Monday, November 12, 2018

Health, Happiness and Prosperity

If you're going for the sweet life, you've got to do it right.

The moment I saw that the Byrd was screening Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" on a Sunday afternoon, I was on board.

Roger Ebert's favorite film of all time? Sign me up.

But it was when I invited Mr. Wright to join me that the plot thickened. To his way of thinking, why would we leave a three-hour Italian film and not head directly to an old school Italian restaurant? "Think Chianti bottles with candle wax melted down them," he suggested, leaving the actual choice to me.

To add the final touch, he showed up with a rather large bottle of Sambuca to finish out the evening in fine Italian style. All of a sudden, we had a theme going.

At the Byrd, I ran into a trio of music friends who were as excited as we were to spend the afternoon looking through the lens of 1960 Italy. We were also united in our dismay at having learned that Strange Matter is closing, a place where we ran into each other regularly to see interesting bands, and cautiously hopeful that another music venue will replace it.

"La Dolce Vita" was everything I'd hoped it would be: sumptuous black and white cinematography, scenes of post-war Italian decadence, endless commentary on life and love and the drop dead gorgeousness of Marcello Mastroianni (who seemed to bed every beautiful woman he came in contact with). When he tried to convince the other party-goers that it was orgy time, it occurred to me that it was my second Italian movie this week with orgies.

I can assure you, that's not usually the case.

That every night's pleasure - which usually ended at dawn - caused one character or another to suggest eating spaghetti only added to the charm. "Come home, I'll make ravioli! I want to make love!"

And, truthfully, the movie didn't feel anywhere near as long as it should have given the three hours spent scarfing popcorn, watching Anita Eckberg climb the steps of St. Peter's ("She's like an elevator!") and dance every chance she got, and gawking at how much less populated Rome was in 1960 than 2012 when I went.

Not to mention how much better the dresses were back then.

Although the film was a huge box office success and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, it's also notable for birthing the term "paparazzi," which comes from the character Paparazzo, one of the many celebrity photographers who make up the story of Rome as decaying. Or, as one of the orgy-goers put it, "By 1965, there'll be total depravity. How squalid everything will be."

Flash forward to 2018 in the U.S., my friend, and you'll see just how low things have gotten.

Given the buzz kill that the time change is, we walked out of the Byrd as dusk was settling in and headed directly to the Robin Inn, as old school Italian (and Greek) as was befitting a post-Fellini meal. Granted, the red checkered tablecloths are only on the service tables, not, for instance, on the booth table where we sat, but close enough.

Certainly the carafe of Chianti we drank could have been lifted from 1960.

We were clearly in the minority as a couple since there were two large parties going on and a steady stream of people arriving with gift-wrapped boxes. When one party-goer overheard Mr. Wright comment to our server that we hadn't been invited to either, he stopped and extended his hospitality right there. His mistake was in mentioning that his group included six children. Thanks, but no thanks.

There's a certain old school charm to a place like the Robin Inn, including the iceberg lettuce salads that got us talking about how maligned iceberg lettuce is these days. Sure, it's just pale green water with almost no nutritional value, but it sure does give good crunch.

Meanwhile, his veal scallopini and spaghetti with meat sauce and my baked manicotti Florentine (c'mon, we had an theme going here) oozing ricotta, spinach, mushrooms and Mozzarella were every bit as filling and mass appeal as you'd expect.

After lingering over such a heavy meal, I defy you to come up with a better way to wile away the evening than listening to Sinatra and enjoying the sweet anise flavor of Sambuca. No, we didn't sip it with the traditional three coffee beans, but it was as good as dessert, especially given that even I, the dessert queen, couldn't possibly have eaten another bite.

Now Mr. Wright is thinking we need more themed movie/dinner/after-dinner drink extravaganzas. I'm warning you, by 2023, there'll be total indulgence. How wonderful everything will be.

No orgies, though.

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