The Husband, La Bimba and I were having lunch at Zi' Carmela, a pizzeria-trattoria near the sea that is sometimes fabulous, sometimes mediocre, and always overpriced, when The Husband got to chatting with the table next to us. The table didn't actually speak, that would have been interesting...oh the stories! The spills! The cigarette burns!..., no, the three diners, a woman and two men spoke. One man in particular was quite the chatty cathy. He had tattoos and a few mismatched teeth, was very thin and tan, and looked like a feisty old man with a sordid past. He and The Husband talked about Naples, the quartieri where they both grew up, the man's fruttivendolo father, the man's grandchildren, the fact that the waitstaff at Zi' Carmela's wasn't treating them right. The man is a friend of Don Antonio, the kindly ex-waiter of Zi' Carmela's. Don Antonio had a shock of white hair and gave the joint a hint of class. His replacement is a tall, thin, pimply kid who gives the joint a hint of cluelessness. Anyway, it was a warm and friendly dining experience and my sfilatina, a calzone-type thing with prosciutto, mushrooms, ricotta, pepper and mozzarella was worth the 7 euros.
Shortly after the trio left the table and headed up the street, The Husband noticed a cell phone left behind, right where the old man's half-eaten frittura had been just a moment before. He was holding La Bimba, so I took the phone and ran up the street to return it to the man. When I caught up to the group I said, "Hey! You left your phone." The woman looked at it and said, "That's not mine," and turning to the man, "Is it yours?" The man gave the phone a classic Neapolitan chin-thrust, lip-jut and after a pause said, "Yeah. That's mine." He took the phone and without saying Grazie, tucked it away and got in his car.
I returned to our table to find the chef asking his 7-year-old son whether he had seen his cell phone. "Is it silver?" The Husband asked. "Si." "Is it a 3?" I asked. "Si." Ohmigod! "We thought it belonged to the dude who was sitting there!" "Did he say it was his?" the chef asked. "Si."
Che gente di merda!
Lui aveva una faccia brutta!
And on and on and on. Everyone stood around marveling at the fact that a GRANDPA would knowingly take a cell phone that didn't belong to him. That's a teenager manoeuver. I suppose the guy figured the americana was a bozo...which she was...and that her bozoness gave him the right to make off with a free phone. The chef was very understanding...Zi' Carmela a bit less so...the 7-year-old just shrugged. The Husband and I howled with laughter when we were out of earshot.
We apologized up and down. The chef said he was glad to know what happened to the phone, to not have to live with the mystery. He called Don Antonio to let him know what happened. He may or may not get his phone back.
Reflecting on the man's delay in taking the phone, his expression that lacked recognition of the object, his failure to thank me, it became blaringly obvious that he was bullshitting. The Husband would have figured that out immediately, given the guy a friendly chuck on the shoulder, and taken the phone back to the restaurant. I might have also caught on had I either just moved to Naples or had I been living here for longer. I have become accustomed to bizarre responses to actions, to a lack of grace when it seems to be required, to an outpouring of kindness when it is least expected, so the man's oddness didn't seem suspicious to me until after the fact. Neapolitans are known for cunning, they tell you themselves not to trust them, but for an American girl, even one from Brooklyn, it is hard to get the signals straight. And this is what makes it a neverending mystery for me. And so fun. And so annoying. And so great.
Il pranzo della domenica alla napoletana.