That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Long Post That Originally Began as a Japanese Restaurant Review

** Warning: There is some reference to foul language in this post. Sorry.

What is Thanksgiving week in Italy if not the perfect occasion to take your Belgian, English, American and Italian friends to a Japanese restaurant owned and run by a Chinese family? ^__^ My thoughts exactly. Tenmaya is a fairly new, very clean, moderately priced, esthetically pleasing Japanese restaurant. The food is very good when compared to similarly priced Chinese food, but only so-so by general Japanese food standards. Here in my area, I believe it would be classified as "trendy". 

In Rome's center, you'll find an array of "trendy" and "classy" and "hip" restaurants, bistros and pubs - but here in the periphery, it's another story. Rome's center has tourists, the rich, the famous, celebrities, politicians and Vatican officials. Here, we have the elderly, 40-50somethings who think the internet is only for teenagers, unemployed 30somethings who still live at home and go to University, unemployed 20somethings who think Korea is a region in southeast China ... so you see, we're a little less worldly here. Hence, Tenmaya, to us, is trendy. Of course, it's not for everyone. 

Some of the Italians with whom I'm acquainted (as opposed to friends and close acquaintances), would never dream of going to non-Italian restaurants. In fact, you could say it would amount to a nightmare in their book. Chinese restaurants conjure up pictures of dancing mice and cats in their heads. Didn't you know? Those people aren't clean and the meat they use is suspiciously cat-like. I have a friend who has a friend who has a cousin who knows a guy who ate at a Chinese restaurant once and found a rat's tail in his won ton soup. It was in the news !! Indian food? Heavens no! Those people don't even use utensils and their food contains all kinds of strange smells and strange spices and strange meats that my body would never be able to digest. Although, I will buy curry powder and add a dash of it to my chicken, but only that Italian brand of course, the one with the green strip and red lettering because the ones you find in discount stores come from Germany and France and well, you just never know ... Mexican food? Those people put red pepper in everything and besides, they speak Spanish and Spanish means Spain and well, now, honey, you should know that we don't look too fondly on the Spaniards. They're kind of like the stupid little brother who grows up and becomes successful - no matter how great he becomes, he should always know his place. The Spaniards don't know their place. American food? Ha! All they eat is hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. Why would I pay someone money for bad food? Just look at the black water they drink and call coffee. Japanese food? Well ... that's hard to say. On the one hand, they're orientale, so there's always a risk they might serve cat or dog. On the other hand, all the Italian talk shows say good things about the Japanese ... I'll have to think about that one.

Am I exaggerating? These are all real things that real people have said to me. You would think that in this day and age, in a modern country such as Italy, people would no longer think such things, much less say them out loud to a non-Italian. Yet they do. I'd like to say it happens on rare occasions, too few and far between to take notice. Instead, it happens fairly often. I don't mean to say that every single moment of every single day, some Italian is giving me a lecture on the dangers of eating foreign foods. What I am saying is that at least once a day, I hear things like, "voi altri," (you people) and when they say, "voi altri," they may be talking about people from Bangladesh. But I'm Korean, I say. Yes, but you're basically all from the same place. Whaaaa? 

In recent years, many vacant stores have been rented out to Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Turkish and Chinese and more often than not, they've turned these empty eyes sores into busy thriving fruit/vegetable stores, Kebab shops, dollar stores and discount clothing and toiletry stores. Like many Italians, after markets have closed, I shop at fruit stores owned by Bangladeshi because one, of the four in my neighborhood, all four are owned by Bangladeshi and two, it's cheaper and the service friendlier than at supermarkets. So one day, I was at my local greengrocer's paying for my purchases. The woman behind me, no more than 60 years old was patiently waiting her turn as the cashier made idle chit chat. He asked if the zucchini purchased the previous day had served well for my family's meal. "Why, yes, thank you," I said, "they were buonissime." At this point, the lady behind me made a remark about how nice it was for us, paesani, (fellow countrymen) to have found each other in a foreign land. Now, I'm no Snow White, but the fellow behind the counter is quite dark. His facial features are more occidental than the average Bangladeshi you might generally see, and he may even on occasion be mistaken for Turkish or Moroccan, I'm sure. My facial features, on the other hand, are of the extreme orient-ish variety. "Uh... actually, we're not paesani," I politely inform the lady. 
"Oh. Well, you're more or less from the same parts. I mean, you speak the same language. Chinese, is it?" C'mon. Seriously? (Just a little note: Bangladesh is as close to South Korea as Afghanistan is to Italy - India is a halfway marker between South Korea and Italy)
"Actually, no, we don't speak Chinese. Neither of us do," I reply calmly, but truth be told, I'm fighting the urge to stick my finger in her eye ball.    
"But you understand each other. I mean, you were talking to each other," she says.  
"Riiiiight," I say, "we were speaking in Italian."

Another occasion, another old lady. Well, no, she might have been in her early 50's. She was sitting on the steps which lead to our building. I didn't recognize her and neither did Mr. Marito, but we said "hello," just to be friendly. 
"Buona sera," she answered back. "What a lovely face you have, dear. Where are you from?"
I replied, "Thank you, I'm from California.
What had been a perfectly innocent looking lady with a smile and kind word not but a second ago turned into a frightful sight. She squeezed her eyes tightly until they were nothing but mere glistening slits, pinched her mouth into a tight pucker and with a raised voice, said, "Che? Mi stai a pià in giro?!" Which is Roman dialect for, "Are you f***ing with me?" She continued, "I was just asking you a question. If you don't want to answer, that's your problem, but don't f*** with me!
I was, like, whoooooah, lady. Dazed and confused to the nth degree. I looked at Mr. Marito with a help-I'm-scared kind of expression. "Senta," he began, "Listen, my wife is from California, but that's not even the issue now. What reason do you have for speaking to her in that manner?"
She answered back, "Senti, bello," (Mr. Marito had used the formal respectful way of addressing strangers, she did not), "Listen up, honey, I could care less where she comes from, but it certainly isn't California!" And just for good measure, she added, "ma va a quel paese!" Which literally translates to, "go to that country," but actually means, "go f*** yourself".

So you see, sometimes, I'm at a complete loss of both comprehension and belief with certain characters I've had the displeasure of meeting. Okay, one more and then I'll get off my I'm-a-victim-of-racism-high-horse.

I had just left my in-laws' house and was walking through their building courtyard when a woman, I had on occasion seen, came running towards me. "Excuse me," she said breathlessly, "I was hoping you could help me. I'm in a terrible jam. The girl who usually cleans for me has had some problems with her visa and she's had to go to the Questura again, this morning. She'll be there all day! You know how they are there, those animals. The problem is, I've got company coming over tomorrow evening and the house is a mess!
I had no idea why she was telling me this. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your predicament," I tried to sound interested.
She stood there, looking at me. I stood there, looking at her looking at me. 
Please, lady, say something. 
She spoke. "So, listen. I know it's short notice. You've probably got other homes to clean, but I'm willing to make it worth your while. I'll pay you 15 euro for 2 hours." She raised her eyebrows like she'd just offered me a chance of a lifetime. 
My blood began to boil. I couldn't help it. I waved away the steam coming from my ears and with some effort, calmly replied, "Signora, I'm afraid to disappoint you, but I make more than that in just one hour."
"Oh? How much are the Signori paying you for your time?! That's outrageous!"
"Well," I answered, "the Signori don't pay me for my time. I am their daughter-in-law. I was referring to my job as a Professoressa d'Inglese.
The woman's jaw dropped. I mean, it dropped, to the floor. Boom! Bang! Bong! "Oh! Oh! Do forgive me. Mi scusi," she said, suddenly deciding only now that it was appropriate to give me the formal Lei rather than the informal Tu
Poor woman. My indignation all but melted away, I actually felt embarrassed for her. "Listen, don't worry about it. Only, I would suggest that next time, you simply ask a person if they know of any cleaning services rather than make assumptions. Buona giornata."

Now, I actually hold the people who work in this field with the highest regard. Mr. Dad worked as a janitor in Ft. Ord, the former military base next to our town, for many years until he rose in rank to become Supervisor. The money he made during those years put food on the table and clothes on our backs until the day he had saved enough to purchase the family business, a mom and pop shop in a nearby town which mainly saw seasonal farm workers. Even later, when we were no longer pinching and saving pennies, he would remind us of what had brought us to this more secure position in life. Mr. Dad had little to say about the birds and the bees after the first and last clumsy attempt when I was 14, but he would often say, "If the man you wish to marry is too prideful to dirty his hands in honest work, he's not worth your time.

What upset me about this woman, and others like her, is the audacious self-inflicted ignorance with which they present themselves to those not of Italian or occidental heritage. They seem to have the highest regard for themselves and their culture and the lowest opinion of others, especially those from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Now, I'm not knocking on the kind of pride one has for his name, his family, his country - I'm all for that. Go Team USA! 야호 코리아! Forza Italia! I'm talking about the kind of pride that is all too similar to racism. Someone once asked me if it was strange to come from a place where everyone looked so different from one another. Back home, especially being near a military base, it was common for my peers to have a mother of one culture and a father of another. Korean moms, German dads, Irish grandmothers, Filipino grandfathers. I was among the few with both parents from the same country. I replied that, on the contrary, it was strange coming to Italy and seeing all but one kind of face. 

I know this is long, but hang in there. Or take a break and come back ^__^ I lied earlier, though not intentionally. I have just one more story to tell. 

I was walking home with Mr. Uometto after picking him up from school when we stopped to play with the stray cats in our neighborhood. A woman who was walking by stopped to comment on Mr. Uometto's handsomeness. "He's a fine looking boy -- sorry, do you speak my language?" she asked.
"Yes, I do, in fact. And thank you."
She nodded and then turned her attention to Mr. Uometto, "Do you like it here, child? Are you happy here? Here you have lots of good things to eat and Mommy can buy you lots of nice toys. You should feel lucky to be here where you'll have a chance at life. Think of all the poor little bambini who are starving in your country.
Mr. Uometto gave her a puzzled look, then said, "I don't know if anyone is starving in the United States, but I do know it's a lot cleaner there."
Another dropping of the jaw ceremony. "Oh, ma come?" she asked, "How's that? You're not from China?
"I'm American," I answered. "We're from California."

Here are some photos from Tenmaya, the Japanese restaurant. My, oh my. How my mind wanders! 
From Thanksgiving to ethnic restaurants to racism. Geez. Stop that brain! And stay on topic! 
Directions to Tenmaya here. Phone number and address here.

Photos after the jump


Oh -- let me add, that many younger Italians are much more knowledgeable, considerate and tactful when meeting foreigners. Tenmaya has a steady stream of late teenagers and 20-40somethings. Also, lots of couples. On occasion, I have had the pleasure of seeing older couples, too! Evviva! The only thing that I haven't seen is families with small children, but then again, I don't go there every day ^.^

On the Bright Side
°for every one of these blah stories I have a hundred yay stories to tell
°having dear friends, like Mrs. Boricua, who having listened to every single last lamentation, will offer me words of encouragement, usually Biblical, which bring me back to the land of the Blessed


ℜεḓ ṧhüʟαмїтα said...

- W O W !!! -
you've managed to make me mad, laugh and cry all in one blog.
be encouraged!
God bless your heart always!
♥ in Christ.

Mrs. Moglie said...

Thanks so much Red !!
Six "happened to me too!"? I'm not alone? Ahh ... that's encouraging, but sad at the same time. argh. mixed emotions.