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Have you ever eaten Italian food with an Italian?  You know who they are because while they may sound like me in regular conversation, when referring to the cuisine they switch gears and use the authentic Italian pronunciation.  This involves dropping the vowel endings from most words.

Prosciutto =  Preshoot

Mozzarella = Mootzerelle

Ricotta = Rigut

Pasta e Fagioli = Pasta fazjul

This display of cultural prowess can leave a Jewish girl like me rather intimidated when it comes time to order in an Italian restaurant in the company of such amicos.  I have refrained from ordering the Frutti di Mare on more than one occasion and it’s not because I didn’t want it.  (Note:  Any MoB reader out there who can offer some phonetic guidance on that one, I would MUCH appreciate it.)  Unlike his wife, Dave takes the “when in Rome approach” and adopts the pronunciation of our Italian friends at which point I need to remind him that he is Jew from Rhode Island, lest he get carried away.

So as you can imagine, I was thinking ahead about what to order on my dinner date last Wednesday night in San Francisco with Charles, who was the extremely able and charmig director behind the video I worked on this past summer.  You see, Charles had graciously invited me to Tommaso’s, a tiny little Italian place in North Beach which not only has a very high Zagat’s rating…. not only was the first San Francisco restaurant to serve pizza….not only is a fav of Francis Ford Coppola and other celebs when they come to town … but of ALL things is owned by his lovely wife, Carmen. 

Oy vey.

Charles warned me not to expect much.  “It’s small. It’s a family place,” tells me.  I knew better and stopped eating at 10 a.m. that morning.

I wasn’t disappointed.  I can see why Tommaso’s is a destination for locals and tourists alike.  We arrived early (my request as I was still on East Coast time) and were sat in one of the booths.  And here is the best part:  NO ORDERING! I could not screw this up.  The food just arrived in front of us!  And arrived.  And arrived.  Antipasto, clams with red sauce, homemade ravioli, veal rolletini, and, of course pizza.  Plus red wine, and tiramisu for dessert. 

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The only thing I would have changed is that Carmen would not have been working and she would have joined us instead of serving us, a task that I am quite sure does not go on outside of Tommaso’s.  Still, I felt the urge to get up and help clear the table.  Carmen rocks.

By the time we left two hours later, there were two dozen or so people standing in the entry way in hopes of a seat.  In fact, towards the end of the meal, the waiter brought Charles the phone.  He had a call.  It was Carmen, calling from the kitchen telling us to move our butts because there were paying customers in need of our table.  LOVED THIS. 

For my son, who recently asked me for an example of something that weighs a ton, this evening would have been an excellent teaching moment:

“Look at Mommy, love.  She weighs one ton.”

But I promised to be back soon – this time with my family.  Charles even gave me a parting gift to entice them:  A jar of Tommaso’s famous sauce. Er, I mean gravy.

Tommaso’s was better than any Italian restaurant I have been to in NYC or South Philly.  It was the food – but also the company.  It amazing how much you learn about someone over a great meal.  I now know about the history of the restaurant, the whereabouts of Charles and Carmen’s children and extended family, and one more nugget of information:  Charles is Jewish.

We may not be able to order as smoothly, but we Jews have a lot in common with Italians, including the gift of gab and the love of food.  And the last time I checked there was only one way to pronounce the word Yum.

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