> SlowTrav > Stories > A Mind's Eye in Italy

Creative Use of the Fonino

Nancy Lytle

While I was living in Sorrento, my landlord Andrea invited me to lunch with him, his Mom visiting from Tuscany, and his cousin Riccardo. Riccardo, who is a headlong kind of guy, a middle-aged rich kid from Napoli, drove us with elan down to Nerano, a seaside village not far from Sorrento. We pulled up smartly at his favorite fish restaurant and took a shady table on the open deck overlooking the beach and a little dock.

After we ordered wine and acqua, Riccardo had a discussion with the owner about the available fish. Soon, he was wailing like an infant and pounding his fists on the table --- he considered the fish of the day to be second-rate! (In Italy, there is first-class fish and below that, the rest. I never figured out exactly which was which.) Alarmed by the tantrum, the owner ran to the edge of the deck and made a call on his cell phone. Then he scurried inside, gathered his staff, and rushed plates of appetizers to our table.

I was totally happy with the frutti di mare, eating with gusto, while Riccardo sulked, and Andrea and his Mom reminisced. In a few minutes, we could see a small boat motoring on the horizon, heading toward us. The restaurant's owner loped down to the beach and out to the end of the dock. The boat pulled in, and the two men in it rummaged around in the bottom. A big fish changed hands --- the owner held it up in triumph. Riccardo shouted his approval. The fish was brought to our table for closer inspection while the boat resumed its voyage. The fish was discussed --- its size, type, clarity of eye, etc, then taken inside for preparation. Riccardo beamed and graciously poured everyone more wine.

(Anyone else got a fonino story?)

Thread on Slow Travel Message Board

Nancy Lytle lived in Italy for five years, writing manuscripts for two novels and various travel essays.

© Nancy Lytle, 2004

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