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Susan Van Allen Paid for My Lunch

■ 29 October 2012 by James Martin

susan van allen pictureI always get a little nervous meeting authors. Especially women authors who write books for and about women. Like rocket science, the subject of women is Greek to me. Or something.

Anyway, Susan Van Allen (pictured on the right) and Martha and I went to lunch at a joint in Pisa’s cute little market square, a space near and dear to my heart. Trattoria Vineria di Piazza was first-rate, one of those places that serves good food at great prices. No big chefs doing surprising things with newt eyes. Carafes of wine plunked down on the table with a total disregard for your religious admiration of its fleshy grape-ness. A jocular clientele.

You order off the stuff they’ve scrawled on a chalkboard. Martha and I started with pasta with lamb. Ms. Van Allen had pasta with a kind of fish none of us had ever heard of.

We drank a half liter of wine. Red.

Then we had seconds. Not seconds of pasta as you’d have in the United States, but second plates, fish or meat as one does in Italy. The women had the persico, perch, and I had a fantastic wild boar stewed with olives.

Another half liter of wine came to the table and disappeared. Funny.

It turns out the contorni were the best of all. Yummy artichokes (we believe they came from Sardinia because the market is suddenly loaded with carchofi from there, but this is an unsubstantiated assertion), and the garlicky erbette were great.

Then the check came.

As we all fumbled around for money, Ms. Van Allen, Susan by this time, said she’d pay. We’d be responsible for the coffee and cakes which we’d get at this super cool place down the street she’d take us to. So, you see, we had this little verbal contract going.

But…the place was closed. So we went to a hotel. I mean to check it out for possible review sometime.

The Royal Victoria Hotel is the only hotel in Pisa right on the banks of the Arno. It’s darned historic, I mean its spine is a 10th century tower and some interesting rooms are right inside. The lobby has sitting rooms to die for. You’d think it would be a five star hotel. But no, it’s only three stars, and way less expensive than you’d think. And the people who run it are very, very nice.

They showed us some rooms. Wow. Then they asked us if we’d like a drink. A coffee would be nice.

So maybe you see where this is going. The coffee was on the house, which means my contract with Susan Van Allen wasn’t fulfilled.

Susan Van Allen has relatives in southern Italy. She told us. I’m thinking one has gotta be named Vito and everyone named Vito must have just a tiny tinge of meanness to him. I’m thinking if Vito hears I broke a contract with Ms. Van Allen, I’m toast. Now you know where this is going.

So, I beg you, buy a copy or five of 100 places in Italy Every Woman Should Go. I’m thinking that if I can prove I did something nice for Susan Van Allen’s book sales, the veins in Vito’s temples will cease to throb and pulsate wildly, and he will put down his thoughts of leaving a draft animal on my Serta Perfect Sleeper.

So here: 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Please, I beg of you. Don’t let Vito start hacking away on Trigger.

Susan Van Allen Paid for My Lunch originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com Oct 29, 2012, © James Martin.

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