Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caffé Macaroni and Italian Design?

By Pascal Dennis

Last month we enjoyed a family vacation in one of our favorite cities - San Francisco.

Something for everybody. Our son Matthew got to visit the Children’s Museum, my wife Pamela saw Alcatraz, and later Carmel-by-the-sea…

I took the family for dinner and a stroll in North Beach, San Fran’s Little Italy. We lingered in City Light’s Books, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s legendary bookstore, and had a drink at the iconic Sentinel building, home of Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios.


Just down the street, we found Caffe Macaroni, a joint right out of a Fellini movie, or an Abbott & Costello sketch.

“It’s a peculiar hole in the wall,” our San Fran friends had told us, “but has the best Italian food in North Beach.”

Sure enough, our waiter, Giovanni, was an oddball, who looked & sounded like Father Guido Sarducci, the old SNL character.

He passed out the menu, then told us nothing on the menu du jour was available!

“Why then, are you giving it to us?” I offered.

Giovanni shrugged, as if to say, ‘Life is mysterious. What are you gonna do?’

“So what are we going to have?” my wife put in. Giovanni assumed a noble pose, as if to say, you can count on me!

Over the next hour, he and his minions brought a series of unnamed courses, each more delicious than the last.

The restaurant was enveloped in a genial wackiness. A trapeze troupe, a bear in a tutu, a unicyclist juggling soccer balls – none would have seemed out of place.

Desert, Giovanni told us, would be Caffe Macaroni’s famous tiramisu. When Pam told him she didn’t like tiramisu, Giovanni offered a loopy grin. “This one, you gonna like!”

And he was right! The whole experience was quirky, creative and marvelous.

Could Caffe Macaroni replicate it? I doubt it - nor would they want to! Each dining experience is unique, just as each Ferrari is unique.

I’ve been lucky enough to work and make friends in Italy. A senior colleague once told me, “We make spectacular cars, shoes, clothing, wine, food… But we can’t (or won’t) make two the same!”

As a result, he continued, Italy has a wealth of splendid small business, but a dearth of large scale enterprises. I don’t know, and defer to our Italian colleagues here.

(If true, then maybe Caffe Macaroni is a metaphor.)

In any event, it’s an experience not to be missed.

Best regards,

Pascal


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