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how to flirt: lucchese style
by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Our hotel, once the country home of a wealthy Italian family, was situated just outside the beautiful old town. This was our first visit to Lucca and we wanted to see, do and taste everything. We spent the day wandering the narrow streets, winding our way to the Puccini Museum, the Chiesa di San Michele, the Piazza Anfiteatro and poking around the 16th century walls that surround the city.

We returned to the hotel late in the afternoon for a small siesta before preparing for our night on the town.

The sun was sinking behind the hills, drenching us in golden light as we ventured out into the evening. Four gorgeous women, two blondes and two brunettes - dressed in our Californian colored summer dresses, off to dinner at a highly recommended restaurant. We were in good spirits as we circled around the tiny streets searching for a place to leave the car. Then, with map in hand, we marked our trail through the narrow winding passageways to the Buca di Sant'Antonio Restaurant.

We made a sensational entrance as the Maistro di Sala, all smiles and charm, led us to a choice table in the middle of the restaurant. Beautiful flowers filled the room and antique cooking utensils and exquisite ceramics placed here and there added an elegant, homey touch. The walls were washed in pink/gold and the floors a deep, rich terra cotta. The tables were covered with heavy rose colored damask and soft candle light glittered on silver and crystal.

I had just begun to peruse the menu when suddenly a hand appeared on my left, placing a small dish of crostini in front of me. I looked up and into a pair of delicious chocolate brown eyes. He smiled and indicated I should try one of the offerings. So I did, and found it delectable. As I began to pass the dish on to my friends he stopped me and said something in Italian that sounded like "no, they are for you." Surprised, I told him I wanted to share, but he insisted the goodies, a scrumptious assortment of warm toasts garnished with a spread of sausage and stracchino (soft cheese), fried polenta and some funny little fish puffs, were all for me!

Naturally my friends were finding this just too much but calmed down when a second waiter arrived with more crostini and an additional waiter brought tall, frosty glasses of Prosecco. "My" waiter, with great flourish and a deep intriguing laugh, presented one of those bubbling glasses to me.

Left on our own to contemplate the menu, my friends giggled and asked what was going on with that cute waiter. I blushed and said I hadn't a clue. They decided he looked like a brown eyed John Travolta and I decided he was just plain cute!

see also...
*Tuscany Region
*Tuscany Guide
*Rub Shoulders With the Rich & Famous
*Discovering Monte Argentario
*Villa San Michele
*A Restaurant Discovery
*Tuscan Women Cook
*Battle of the Bridge
*Michelangelo: Graffiti Artist
*City Girl Meets Tuscan Farm
*Leaving Lucca
*The horseshoe adventure in Pinocchio's Hometown
*How to flirt: Lucchese Style
*A Tuscan Feast
*Traveling to Italy Forum

"He" returned a little while later to advise me on the choices. He suggested prosciutto di Parma con figi (figs) and I happily agreed. Then, he pointed to the fettuccini al funghi porcini and I nodded in appreciation, thinking this sounded like enough food for me. However, he went on from there, describing something that sounded so wonderful I couldn't resist. At the time my Italian was almost nonexistent so this was simply blind faith in an adorable face.

Fortunately, one of the other waiters, Christiano, spoke excellent English and translated all the menu choices for us. Turns out I ordered the special of the house, Faraona Ripiena, (stuffed guinea fowl). The fowl is boned and stuffed with a mixture of minced chicken and turkey breast, pork, cooked ham, parmesan cheese, eggs, and fresh sage. It is then wrapped in pancetta (bacon) and baked.

Christiano sang praises of the wines from the Castello D'Ama, and happily we went along with his suggestion. The Chianti was lovely: dark, sensuous and tasting of wild blackberries and herbs. An excellent choice.

All the while my waiter was flashing back and forth, dancing around the table, making sure everything was perfect.

During the wine tasting he was standing by to make sure I liked it.

Throughout the prosciutto et figi he was hovering in the distance, waiting for my smile of approval.

He brought clean utensils between the courses.

He leaned close while grating a dusting of parmesan cheese over my fettuccini al funghi porcini.

He poured more wine into my glass.

After serving my Faraona he peeked through the plants, his dark eyes flashing with laughter.

He glanced over his shoulder while waiting on other guests.

He filled my water glass.

He presented a bowl of stewed fruit, swimming in sweet wine for me to taste.

Later he delivered a cup of coffee and a small glass of grappa.

And, finally he brought me a fragrant red rose, wrapped up in a pink damask napkin with his name and address inside. I almost fainted with delight.


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