SATURDAYS WITH PASQUALE

I first went to Da Fortunato when I was in college. My dad’s best friend had recommended this Roman restaurant right up the via from the Pantheon, and it always stayed in my heart. When I moved to Italy twenty years (!!) later, I made Saturdays here a ritual. Pasquale would wait on me at an outside table. I’d order either the carbonara or cacio e pepe and a half carafe of the house white wine. Pasquale would invariably bring me a glass of limoncello to cap the meal. I loved these Saturdays.

After almost a year in Rome, my aunts were visiting me as I was preparing to move back to New York. November 2008. On my second to last night in Rome, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. It was incredible to be oversees for this moment since George W. was so globally despised. And even more incredible to be with my aunts, both of whom said how they wished my grandfather — an vehement advocate for civil rights throughout his life — was still alive to see this moment in American history.

We went to Fortunato for lunch that next day, more to celebrate my imminent departure from the eternal city than anything else. But without a word, when Pasquale saw us be seated (outside, of course), he immediately brought out a bottle of prosecco and proclaimed: “Obama!” It was perfect.

When I was recently back in Rome visiting Jessica, we went to lunch at Fortunato. I wasn’t sure if Pasquale would still be there. But he was. And he made sure we were in his section. I had the cacio e pepe and house white. And as if no time had passed, Pasquale spoiled me with limoncello.