Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Italian Ex-Pat Meetup Tonight

(Click each photo to enlarge it.)
Tonight's Italian Ex-Pat meetup was very enjoyable! We had several newcomers. In the first photo, you can see, from left, Tom and his mother-in-law Luisa and wife Roberta, all new-comers. Next are myself and Ivana and Gina, a young lady from the Ukraine. Roberta also brought first-timers John and Armanda and then are Yvette (Italian), Norman and Luise (Brazilian). This was Luise's last Italian ex-pat meetup because she returns to Brazil Sept. 5. We will miss her sweetness and smile and wish this young lady a wonderful life (we WILL stay in touch!). Luisa, Roberta's mom, returns to Italy tomorrow after her month-long visit. We wish her safe travels and the very best as well.

The Blessing of the Ovens

Today my wife, our friend Alice, and I stopped by for a few minutes at Il Fornaio ("The Baker") Italian restaurant in Reston. It will not open until Monday, but today was the Blessing of the Ovens. By the time I picked up Alice and my wife, we got there 15 minutes late and the blessing part was over. Too bad; I was hoping that while blessing the ovens, the priest might have aimed wrong and blessed me instead (haha). This is the first Il Fornaio east of Colorado. They started as a baking school in Lombardia, Italy, and today have 23 restaurants.

There was free food and wine. The food was excellent (and the wine too!). I don't know about prices yet but I don't think it's a cheap place. I also don't think it's a real expensive place.

We talked at length with the Italian cooks you see in the photos here. I also spoke with the president and CEO of the company, Michael J. Beatrice, who lives in Boston and was a very nice guy. I didn't know who he was at first, outside a guy in a suit who offered me wine. He didn't seem stuck up at all.

We've been looking for a really good Italian restaurant in this area for a long time. Maybe we've finally found one. We'll be back and then we'll know for sure. Buon appetito!

Their website is

Two TV Shows I Like - And Never the Twain Shall Meet

Dexter is going to start its second season Sept. 30th on Showtime. This show stars Michael C. Hall (of Six Feet Under fame) and Julie Benz (of Angel fame). Hall plays Dexter Morgan, who works as a forensics analyst for the Miami Police Dept, specializing in analyzing blood patterns. He is also a serial killer, killing those he believes deserve death who escape the justice of the law. It's VERY interesting from a psychological standpoint. It's well-written, well-acted and well...I like it. This is an adult show.

The series is based on a series of books by Jeff Lindsay. I may eventually read those.

And now for something completely different! I also like Ugly Betty. It's on ABC on Thursday nights. It seems to rip off the idea of The Devil Wears Prada (an OK movie) but I find this series FUNNY. It's cute, it has really great characters, it's a soap opera for a guy who hates soap operas, and did I mention it's FUNNY? I have laughed so hard watching this show at times. Yes, I promise you, I am a MAN, but I'm not afraid to admit that this show really makes me happy.

Dexter and Ugly Betty. I bet there will never be a crossover episode, but it just goes to show what a range I have!

My In-Laws and the Movies

When my in-laws were still alive, back in 1990, they came from Italy to visit. Not speaking any English and being older, they were with us most of the time. Our kids were young then and they sure loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Of course, they wanted to see the movie when it came out and mommy and daddy (that's me) acquiesced. I turned to my in-laws and told them we were going to see this movie and asked them if they would like to come, not believing that they would.

Why not? Well, that takes a little explanation. My in-laws grew up during the depression and learned the value of a lira. They scrimped and saved all their lives and went without most of the luxuries of life that many of us consider necessities. They had not, in fact, gone to a movie theater since...1960! Why spend money on movie tickets when there were a lot of great old westerns on their black-and-white TV?

So off we went to the theater. Those of us who have gone more than once in our lives know there are certain protocols when sitting in a theater. Well, my father-in-law didn't know or didn't care. He decided to have a running commentary, in his Milanese dialect of Italian, on what was happening on the screen. He was amazed by the live action technology of costumed characters. He said one thing that had me rolling on the floor (among the discarded popcorn and gum): "Man, those turtles are big!" (In Italian, of course.) I tried to shush him a few times but not with a lot of enthusiasm because I was having so much fun hearing his comments. They were a lot more entertaining than the movie, but only if you knew Italian!

The next movie I took them to see was completely different. It was at the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum in Washington, D.C. The movie was The Dream is Alive, and it was all about space travel, with actual footage taken by astronauts and others. The screen is three stories tall and the theater is wired for sound beautifully. My mother-in-law, a demure, quiet woman who hardly ever smiled, was sitting to my right. The lights dimmed, the screen was black, and the sounds of birds flying overhead could be heard. My mother-in-law had never experienced such a theater and instinctively looked up with a big smile on her face, looking for the birds and then realizing of course that there were none. Then the roar of a space shuttle blasting off started, the screen slowly brightening to show us the space shuttle on the ground, flames starting to spew out. It then blasted off, majestically. My mother-in-law's mouth dropped open in the biggest smile I had ever seen. She couldn't take her eyes away from this awesome sight, three stories high, the sounds permeating her and filling her with wonder and delight.

These are images of my in-laws and the movies: my father-in-law joking out loud through a children's movie, my mother-in-law as delighted as any small child at the sight and sound and wonder of an IMAX space shuttle blasting off into space.

Simpsons and Harry Potter

The Simpsons Movie. This was worth the wait. Funny, completely in the Simpsons spirit. I was afraid that with so many rewrites that the end result was going to be a mess, that it would not true to the TV series but go in a different direction, that it would not be able to keep things moving in 90 minutes when the typical episode is 22 minutes long. Ah, have no fear! It was laugh-out-loud funny in places, it was awww-isn't-that-sweet in places, it was local (Springfield) and global (the Earth), it was many levels and yet surprisingly shallow - but in a good way. Ah, The Simpsons - I love these characters and boy, were they big!

Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix. Yes, I've read all the Harry Potter books, including the last one (spoiler alert: Dumbledore is a woman - kidding). I enjoyed them all, even if I don't consider them high literature. I have also enjoyed the movies, even if i don't consider any of them classics. The last movie released is I think my favorite, just as the last book is also my favorite. It's worth watching, doesn't drag too much as some of the prior movies did, and overall it's fun.