I said au revoir to Paris, and became the unofficial tour guide for my brother's family's first trip to Italy. They were here for only 12 days because getting my brother to take a long vacation is harder than getting a French person to speak English. After our mad dash through Italy, I've come up for air and have a few funny food tales to share, starting in Rome.
In Rome, I was attacked by a group in red hats. No, I didn’t yell “Viva Berlusconi!” in the middle of a Communist Party protest against him. It was WORSE!
I cut in front of a group of French children at the Giolitti gelato shop. (I guess it's only when the French are out of France that they abide by the standing in line/waiting your turn rule.) There so many of these little red hat-wearing children, pressing against one another and into the cashier's stand to pay for their gelati. Each one was trying to pay for his or her cone of gelato individually. And, each one was pondering whether they wanted a cone or cup, a piccolo, medio, or grande before handing the money to the weary cashier.
I knew exactly what I wanted and casually slid my 3 euros on the counter for my medium cone. When suddenly, this little person in a red hat growled, “Madame, vous etes après nous!” And, after that an echo of “Oui, oui, Madame!” rose up from the sea of red hats below me. I thought fast though, and feigned ignorance, giving a shrug and looking at the frazzled cashier as if to say, "What do they mean, I'm after them?" The cashier smiled, and quickly gave me my receipt.
I hurried away from the angry looking faces in line only to be met by another onslaught of red hats at the gelato counter. The poor gelato scooper looked even more harried than the cashier. He was working frantically to get everyone their scoops and usher the served customers outside. From underneath many of the hats, I heard, “Chocolate, no caramel, no bacio. Uhm, maybe a fruit flavor instead.” I looked at the scooper just as he was raising his arms in disgust and shaking his head at the impossible task before him.
The first rule in ordering gelato in Italy is: Don't make your gelato scooper angry. Scoop size has little to do with the small, medium, and large posted on the signs. No, the amount of gelato you receive is directly related to the mood of your gelato scooper. These kids not only broke the rule, they messed it up for all gelato buyers for the rest of that day.
In any case, I ordered my usual, cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) and stracciatella (chocolate chip), even giving a tip before they scooped it. I'm not sure that it helped, but the gelato was creamy, rich and refreshing.
I may have left the land of pastries in Paris, but I think a gelato a day will make up for it. Since Giolitti is close to the Pantheon, I sat behind its columns looking onto the piazza, and ate my first of what will surely be many gelatos in Italy.