She remembered this place. It was familiar to her. The rustic exterior of buildings, the crowds inside Mike’s Pastry and Modern Bakery, the quaint Italian restaurant Euno that was somewhat out of place on Salem Street. It made her like it even more. Then, there was Cafe Vittoria.
Cafe Vittoria was full of history and mystery. One of the first espresso machines was nailed to the wall, a handpainted espresso machine was presented in a glass case behind a velvet rope; a gift from Cafe Budapest circa 1955. Gold and silver-plated cappuccino makers adorned the room, and in the front left corner was a little nook with one round table with 2 chairs. It was the only table in front of an open window, and it was empty until she walked in.
He gazed up from the black and white printed flimsy paper he was reading. He was one of the dying breed of men under 40 who opted to read the newspaper in print and not on a smartphone. The first thing he noticed was the contrast between the bags hugging her hips and strapped over her shoulders. One was a petite champagne-colored Cuyana brand; he always wanted to go to Argentina. The other was a worn-out tote from Shakespear & Company; kilometer Zero Paris was once an old stomping ground. She was a bucket list and a walking memory all in one.
“How could this table be empty?” she said to herself, just loud enough for him to hear.
“It was waiting for you,” he said
She turned around. She was startled; not because she was scared, but because he heard her.
When she saw him sitting there something interesting happened; her heart cleared a path to her mind. His hair was a mess and his socks were the most put-together part about him. He looked like a professor at Harvard who just walked off the tennis court and was stuck between 1929 and 2020. He was adorable.
“Well, in that case, La Dolce Vita,” she said, winking before turning around and taking a seat at the “secret” table.
She knew exactly what she wanted when the waitress came over to take her order.
“A double macchiato and the ricotta pie please,” her voice soft and friendly. She was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted.
He watched her as her pie and macchiato arrived. The way her eyes lit up…
She pretended not to noticed his gaze towards her. She pretended not to notice when he put down his crisp newspaper and started walking towards “the nook.”
“May I have a seat?” he asked
She paused, as though she were contemplating her answer. The corner of her lips turning up.
“You may,” she answered him.
As he sat he called over the waitress. He ordered an espresso and the ricotta pie.
“This is the best pie on the menu, and the best pie in Boston,” he told her.
And you are the best girl eating the best pie in Boston, he thought to himself.
“That’s what they say,” she said.
Who are “they” anyway? she thought to herself.
“I love the North End in the morning… I’ve never seen you around this cafe before,” he said to her, longing to know everything about her.
“That’s because I am not from around here, as I believe you may have guessed…..New Yorker, I’m a New Yorker,” she said with a lighthearted yet firm tone.
His guess was right. He always loved New York City, after all, it was his home too.
“Ahhhh the New Yorker; calling out anyone who pronounces HOWston Street HEWston Street, prefers the Halal Guys cart on 53rd and 6th over the brick and mortar and secretly thinks The Loeb Boat House is one of the most romantic places in the world,” his words trickling out of his mouth and down hers.
She put down her fork.
“So you know it well” she stated.
“I am it,” he answered.
Together they talked over ricotta pie and Italian coffee. He was there on business and pleasure, and she was there on pleasure and business. Together they balanced each other out. They talked for hours that seemed like minutes. People walked by peering in at them as though they were a Picasso painting, not perfect, but perfect.
“Shall we?” he asked?
She picked up her bags. They left together.