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The Dancing Cats

We were a group of fourteen on a trip to Rome. We had a reservation at Lagana, a very popular and fun restaurant that serves good local Roman food. Mimo, the owner, is a cousin of a friend of mine and Cathy’s and treats us like family every time we go so naturally, we wanted our group to experience the vibe and pulse of a true local Roman restaurant.

Six of us sat at one table and the other eight at another. Both tables were set up in a small alleyway across from the restaurant. I told Roberto, our waiter, to start bringing out antipasti whenever he was ready. First came fresh mozzarella, so fresh that it melted in your mouth, then prosciutto, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and my favorite, chopped celery with chopped cacciocavallo cheese. Ten appetizers in all.

The wine. Oh my God. Bottles of red and white, all from local vineyards made it much easier to wash down all the antipasti. Since twelve of the fourteen were all related it made it that much easier for the talk and laughter to flow around the two tables. Especially after a few glasses of wine.

How did Cathy and I fit into this group? Well one of the fourteen, Mark, is a friend of close to fifty years and I am as close to him as his brother Joe is, who was also one of the fourteen. The rest were all from Mark’s wife Christine family. Sisters and brother. We were a good group out to have a good time.

The pasta was next to come out and with it more wine. Roman pastas are special to Rome and are found primarily just in Rome. Caccio & Pepe (pasta with just cheese and black pepper), amatriciana (pasta with pancetta and tomato sauce) and carbonara (pasta with egg) are the main three and we had them all. The laughs and barbs between the two tables were starting to get a little louder. Maybe you could blame the wine.

About this time the vendors starting to come around. You see in Italy vendors peddling various items are allowed to approach diners in restaurants. Never in America but we were in Italy and when in Italy you go with the flow.

The first vendor came by selling roses. One for a euro. “Vai, vai”, I said, meaning go, go. We really didn’t want to be bothered by a guy hawking flowers.

We were really having a good time. Mimo came to our table and introduced himself and talked to everybody as we took pictures with him. Mimo is a very gracious host as most of the restaurant owners in Italy are. Happy to show off their culinary skills to tourist from all over the world. What better advertisement to have than a happy customer.

Another vendor came buy and this one was selling a little wind-up helicopter that once it was released it would fly off and spray different colors. Nice, but nobody was interested, and he took the message and moved on.

Roberto then started to bring out our Secondo, our main course. Lamb chops for me. Pork, fish for the others. All fresh and presented well. Everybody was very happy with their meal.

Then came the dancing cat and a memorable night became more so. A very quiet vendor came up to me with a satchel. Out of the satchel he pulled out a toy striped cat about a foot high wearing a plaid bow tie. The vendor pushed a button in the cat’s paw and placed it on our table. The cat’s arms and legs started dancing to a Taylor Swift song, “Don’t want you for a week-end, don’t want you for a night…” Hilarious. Simply hilarious, especially when you have three or four glasses of wine in you.

Immediately Linda, Mark’s sister-in-law, and Joe’s wife, yelled down to Mark, “Christmas grab bag” You see on Christmas Mark’s family, and there are plenty of them, do a family grab bag and Linda thought this would be a good gag gift.

“How much?” I asked.

“25 euro”

I yelled down to Mark. “Offer 15”

Mark wasn’t interested, but I was. I offered 20. Sold.

I immediately brought it down to Mark and put it in front of him and gave it to him as a gift, laughing all the way. Even Roberto was cracking up.

Dessert. Oh my God! Tiramisu, fresh fruit, panna cotta and more.

Just at about this time another vendor came by also carrying a satchel. By this time, we were all feeling good and really laughed when out of his satchel he pulled out, you guessed it, another dancing cat.

“How much?”

“20 Euro”

I pointed to Mark sitting with his dancing cat in front of him and said “we paid 15 for that one”

Sold! Now we had two dancing cats and laughing like mad. I brought mine down to Mark and we both turned them on and had them both dancing on the table. Behind us were two women and they were laughing as hard as we all were. I picked up the two dancing cats and put them and the ladies’ table. They immediately took out their phones and took videos of them.

What a night. First Langana served us a great meal. The food was local and fresh, the wine was superb, after dinner limoncello the topper, company great but the dancing cats, they put the icing on the cake.


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