Italian with Français

This winter I had lunch with a new French friend (my dad met her during a plane ride last fall) and her husband at Il Cantinori during Restaurant Week, a period that, contrary to its name, takes place over two weeks. Oodles of pricey restaurants offer prix fixe menus, making it more affordable for those who wouldn’t usually dine there. Restaurants of all cuisines offer several choices of appetizer, entrée, and dessert. (After several years of eating in France, I still sometimes confuse what an ‘entrée’ is.)

She and her husband had been to New York many times on vacation, but this was their first time living in this region, and they were about a month into their three-month stay.

Highlights of our lunch:

– Telling them that Carrie Bradshaw had her 30th birthday dinner there. You feel for her in that scene. She sits at a large table, and one by one her friends call the restaurant (there were no cell phones) and say they’re running late or ran into some problem preventing them from getting there, but they cheerily wish her a happy birthday.

– Watching the Italian waiter’s face when my friend asked what a cannoli was (and she is of Italian descent). Are they less common in France? Do I only know them because there were so many Italian Americans where I grew up?

– She and her husband lamenting that they couldn’t watch Jimmy Kimmel live like the rest of Americans because they don’t have a TV. I explained that it’s taped in the afternoon, so no one but the studio audience is watching it live, and also that many Americans, at least in the city, don’t have TVs and so watch it online anyway. They were surprised. Also, did you know Kimmel is popular in France? Several French people have mentioned him to me; I would have thought Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon would be the most well-known American talk show hosts abroad.

– She said a lot of people react when they hear they have foreign accents, or don’t understand what she and husband are saying, which I found weird since everyone has an accent here. Plus, her English is really good. I thought all of us in New York were used to hearing accents all the time. However, she also said the people were friendly and interested in where they came from.

– In her experience, people are very nice—a stranger took initiative to help them when they were confused on the bus in New Jersey, for example.

– She and their daughter visited Santa Claus in December (he lives in Finland, apparently). She asked if I had received gifts, and when I said yes, she leaned over and said she knew that because she had reminded him to deliver them to me.

When I spend time with newcomers in my region, it feels like I’m still traveling.


5 thoughts on “Italian with Français

  1. Ahem… what’s a “cannoli”? Seriously, I don’t know and I have an Italian last name!

    Okay, just Google it. It looks familiar, I’ve seen them in Italian restaurants in North America but never in France. That said, I can’t remember eating Italian food in restaurants in France, except pizza at the pizzeria (but I don’t think there was anything BUT pizza, unlike in North America). Funny, now you mention it…!

    Feng knew more about “Italian” food than I did when we met because he worked in several Italian restaurants in Canada when he was a student. Like garlic bread… not common at all in France, at least not in Nantes!

    • It’s always great to have input from a French person!

      After our lunch, I did look up cannoli to make sure it wasn’t an American invention like fortune cookies. It is Italian, but it makes sense that not all regional foods made it everywhere in the world. I wonder if it has to do with which Italians immigrated where.

      Mmm garlic bread…
      I think it was only as an adult that I learned of garlic knots, the little ball version of garlic bread.

  2. I had the cannoli conversation recently with an America friend. I’ve never seen them in the wild (despite having been to Sicily) so I asked her if they were like brandy snaps and she’d never heard of brandy snaps! Two (plus) countries separated by a common language indeed.

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