I met Nello when I had joined a day trip as a part of a geriatric tour being led by a family friend and her husband, Francesco. They were visiting Francesco’s family restaurant in Cercina outside of Florence for an olive oil tasting and followed by a big lunch. With everyone on the tour being well over 60 years old (though as we now know don’t count them out for me), I stuck out quite a bit as the only flirting prospect.
Nello kept trying to catch my eye as they were preparing little sips for us. Despite his efforts to grab my attention, I became fascinated with the display being set up for us. I had never thought olive oil was something to be tasted, but the rainbow of peppery, citrus, and smooth olive flavors I experienced immediately changed my perception. A few minutes into our sipping olive oil, an older woman waddles out from the kitchen with a napkin tied around her head, carrying a lump of yellow pasta dough. This woman is introduced as “Bruna,” who was there to demonstrate how to make homemade ravioli for everyone.
After our session with Bruna ended, Nello tried a new tactic. He waved me over so he could show me the kitchen. I spent the rest of our visit in the kitchen being fed sauces, fresh beans, and cheeses by Nello and Bruna. They explained the best they could with practically no knowledge of English as I attempted to understand their Italian. I had only taken 3 Italian classes so far and was by no means conversational so the best vehicle for understanding was the expression on my face as I experienced the beauty of it all.
Nello and I became a little bit of a thing and we quickly blended our groups of friends together. At some point, his friends decided they wanted to host a homemade dinner for us. They insisted on cooking and explained it would be a multi-course meal of varying fish. I don’t remember all of the details about what we ate.