Back on our wine and dine circuit, after a couple of years absence all because my husband took umbrage with the owner, is our one-time-favourite Italian bistro. They used to do the best pasta in town and, as we discovered last week, still do. The only trouble is, they've changed the decor and the furniture and the layout so that they can get more people in. So it isn't quite the same quirky little pasta parlour we used to enjoy. The food's as good but the atmosphere is different and I couldn't quite put my finger on why.
The reason we returned was we'd learned from friends that the owner was no longer working there himself (he used to chef and or maitre d' according to his mood). Instead he had swapped places with his brother, who was now running the show and he was doing likewise several miles away. So we returned, sheepishly and cautiously, quite ridiculous really as staff had changed too and we were unknown to his brother, just another couple of customers. Halfway through the meal P remarked how good the food was and how nice it was to get proper Italian food again, made fresh by people who knew what they were doing. There are plenty of places offering Italian in the town but they are plastic offerings (my husband's description), not proper. We've even been known to eat at ASK a few times during our self imposed exile and, lovely though the staff are, it's all pre-made and shipped in (sorry ASK).
But there was still something missing and my husband summed it up at the end when I was finishing my wine and he was sipping coffee. He said it was a pity we'd fallen out, it should never have happened, it used to be nice to be known and to chat with the boss over the counter (it's an open kitchen) or have him sit at the table with us for a while. He was right of course, the personal touch counts for a lot. I agreed and nearly told him it was his fault, his silly pride and stubbornness had caused it, but I didn't. I just said well let's start again and he seemed happy with that.
There was something else though, still gnawing at me. There was romance missing. Yes that was it, definitely. I remembered many an evening sitting in there on the little wrought iron chairs, sometimes with a sore backside after a spanking, always getting a round table in the corner, cosy and warm, in more ways than one. Yes I think that's what I was missing. I told P what I thought, he just pooh-poohed the romance talk but he admitted there had been several times when he'd brought me there after a spanking and a few when he'd taken me home at the end of the evening to give me one. Then he put his hand over mine and said, 'Well, next time you're a naughty girl I'll know where to bring you afterwards.'
He might says he's not romantic but I'm sure there was hint of nostalgia in his voice and his hand said it all. It often does.
Have a fun weekend.