Saturday, June 27, 2009

Italian Lessons

Buongiorno Amichi.

There are a lot of Italians here in Portland. I know this because every convenience store advertises "3 Italians - $9.99". I'm not sure why we have so many Italian immigrants here, perhaps it is because the east coast is the first place they landed coming from Europe. In any case, I am happy to see their influence on the local cuisine. There is a plethora of Italian restaurants and even regular restaurants often serve Italian dishes. Micucci's grocery store on India Street sells everything eatable from Italy and once inside, you would really believe you had stepped into the little grocery store in Positano.

Even though everybody does speak English here, although with heavy New England accent, I thought it would be fun to take Italian lessons. The teacher, Michele (Mee Kel eh), is Italian born and has a moderate Italian accent and sometimes switches word-order in his sentences. He says English is a bit weird with the example of "How do you do?". This greeting has always confused him wondering why you would ask someone how to do something not specified when meeting for the first time? I would ask for the same explanation for the Italian "quattro gatti" ("four cats") which means "very few people" or "a quattro'occhi" ("with just 4 eyes") means "privately".

Every language has its inexplicable idioms and you just have to roll with it. In this picture Michele explains the difference between "all day" and "every day". He thinks I am taking pictures in class to study what he's written on the blackboard, but no, I just want to publish him on my blog.

Michele has 4 children ranging in age from 4 to 13 and says he speaks Italian to his wife and his kids listen to their conversations and can understand everything they say. If he speaks to them in Italian, they will answer in English. I guess that's good enough, and it's probably too hard to make them speak Italian.

The beginning class has just now ended and one of our classmates invited the whole class to come to his restaurant for the final class. It turns out that Johnny and his family own the famous floating restaurant in the Old Port called DiMillo's. It is a Portland landmark 200 foot car ferry turned into a restaurant 30 years ago.

The restaurant is a rather large and touristy place able to seat over 600 guests. It is a labyrinth of rooms and passageways and our final Italian class was in a private dining room on the top deck overlooking DiMillo's Marina. All around us were docked yachts and sailboats. During our class, a behemoth 200-foot yacht pulled up to dock... another indication that some seem unaffected by the economy.

The executive chef brought us an "off menu" buffet of antipasti, oxtail with polenta medallions, rustic bread, crackers with gorgonzola and figs, and cups of grilled fruit with marscapone and brown sugar.... elegant. Needless to tell you, our class suffered from all the distraction, but we nevertheless were able to review numbers, time, and relatives (sisters, brothers, uncles, cousins, aunts, nephews).

When you come to Portland I'll probably not take you to DiMillo's, but to Micucci's grocery instead!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Daniel, Are you okay? Two weeks without a posting; I miss your commentary. I hope you're out having fun and not under this gorgeous weather. Irene