one last misstep – he turned towards my Mum and said, “What does the boy want to eat?”
There was a long pause where we all exchanged confused gazes, before I said, slowly but clearly, “I’m a girl, sir.”
(I wasn’t angry, mind you. It happens quite a lot to me – I close to never wear tight clothes, my hair is cut short and I never wear makeup. I see where it’s coming from, really.)
But what came then made me grit my teeth, because instead of being baffled or even embarrassed, the guy looked at me and said, “You’re kidding me, right?”
Before I could say anything – or calm my mum, because she gasped loudly in outrage – the elder waiter swooped in, bristling as he basically tore into the younger one. I couldn’t understand what he said, because he talked Italian the whole time, but my Mum later said that he had been outraged that “A beautiful young Signorina” just as me had been insulted like that.
All in all, it didn’t take very long until the young waiter vanished back in the kitchen and the elder waiter turned towards me, basically bowed to me and apologized over and over again. “I’m so sorry, Signorina, that you had to hear that! Please accept my sincere apology…!”
“No, please,” I managed, not knowing if I should be embarrassed or amused by the sight of him being so dramatic. “This happens a lot to me, please, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Ah, Signorina, such a gentle soul you are!”
At that point, I laughed out loud because he beamed at me with such a delight, it was just funny how passionate he was about all that.
Since then, the dear waiter always insisted on being the one who catered to us whenever we come to this restaurant. I didn’t complain at all, and also my mum and our friend were quite amused by that. The elderly man would take my jacket off, pull my chair back for me and give me a kiss on the hand once we left again, insisting that I had to be treated like “the gentle and nice Singorina” I am.
Honestly, such behavior is strange to me, since I didn’t really grow up with gentlemen, but I let him have his fun, since he always pouted when I wouldn’t let him tend to me. It was his way of showing me his respect, and if that was what he wanted, I would let him.
Today, we went there for lunch, but I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I was still deep in thought about school and that dumb group project, and the only reason I did leave the house at all was because my Mum basically pleaded me to do so.
So I was kind of staring into the air instead of making conversation, and didn’t even realize that I had taken off my jacket alone before the waiter could help me.
Once my mum left to go to the toilet and our friend went back to his car because he had forgotten his wallet there, I was startled by the waiter appearing next to me, putting down a little plate with chocolates on the table next to me.
I blinked, frowning. “Excuse me, but we didn’t order that.”
“Ah, but Signorina,” he winked at me, smiled crookedly. “That’s a little present on the house.”
I managed a little smile, thanking him.
He hummed, refilling my glass and explaining. “I missed your smile today, Signorina.”
“I’m sorry. I’m a bit… lost in thought, I guess.”
“We can’t have that, no, no.”
I shot him a glance, guessing that he was already planning something again, but he just took my order with a wide smile and disappeared in the kitchen again.
Let’s just say that he exceeded himself that day.
The pizza I ordered was not round as usual – somehow, he had managed to convince the chef to make it heart-shaped this time. In between bits of conversation, he would appear at our table, refill the little plate with chocolates again and again, shooting me a grin every time. And when I followed my Mum out of the restaurant, he waited already at the door, surprising me with a bowl full of chocolate mousse – “on the house”, he explained with a wink.
Etiquette or whatever be damned – I straight out hugged him then and there. And based on his delighted laughter and him cheering “There is your smile, Signorina!” I don’t think he really minded.
Honestly, bless this angel of a person, please. Bless him and all his descendants.