Luigi’s restaurant was going down the drain!
Now, this second generation Italian had cuisine in his blood, pasta in his brain cells and mascarpone in his frontal lobes. He was a master chef and his clientele revered every recipe he produced. The place was packed every evening from six until closing time at 1 A.M., and reservations were three months in advance. The place had twenty tables and was decorated with Sicilian tablecloths and photographs of the old country. Luigi paid the highest prices for the best meats and vegetable, exorbitant fees well over $300 a bottle for olive oil and rare aged balsamic vinegar. Nothing but the best and finest for his meals! There was always a large vat of pasta cooking on the stove and filling the establishment with the scent of Luigi’s famous golden secrets. It had been the gathering place for Italians and everyone else for over fifty years. Caruso, Toscanini and even famous Mafiosi on good behavior had dined in Luigi’s. For God’s sake, Pavarotti had dined and then sang Vesti la Giubbe there one evening!
The menu was world famous, but Luigi never wrote one recipe down on paper and carried every detail of every fabulous meal in his head. And at 10 o’clock one evening, Luigi fell down on the floor of his restaurant after giving the mayor and his wife his special cannoli and was declared dead of a coronary thrombosis.
Manucchio, his only son and assistant in the establishment was the only one to take over the helm of Luigi’s and yet he knew none of the menus and had only prepared segments of the meals along with the other assistants. Oh yes, he had studied at the best cooking schools and could prepare the usual meals, but the magic had been in his father’s mind and hands. Without Luigi, the writing was on the wall. For several weeks nothing changed, but then the reviews began to slip and even the most loyal customers began to wander to different Italian restaurants. Manucchio got together with the staff and announced: “If business doesn’t improve within the next sixty days, I’m afraid we’ll have to close our doors.”
He wandered into the kitchen and his cell phone rang. It was his mother, Vegilia in tears. “Oh Manucchio, you gonna have to close the place?”
“Yes, mother. I just can’t cook like papa and that was the special thing about the place.”
“I always tell you father to write down the recipes but, no, no, no no…he was a stubborn man and now we gonna have to close.”
Manucchio, with tears in his eyes, closed the phone and then, meaning to set it on the table, lost his grip and it fell into the pasta vat. Oblivious to the heat, he reached quickly into the vat and rescued the cell phone, caked with pasta, giving himself a slight burn on his fingers. He wiped off the phone as best he could and then tried it. Nothing. Not even a buzz. He set the phone down on the table and went back to the rest of the staff and outlined his plans for the next few weeks.
Manucchio lived in an apartment over the restaurant and at 2 A.M. he closed up and went to bed. His wife, Celeste, cuddled next to him in bed, but understood how depressed her husband was about the restaurant. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.
The following morning he went on his usual shopping trip to the local stores for meat, vegetables and supplies. He designed a menu for the evening with several specials and selected wines from the cellar to accompany each meal. As he was preparing a salad dressing by himself in the kitchen he heard a noise from the broken cell phone still on the table. He lifted it up and then the phone began to ring. Amazed, he opened the phone. “Hello. Who is this?”
“It’s a me! Luigi. Just write down what I tell you and don’t say nothing Manucchio.”
“Who is this?”
“You know who this is. Just shutta you mouth and listen and write.”
Manucchio was about to speak when the voice started giving explicit instructions on how to prepare the pasta sauce and two of the menu favorites. Manucchio began writing, unsure of what was happening but not wanting to miss a detail. When the voice finished Manucchio asked again, “Who is this?”
But all that came forth was, “You gotta know, Manucchio.” and then the phone went dead.
He scanned the notes shrugged and raised his hands as his father had always done in front of him. “Can’t hurt to try this!”
The meal was served with these recipes. Two food critics were at the restaurant that evening planning on giving the place its final kiss of death. After finishing, they both arose and began clapping, demanding Manuccio to appear and receive their plaudits and blessings. The next morning two newspapers raved about the return of Luigi’s to the A list of Italian restaurants.
Manucchio was amazed and puzzled. He was even afraid to let anyone know where he had gotten the recipes. He was fearful because he couldn’t just serve two recipes forever. But there was no cause! The next morning after shopping, he returned to find the cell phone which he had placed in a drawer, ringing. He answered it again and the same voice gave him two more recipes and even a desert. Before Manucchio could ask, the phone again went dead. He even tried calling but there was no power and no signal. He placed the phone in his pocket and it remained there from then on.
The restaurant’s business flourished once again and for the next month, every morning, the little cell phone rang and the voice gave out more recipes. Finally, every dish had been given and then the phone went dead and remained functionless. Manucchio never told anyone about the phone and believed that the spirit of his father had somehow spoken to him. Later that day he went to the cemetery where he stood before the family gravesite and then got down on one knee.
“Thank you father. I know it was you and we love you and miss you. But how can I tell anyone? No one will believe me. What shall I say?” As he was rising to leave, a single small piece of paper gently sashayed from above and alit on the ground next to him. He picked it up and it said,
Just call the stuff
LUIGI’S PASTA TELOFONO!