I walked into a neighborhood Italian joint the other day. Not the kind with the red and white checker tablecloths and the mis-matched flatware, but the white linen kind that offers the choice of “flat, sparkling or (God forbid) tap” water. After a few minutes of looking over the menu wondering why I would pay $36 for gnocchi and an extra $12 for a salad, the overly gleeful young gal who looked like she would feel more at home at TGI Friday’s than at a upscale sauce house, took my order.
Me: “I’ll have the spaghetti and meatballs.”
Server: “You mean the pasta bolognase?”
Me: “The spaghetti with meatballs.”
Server: “We don’t have spaghetti with meatballs, but we do have pasta with a bolognase sauce which is kinda like a meat sauce. It has a lot of meat in it.”
Me: “Are you Italian?”
Server: “No. My father is Irish and my mother is Polish.”
Me: “I’ll have the chicken marsala.”
Server: “Do you want a side of pasta with that?”
As a young, much lighter, lad growing up in an Italian house we had traditions that were pretty staunchly adhered to. My father spent his Saturdays going to eight different grocery stores while my mother yelled, “you spend more on gas than you save by going from store to store with your damn coupons.”
With a fresh supply of tomatoes, basil, beef, pork and veal, my father would spend every Sunday turning those ingredients into a huge pot of sauce that would simmer for hours while the meatballs were rolled, braised, then put in the sauce.
I remember never liking my father’s sauce or meatballs, but every Monday night was spaghetti night – like it or not. 6:30pm sharp the meal was on the table. It was not a fancy affair, it was just spaghetti night.
We didn’t have pasta.
We didn’t have bolognase sauce.
We had good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs.
When did life become so complicated? We need to go back to the simpler things in life. Like a cheeseburger and fries instead of a “Canyon River Ranch Extra Prime 100% Certified Angus Beef Burger Served on a Toasted Brioche Bun” with a side of “Hand Cut Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Sea Salt.”
I just want to be able to walk into a restaurant and say, “I’ll have the spaghetti and meatballs.”
It’s not that difficult.