Chapter 3: Dolce Far Niente
Part 11: The Review
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. . .
DOLCE FAR NIENTE
Are we the last to notice the assimilationist
trend among ethnic restaurants? In the days of our youth, we could
tell one from another. Crystal, white linen, supercilious maître
d’—it’s French, naturellement; red and gold—Chinese; downstairs—Indian;
and so on. In this orderly scheme, Italian restaurants generally
projected a working-class or peasant image. We could count on candles
in chianti bottles; huge, cheap meals of pasta and tomato sauce; lots of
garlic; fat loaves of bread; simple, zesty food in Brueghelesque settings.
Tuck the napkin into your shirt collar, talk loud, bring the whole family,
let the kids run around, and give them a good smack if they get out of
line. Now—all, all is changed. In the last year we have
dined in an Indian restaurant that looks like a wood-and-white fern bar,
a Chinese restaurant that looks like an art-deco lounge on the Normandie,
a French restaurant with hatch-cover tables and exposed brick, and no fewer
than four restaurants in which the walls are paneled with ash, there is
a brass railing in every spot where there might conceivably be a brass
railing, and everything is bright, light, and shining, including the diners,
who are well scrubbed and blond. One of these ash-and-brasseries
is Thai, one Italian, one Nouvelle melting-pot, and one Indian. What’s
happening here? Is the tendency toward an American mush so advanced
that not even the newest immigrants retain or want to retain any of their
home-country stereotypes? Whew! Excuse us. We may have
gotten a little carried away.
Dolce Far Niente
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Copyright © 1990 by Eric Kraft
Reservations Recommended is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.