I read a great blog post about a dining experience that may have lasted too long and cost too much, but ended up being a memorable meal, not only in the food itself, but in the hospitality and service. The writer asked for readers to share their stories and I felt compelled. After writing it all out, I was having trouble posting it for some reason, so I thought I'd at least share it on my blog:
This reminds me of a dining experience I had in Melbourne, Australia at Mulatta, a quaint, authentic Italian restaurant on the upscale Chapel Street. I took a train and trekked about 20 blocks after a full-day in the St. Kilda sun. I was more tired than hungry and definitely had already spent my weekend's budget. However, I promised my aunt and uncle that I would go try "the best pizza in the world" (this coming from my aunt who was born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy and is probably the best Italian cook I've ever met). They had spent a few months in Melbourne and after discovering Mulatta, would frequent there a few times a week, and soon became a part of the staff's family. So being that it was my last night in Melbourne, I felt obligated...
I got an uneasy feeling walking down Chapel Street unable to ignore the plethora of designer shops and people out dressed to the nines. This was not going to be a cheap meal. And to add to it, my hostel roommate was originally going to accompany me, but decided to save her dollars and stay in. This was all on me.
I finally found Mulatta. It was a perfect spot for a nice date with the candlelit white table cloths. Too bad I was by myself. The owner wasn't in, but I found the manager on duty and mentioned the names of my aunt and uncle. When he realized who I was talking about he almost leapt for joy. So passionate; so Italian. He immediately had a table set for me and as I was looking over the wine list, he had a full antipasto platter sent to my table.
I couldn't help but get caught up in the romance of the Mediterranean atmosphere so I ordered a glass of Chianti. The menu was extensive to say the least- the pizza alone took up about four pages (each one somewhere around $20). At least I'd probably have lunch for tomorrow? The food was phenomenal. The mozzarella was so light and creamy, the meat was so fresh, the flavors out of this world. As I enjoyed my delicious starter and the colorful conversations around me, my waitress came around and topped up my wine (uh-oh, I hope she knows I didn't want a bottle). The pizza came and I was already filling up, but one slice was definitely not enough. I swear I forgot I was in Australia for a minute.
As I indulged in the "best pizza in the world" and my second (or third) glass of wine, the manager came and sat with me for a while and we exchanged stories. When he had to tend to his job, another waiter came and took his place. He knew my aunt and uncle well and had so much fun telling me stories about their time there. This night was picking up. I came in alone, but over dinner, had the pleasure of TWO dates with very attractive Italian men. Meanwhile, the waitress made sure my glass was never empty... I could only eat half of the pizza and I was busting at the seems, but I was so so happy. Of course, they insisted I had dessert. I could not physically endure another bite. I resisted. I was perfectly content with my wine and my company. I guess I stuck around too long though because eventually they persuaded me to "try" a "little" gelato. They brought out THREE scoops of gelato! And I'm pretty sure I ate all of it.
Almost three hours had passed and this had become such a highlight to my weekend, I didn't care how large my bill was (plus I had a whole bottle of Chianti in me- nothing could upset me). I approached my waitress on my way back from the restroom to ask for the check. She told me not to worry about a thing. What? Nothing?! Not even the pizza??? I couldn't believe the hospitality. I got a chance to go back to Melbourne later in the year and brought a friend with me so I had someone with whom to share the amazing food, atmosphere, and people.