Lunch Italian Style

I am a creature of habit which is why I find myself having lunch at Trattoria da Gigi again.  I came here for the first time on a recommendation. I had been walking in the rain and needed something to warm me up. Gigi’s homemade soup full of vegetables and beans and basket of fresh, soft bread was just the thing.

The waitress rattles off the house specials and then graciously waits while I stumble through my choices in Italian.  First to arrive is tagliere di salume, a thick wooden platter covered in chunks of salami, paper thin prosciutto and slices of sausage, all local to Lucca and totally delicious. Then rigatoni alla Gigi, beautiful squares of homemade pasta with a rich ragù.  And finally, pollo alla cacciatora. Chicken cooked slowly with tomatoes, onions, olives, wine, rosemary and thyme. Simple, hearty and delicious.  To finish, biscotti to dunk in sweet amber Vin Santo.  Bliss.

One of the things about eating alone is that there is plenty of opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations at adjacent tables, particularly in a small room like Gigi’s. Sitting opposite are two elderly people speaking in very proper English accents about planting vegetables and how parents spoil their children these days.  I’m totally surprised when they break off their pronouncements to speak fluent Italian to la Signora who arrives and sits at the table next to mine.

La Signora is eating alone and is obviously well known to the staff at Gigi.. She eats a bowl of soup very very slowly and drinks a tiny carafe of red wine. As I finish my biscotti she’s fallen asleep in her seat and one of the waiters immediately props her loose arm over the back of another chair to stop her from falling.

At three o’clock five men at the last table in the room are just starting their main courses. They grilled the waitress with questions about the dishes on the menu before they ordered and they are still talking about the merits of different cooking methods when their food arrives. As for me, my glass is empty and my tummy is full and I’m already looking forward to my next lunch at Gigi’s.


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