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Be Rude and Eat Nothing

My best mate Katie and I were sitting down at one of the nicest restaurants in Lecce, situated at the heart of its historic center. With the warm summer weather, we had requested a table outside, and were soon seated near the entrance of Torre di Merlino, menus in hand, already scanning their wine selections.

It was a bittersweet meal, as I was planning on leaving Lecce soon and heading to New York, my tourist visa was almost expired, and I was also out of funds. We picked this place because their outside seating area was always filled with beautiful locals, dining on lobster and sipping on their third bottle of Salento wine.

After ordering a bottle for ourselves, and an appetizer of grilled portabello, on top of buffalo mozzarella, on top of vine tomatoes, and finished off with a balsamic reduction. We began to relax into our evening, talking of people we had met, people we missed, and the incredible memories we had collected over the summer.

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Close to our table was sat two women, clearly from the United States, who apparently could not relax into their evening and asked every Italian working at the restaurant where their dinner might be. Katie and I just rolled our eyes, now used to tourists demanding that the Italians change their lifestyles to accommodate the rushed, non-stop ones they’d brought along on their vacation.
After about ten minutes, Katie and I were sharing our delicious antipasto when one of the women stood up and approached the headwaiter and said, “English? Do you speak English?” He looked at her with clear disdain and shook his head, even though it was obvious he understood what she was saying. Another waiter came over and she demanded to know where their food was.
“We’ve been waiting for over an hour. This is completely unacceptable.” She stood there with her hand on her hip, expecting them to jump into action to rush her food order. This did not happen.

I was completely embarrassed, being an American myself, but Katie thought the entire situation was hilarious and laughed especially hard when the headwaiter simply said, “Then leave.” The woman looked completely stunned, and said she wasn’t paying for anything if she left. The head-server looked down at her and repeated, “then leave”.
She and her friend, who look mortified, grabbed their purses and traveling books and left the restaurant quickly. They missed out on a fantastic meal, and as I enjoyed my homemade pappardelle pasta with Bolognese, followed by a nutella inspired dessert, I realized how lucky I was to be in such an amazing country, and have the ability to appreciate its tranquil, slow spirit.