At right are traces of the following consumables: espresso, Heineken, Sambuca, sugar, grappa, Lurisia, red wine, marinara. It’s the litter of an enjoyable evening—a post-game party at which I was unlikely cheerleader. I was with the Italiano and his friends and fellow football (soccer) players. The consumables were proper ingredients for curing aching muscles, filling empty tummies, instigating passionate foreign-tongued diatribes, drowning wounded pride. What’s absent from the picture is the smell—of cigarette smoke (sexy, but naughty), perfectly fried calamari, and sweat. The sweat of an amateur-league Italian football team that’s just played rough and cursed rougher still, but has, nonetheless, been beaten by a single, slippery goal in a heartbreaker of a game at Chelsea Piers. The team partied hard after the defeat and I was the only girl to witness the festivities that took place at their favorite hangout (also one of mine), Borgo Antico.
It’s a strange scene for me, really, since I never seem to be the lady hangin’ out with the boys, (like Erin is on her poker night). It’s always girls night in my world. But my connection with an Italian fella who is, true to stereotype, a “pack-mentality” Mediterranean-born male, had brought this whole new kind of social dynamic. Me and the men. I kinda like it. I mean, all that testosterone. And who doesn’t like a little extra attention for her blonde curls?
Good thing I felt so comfortable at the chosen party location. A favorite of mine, a favorite of his, yet we’d never run into one another before we started dating. It’s one of the ironies that he and I, a “fresh” couple, find sweet and bitter at the same time: our mutual, but unrelated connections to this great neighborhood Italian spot on 13th St. We think it’s strange that we never met there before we met at Employees Only. I used to act as pastry/ baking consultant to the restaurant; he is best friends with the perpetually cheerful, Italian owner, Giovanni. I logged a lot of daytime hours at Borgo up until a few months ago; the Italiano is used to haunting the place in the evenings and after-hours with his fellow bachelor expats. Now, we seem to hang out there a lot together, eating and drinking, watching European football matches and, last night, post-gaming the match that was lost by the guys’ own mighty blue and gold crew. Actually, my gentleman wasn’t even playing, having to sit out the competition because of a bruised ankle that his teammates weren’t ready to gamble on. So, we both watched helplessly—he from the bench, I from the stands—as the game didn’t go the way the Italians desired.
- I think the Italiano is fucking adorable in his uniform. I can’t help how giddy the polo shirt makes me and I can’t get enough of watching him and his mates go at it!
- I realize that this makes me sound lame. Or at least a little too much like Erin, her own musician boyfriend’s biggest groupie. But I can’t help it! The running, the head butts, the cursing in Italiano! Makes me hot.
- I do actually enjoy watching the game, owing to my time spent in London, where I learned the rules.
- I revel in knowing how cute I look in the Arsenal jersey I insist on wearing to every match, despite the Italian team’s hatred of all English clubs.
The affable Gio is consummate ringleader to this motley crew. His restaurant is the place they all love as asecond home and consider a perfect expats’ hub. This is because the food is consistently delicious and sufficiently authentic for their picky Italian tastes. He stocks all the requisite “home” staples: the Lurisia, Sambuca, grappa, Moretti, and limoncello, for instance. And in the bar downstairs, he’s installed a projector and screen for viewing all the important professional football matches. The Italiano almost always orders the slick, garlicky, and filling linguini vongole when we dine there. He says it’s the only version he’ll touch on the island ofManhattan. That’s what he ate to refuel from his strenuous bench contributions (adorable!), but I skipped late-night pasta in favor of glasses of Primitiva and bottles of Peroni, both of which made me more confident in my Italian-speaking skills…though looking back with a clear head, I’m not sure if I was arguing that Victoria Beckham has a great wardrobe and Hillary Clinton is a policy wonk, or the other way around.
The next game is a couple of weeks away. I’m certain the boys are resilient enough to pull out a win next time. Regardless, as long as I get to stick around ‘til the table is littered with the miscellany of a great after-party, I’ll be happy. ‘Cause that’s when the rounds of nationalistic songs are sung at the tops of Italian lungs, and everybody’s satisfied, no matter what the score.