For this impromptu family outing, my grandfather suggested “something close to home,” like Topolino’s, the Italian restaurant down the street, our go-to when we need an eating establishment in a jiffy, and the provider of many a take-out meal. I was sick of Topolino’s, though. We wanted to try something new! So we made last-minute reservations at Bond 45, the reputedly swank Italian steakhouse further away.
The menu was a bit alarming. The cheapest entree I had any interest in eating was a chicken dish that priced in at just under $50. More upsetting, though, was the small graphic of a plate with heat wafting off it that, according to the key, indicated “Served WARM.” It appeared next to, for example, “A Bowl of Meatballs” but not “Bowl of Assorted Warm Olives.” “Is the ‘Bowl of Assorted Warm Olives’ not served WARM?” I whispered to my sister. Still more perplexing: why do “A Bowl of Meatballs” and “A Bowl of Caesar Salad” get their own articles, but “Bowl of Assorted Warm Olives” does not?
Anyway, knowing the pricey fare would be wasted on us, my sister and I decided to share a couple of appetizers.
“We’re going to split the Culatello Prosciutto Platter and the Fried Shrimp and Calamari.”
“Excellent! And what are you having for dinner?” Our waiter was quite personable.
There was a pause before my sister said, “That is our dinner.”
We munched on popovers while waiting for the entrees. My dad responded to some comment soon after taking a bite of bread, and my mother claimed that she couldn’t understand him. That was ridiculous because I understood him clearly and repeated what he had said.
“Oh, do you speak Mouthful?”
“I do. Quite well, actually.”
“Oh, that’s right. You do.” My mother on several occasions has lamented that I eat “like a barnyard animal” and has asked, do I eat “that way” in front of others? (Yes.) The contention usually occurs because I don’t much believe in cutting things up with a knife and fork: that’s what your teeth are for.
The expensive food was actually mediocre at best, but that didn’t prevent all of us from finishing everything off in about eight-and-a-half minutes. Ever the bumpkins in the big city, we are.
The dessert portion of the evening was quite strange. First, our beaming waiter came around to each of us with a metal tray of what appeared to be hot-out-of-the-oven homemade cookies but were actually cold break-and-bakes. My sister and I looked at each other in confusion. But we, of course, swallowed our cookies in two bites.
Then, our waiter brought over the sample dessert tray, which contained a sign that read, “Our desserts are made to share!” One was something cake-like, about 8 inches tall, 8 inches in diameter, and covered in almond slivers. “Holy cow, that looks like enough for 15 people,” I observed and then, upon further consideration, “I could eat that by myself.” I wasn’t kidding, and because she knew that, my sister shook her head.
We decided to split the tiramisu. My father ordered chocolate mousse, which arrived in two separate but connected metal buckets. The waiter scooped the mousse out of one bucket and plopped it on a plate in front of my father and did the same with the whipped cream from the other bucket. Then he picked up the buckets and walked away. Dad watched this whole process with a look on his face he later confirmed was, indeed, “What the hell is going on?”
I was amused, as we were leaving, to hear the staff invite us cheerfully to “come again!” because I’m sure at least a few of them heard my mother exclaim, “Never again!” as we waited for the check.
In the car on the way home, we asked my grandfather how he liked the soup.
“Well, I’ll say this: it was alright, but it ain’t got nothing on Topolino’s potato soup.”
He’s sung the praises of Topolino’s potato soup many times, and about then, we were driving past and saw the restaurant’s neon sign from the highway. “Topolino’s!” My mother called to it mournfully. “We could have eaten there for ONE-FIFTH the price, had good food, and left stuffed!”
Yes! We all agreed. We love Topolino’s! Topolino’s is much better!
In a heartwarming turn, “something new” made us realize “something close to home” is better.