We pulled into San Antonio, Texas, home of the Alamo, mid-evening, found our hotel, checked in, determined our comma supply was adequate, searched the Internet for a restaurant and set off again to forage, for food.
The important point to note is that this was a Monday evening. It’s less important that we were feeling like Italian, that is, in a mood for Italian food, not wearing tight t-shirts and riding around on Vespas pinching women’s bottoms, although that appealed to me on another level. Google Search identified three multi-star Italian restaurants within a few miles of the hotel. Google Maps gave us their exact location and driving directions. And Google Earth informed us that two of the restaurants had new roofs.
What Google, bless it’s pea pickin’ little heart, did not tell us (ha ha, joke’s on us!) was that all the suggested restaurants would be closed on Monday. You’d think that Google Maps would have a widget or something that would put like a “closed” icon over the restaurants that were actually closed, rather than encouraging us to check out their empty parking lots intrigued by the prospect of new roofs.
And we did that. One by one. Closed. Closed. Closed.
So, plan A, B and C had all failed. We were out of restaurants, mapless, clueless, sort of lost, hungry and starting to feel the call of the Golden Arches.
As we cruised along the frontage road paralleling Interstate 10 I caught a glimpse of a department store on the other side of the freeway. Dillards.
“Ah, ha!” I thought. A mall! We’re saved. There’s bound to be restaurants over there, and I can buy a new suit. Tally Ho! We turned at the next traffic light and headed to Mallville assured of a Chili’s or a Fudrucker’s or a Subway at the very least. Alas, all those restaurants were to the right side of the road and we were in a left turn only lane. Not a problem, we’d cruise through the parking lot, do a U-turn and be back in business in short order.
But, that would not be the case. Destiny was in charge and Destiny was going to take us where she wanted to go.
As we sought our U-turn a sign in the corner of the mall caught our eye:
Luciano at the Strand
Luciano. That sounded Italian. We slowed and looked more closely. Candles flickered on tables in the window. Shadowy figures moved about. A lady stood at the entrance looking expectedly. She looked at us. We looked back.
“Looks like a restaurant,” I said, “and Italian, and open, and on a Monday. How strange? Shall we?”
With some hesitation we parked and walked up the garden path to the entrance. The lady we had observed was the hostess and she opened the door regarding us closely.
“Are you open?” I asked.
She looked relieved, hesitated for a moment, then stuttered, “Yes, yes we are open. Yes, indeed, we are open! Welcome!”
I half expected to be greeted like Emil as described by a Bulwer-Lytton finalist:
“Genevieve ran toward the door as it slowly closed and grabbed Emil by the lapels of his rain-soaked camouflage jacket, drawing him into her warm embrace, burying her tear-streaked face in the nape of his neck and weeping uncontrollably, as might a mother clutching her son returned home from the horrors of the battlefield, a response Emil could scarcely recall receiving from other Wal-Mart greeters."
Alas, that was not the case.
The restaurant looked nice. It looked expensive. The carpet was new, paint fresh and everything was gleaming.
Our hostess smiled at us warmly and asked, “Table for…” and paused waiting for my reply.
I heard “Table four…” and replied, “Table for two, please.”
With a subtle hand gesture the hostess beckoned a wait-staff-person who shuffled over and grabbed a couple of menus.
“Table number six for Mr. Two and companion.”
“This way Mr. Two,” the wait-staff-person intoned, and in single file we followed her into the restaurant and into the experience that will be described…anon.
(To be continued!)