Saturday, September 20, 2008

Working at Pizzeria la Notizia

Yesterday I was scalded pretty bad for cutting  my sausage too thick. In italian. In the small back kitchen of Pizzeria La Notizia. I can't say I wasn't excepting something like this to happen. But when I saw Enrico, my short squat boss, look at my pile of half-cooked sausage links, I knew I was in for it. He came in screaming, making gestures that I've only read about in books. This went on for a few minutes while I stood there dumbfounded- being both slightly frustrated and slightly relieved that my lack of italian prevented me from explaining myself. At one point two waiters came in to see what the commotion was about. They saw Enrico waving his open palms towards the sky and quickly left the way they had entered. Ten minutes later he was patting me on the back and apologizing. Five minutes after that, we enjoyed our break by splitting a coke. "I'll do better tomorrow," I told him in italian. He flashed me a grin and responded, "no, tomorrow you just won't do the sausages."
It's strange being an immigrant dishwasher (I'm working at La Notizia through a course program in Naples). My seven weeks at Middlebury's intensive language program hasn't done me much good when it comes to communicating in the kitchen- a place where its less important to know the conditional and more important to know the word for ladle, dustpan, and lettuce. By the time its taken me to formulate a grammatically correct response they either a) have told someone else to do it or b) have grabbed me by the arm and attempted to show me my task through a rough pantomime. Either way, my responses of si or capito are rarely trusted. In fact, I'd say that over the last week of working under Enrico, I've learned less italian from him than I have italian gestures; the finger point below the eye, the palms pointed towards the sky, and my favorite, the italian wink. The italian wink should not be confused with the american wink- with is usually expressed as a sign of congenial complicity. No, the italian wink is used far more liberally and is generally directed towards speechless american dishwashers who are actually paying to dry pots and chop half-cooked sausages. On second thought, maybe the italian wink has the same meaning as the american one. 

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