Category Archives: Dining

Bye, bye belly

My pouch was visible when I visited Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily.

Close your eyes and visualize this: A toothpick that swallowed a lemon.

Now open them and you will see how I see myself, which is why I have decided to have tumescent liposuction today.

I’m 50 years and three days old. But the decision to do lipo didn’t just hit me because of my age. Those of you who know me have put up with me complaining about my belly for years. When I texted the news to a girlfriend in Chicago whom I’ve known since the 80s, she texted back:

“Awesome Girl!!! I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner because you never liked you (sic) “tiny pouch”. lol

I eat healthy 90 percent of the time, work out four to five days a week doing weight-bearing exercises and floor work for my abs and walk the hills of San Francisco to run errands since I have no car. I’m quite pleased with the rest of my body after dropping a dress size while researching The World’s Top Destination Spas story for Elite Traveler this spring. I can’t afford to lose anymore inches. My butt is practically non-existent. My boobs have shrunk. My pencil legs are now toothpicks. Still, my belly persists to the point where it is much larger than my ass. And everyone knows you can’t spot reduce.

What’s a girl to do?

I’m 6-foot-1, 152 pounds, reed thin. My legs are so skinny I have to get all of my boots taken in. Always have.

And I’ve always had a belly too. I’ve grown as adept at holding it in as I have at breathing.

When I was in my 20s, I popped laxatives before going on vacation to get rid of my bulge. Seven, 10, 12 at a time. Whatever it took.

By my 30s that no longer worked and I went to 90-year-old nutritionist Hermien Lee, who turned me into a lean, mean, machine.

And then came my 40s. I opted for more drastic methods such as the Master Cleanser or doing a raw diet with no alcohol for weeks at a time. Being that I’m a travel writer and part of traveling is eating then guzzling lemonade for several days at a time and not eating anything cooked can only work so long for me.

Everyone knows what a foodie I am and my stomach is a bottomless pit. The way I eat, I should be 300 pounds but I’m not because I exercise regularly — plus, I have great genes. Previously, if I needed to get my belly down, all I had to do was really watch what I ate and give up alcohol. Within 10 days, I’d be looking good enough to rock a bikini like I did in St. Tropez this summer.

Kelly E. Carter, Trina Turk bikini

I rocked this Trina Turk bikini in St. Tropez this summer, holding in my belly.

But age has a way of catching up with you.

When I returned from St. Tropez, I learned that the beau would have to endure six weeks of radiation. Before he began his treatment in September I offered to give up alcohol to support him. Oh how we both love our wine! He looked at me with the most loving eyes, for it was akin to me offering to shave my head if he lost his hair. (Thankfully THAT didn’t happen.) Outside of drinking at HBO’s Emmy party, during a business trip to South Beach and in Atlanta, where I went for a funeral, I stuck by my no-alcohol edict. After the beau’s radiation ended, his belly was gone and he was down 20 pounds. My belly still stuck out like a hump in a camel, a further indication that alcohol was not what was causing me to look four months pregnant.

During a visit to the beau’s dermatologist, I spotted a brochure for tumescent liposuction. Curious, I picked it up. I thought back to a recent lipo discussion with a retired dermatologist friend from my beau’s yacht club. He tiptoed around my situation but agreed that lipo wouldn’t be a bad thing for me. And I recalled a conversation from a couple of years ago with a friend from childhood, now a medical doctor with a weight loss clinic in L.A. She told me back then that I was the ideal candidate for lipo. The brochure in hand, I looked at these before and after photos and read when the procedure should be used, the risks, how it is performed and why a dermatologic surgeon should be used.

tumescent liposuction

Liposuction is most effective for removing localized fat deposits that do not respond to diet or exercise. It is not intended as a substitute for weight loss; rather, it is a contouring procedure, and is optimally utilized in a program of exercise and weight maintenance.

I know a lot of you reading this may look at the before picture and ask “Where’s Waldo? Where’s the fat?” Not me! I looked at the photo and said, “That’s me!” I gave the brochure to the beau, who said if that’s what I want then fine, I could have it. But, he made it clear, he thinks I have a fantastic bod. We returned for a consultation with his doctor and scheduled my procedure for Nov. 30. This gave me license to thoroughly enjoy  myself during a decadent birthday trip to Las Vegas with several girlfriends to ring in my 50th.

Now, a bon vivant like me disdains buffets but Kitty Yancey, a USA Today travel writer whose opinion I trust, assured me in an email that the new, $17 million Bacchanal Buffet at  Caesars Palace was worth it and wrote that her story in USA Today didn’t give it justice. You have to go, she implored.

So off me and my girls went for my birthday lunch. With each plate, I reminded myself that everything I was eating would be removed on Friday.

bacchanal buffet Caesars palace

After starting at Bacchanal Buffet’s seafood station, I moved on to Italy, pausing to pick up a slider during my birthday lunch at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

At Bacchanal, I took it upon myself to gorge on fresh East and West coast oysters, prawns, shrimp and grits, mussels, grilled salmon, pepperoni pizza, meatballs, sliders, French fries, chips and guacamole, Kung Pao chicken, edamame, low mein, crème brûlée and lots more. With more than 500 dishes to choose from, I couldn’t try everything – though I wanted to.

That night, my birthday dinner took place at James Beard award-winning Chef José Andrés’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. I devoured cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed, black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain, 18-month salt-cured Serrano ham, white asparagus with idiazábal cheese, grilled skirt steak with piquillo pepper confit, traditional chicken fritters served in a shoe and so much more, knowing that it would all be gone be in just a few days.

Jaleo Las Vegas Jose Andres

My yummy birthday dinner served tapas style at Jaleo by Jose Andres in The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas.

Before I left for the trip, I went clothes shopping in San Francisco for a couple of new birthday outfits since it was Black Friday.What a frustrating experience that was! I looked longingly at dresses that I knew were not right for my body type because they hugged the mid-section. I was nearly in tears as I went from one store to another, unable to find anything despite the Black Friday sales. I admit I do a pretty good job of hiding my belly. One saleswoman convinced me to try on a dress that she said would hide the belly that she couldn’t see. I wiggled into the cute red dress and her eyes nearly popped out when she saw my belly protruding like a beach ball. Oh, she said, before finding the one dress in her store that hid a belly. But I didn’t care for the dress. I told her I was having lipo in a few days and she said she looked forward to seeing me back in the store in a few months. I waddled further down Chestnut Street and into BCBG Max Azria, where I picked up this darling shirt dress that hides my pouch, and a couple of other items that would suffice.

Kelly E. Carter, Ghostbar Palms Casino

Me at Ghostbar, on the 55th floor of Palms Casino for pre-birthday drinks.

As much as I absolutely love, love, love this BCBG shirt dress, in a few months I won’t be limited to dresses that flow. Thanks to the beau and his generous birthday present. Even though he doesn’t think I need lipo, I do. And that’s what matters.

Check back later for updates.



Filed under Aging, Beauty, Dining, Health, Las Vegas

If Gwyneth can do macrobiotic then so can I

macrobiotic meal SHA Wellness Clinic

Dinner at SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

It’s easy to explain a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and even Mediterranean diet. But tell someone you’re going to a spa where only macrobiotic food is served and inevitably, the question is “What does macrobiotic mean?”

I know I sounded like an idiot when I told people had no idea. My only association with the word was through actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who did the macrobiotic thing for a few years, and M Café, a macrobiotic restaurant in Los Angeles that I had talked about a couple of times to Susan Irby on her The Bikini Chef radio show though I really didn’t know understand what macrobiotic meant.

All I knew was that I would be eating not just super healthy but exceptionally well at SHA Wellness Clinic because the chef Pablo Montoro had worked at Ferrán Adrià’s renowned restaurant El Bullí and in Martin Berasategui’s kitchen. I was eager to begin my “Discovery” program, the name for the uninitiated such as myself that flock to this clinic on Spain’s Mediterranean coast to detox, lose weight and learn how to take better care of themselves. I crammed my 36-inch inseam into what had to be seats with a 25-inch pitch on Iberia Express and jetted off to Alicante from Madrid.

My first introduction to macrobiotic food was breakfast, which I arrived just in time for after the 45-minute drive in a luxury sedan to SHA in the resort town of Albir, which has been overtaken by Germans and Brits. Breakfast started with a delicious mixture of carrot and fruit juice. Then I was served Miso soup, porridge, spelt toast, pears that had a hint of ginger and compote. I thought the porridge was steel-cut oatmeal but I was surprised to learn that it was brown rice and spelt milk. I had barely heard of spelt and had no idea you could make milk from it.

For lunch, I feasted on asparagus and zucchini soup topped with rice noodles, turbot paella, salad with sunflower seeds and almond crème brûlée with crumbled cinnamon. Then I was served kukicha tea, which is loaded with calcium and has tons of nutritional benefits.

Later that night I gobbled down pumpkin soup with caviar eggs, bread sticks, rolls and what appeared to be butter though I know it wasn’t, thinly sliced fresh vegetables that were so tasty that I might change my opinion of cauliflower being the worst food in the world and a white fish called “gill head.” A trio of homemade sorbet (orange, chocolate and strawberry) were presented for dessert.

Hey, I can do this macrobiotic thing for life. If it’s so good why does it sound so horrible?

The next day I met with Dr. Ken Prange, who presented me with a multi-page document on the macrobiotic diet, looked at my fingernails and tongue and suggested I cut down on sweets, or at least those made with refined sugar, and told me that my central nervous system was frayed. (“Could it be the economic conditions under which I live as a freelance writer,” I wanted to ask him?). He also suggested I eat Miso soup daily to improve my immune system after I told him I have way too many colds despite taking Spirulina, Chinese herbs and vitamin C daily.

I didn’t receive a textbook definition of macrobiotic from him so was eager to read the document he gave me. I still don’t know what it is but I’m thoroughly enjoying the dishes served at SHA Wellness Clinic.

pumpkin soup SHA Wellness Clinic

Pumpkin soup at SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain


Filed under Aging, Beauty, Dining, Health, Spa

Sinning in Sin City

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish in Aria Las Vegas

Kelly E. Carter and Michael Mina at American Fish inside Aria Las Vegas

When it comes to fine dining, I’ll bet that Las Vegas wins hands down over any other city in the country based on the number of fantastic restaurants within close proximity of one another. Any takers?

Since gluttony is a sin, I admit I’ve sinned plenty in the city known as Sin City. In Vegas I’ve gorged at the restaurants of some of the most notable celebrity chefs around the country (and even world in some cases), including Michael Mina,  Jean-Georges Vongerichten,  Masa Takayama, Joël Robouchon, José Andrés,  Paul Bartolotta, Guy Savoy, Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano and Pierre Gagnaire. Consider that their eateries are within walking distance of one another and you can see why I’m calling Las Vegas the dining capital of America, based on radius.

From a foodie’s perspective, the best time to be in Vegas is this weekend for Food & Wine All-Star Weekend, taking place Oct-21-23 at Aria Resort & Casino and Bellagio Resort & Casino. Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons hosts the epicurean adventure that features some of the aforementioned chefs (Mina, Serrano, Takayama, Vongerichten and Maccioni), 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef and Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard and a smorgasbord of others from the culinary and mixology world.

Food & Wine All Star Weekend Las Vegas

Here’s the mouth-watering lineup:

Friday, October 21

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
First Course: Kick-off party hosted by Gail Simmons at ARIA View Bar featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity chefs and alumni from Top Chef. Guests will enjoy cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.

11 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Second Course: The Deuce Lounge at ARIA will be the setting for a fun after-party as each chef hosts blackjack at a gaming table.

Sit in on a game, sip delicious cocktails and enjoy a simply delectable dessert bar from Top Chef Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura.

Saturday, October 22

Noon – 2 p.m.
A New American Lunch: FOOD & WINE Contributor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio and Top Chef cheftestant Stephanie Izard co-host this exciting sit-down luncheon at ARIA’s Sage. Delicious cuisine by Sage Executive Chef Shawn McClain and exquisite cocktail and beer pairings made exclusively by Giglio will impress guests during the afternoon, providing a fun, culinary experience at the award-winning restaurant.

Luxe Lunch: Hosted in Bellagio’s Tuscany Kitchen, this extraordinary lunch is part cooking demonstration, part three-course luncheon and part wine tasting. This exciting event will be hosted by Gail Simmons with Top Chef’s Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg providing a cooking demo and Bellagio Master Sommelier and Director of Wine Jason Smith pairing each course with complementary wine.

8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
All-Star Tasting: The main event takes place poolside at ARIA and will feature host Gail Simmons, Bravo’s Top Chef cheftestants Yigit Pura, Stephanie Izard, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sossa and Sam Talbot in addition to the signature restaurants of ARIA: Jean Georges Steakhouse, Sirio Ristorante, Julian Serrano, BARMASA and Sage. Each participating chef will create a sample-sized portion of a signature dish for guests to taste. Cocktails, wine and beer also will be served. Many of ARIA’s award-winning chefs and restaurateurs will be in attendance including Masa Takayama, Shawn McClain, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Michael Mina and Sirio Maccioni.

Sunday, October 23

11 a.m. Champagne & Caviar Brunch: Hosted by FOOD & WINE Contributing Editor and Wine Expert Anthony Giglio, Jasmine at Bellagio will make guests’ champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true at this buffet brunch set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Bellagio Fountains. Featuring a specialty Bloody Mary Bar created by Bellagio Master Mixologist Matt Myers and brunch favorites from Top Chef Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg.

Bon appetit!

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Filed under Dining, Las Vegas

Pomegranate margaritas to invade Sunset Strip

Have I been under a rock? Rosa Mexicano is opening a second location in L.A.! Why am I just now learning of this?

Between preparing for the any-day-now official launch of  The Jet Set Pets, my new luxury pet travel website,  still trying to survive as a freelance journalist during a time when good reporting is no longer valued and trying to make Bellini for One, my memoir detailing my two-year experience living in Italy, a reality I haven’t had time to stay on top of my food blogs.

So I was pleasantly shocked to read that this summer Rosa will open on the Sunset Strip, replacing Borracho Cantina. L.A. has so many great Mexican restaurants so it’s hard to believe that we need anymore. But if we do then I’m glad that it is Rosa’s, which was one of my favorite places to hang with friends when I lived in New York. I couldn’t have been more thrilled when Rosa’s opened an outpost in downtown L.A. after I returned home. Though I must admit  it’s not as enjoyable as the one on Columbus Avenue — unless you have a designated driver. Even though there are two other Rosa’s in Manhattan, in my opinion, even they don’t compare to the one on the Upper West Side. There’s just something special about sitting across from Lincoln Center, usually with my dear friend Lori Berlin of ESPN (that’s her seated in the middle in the above photo taken at Rosa’s), devouring the best guac in  New York and slurping Rosa’s signature pomegranate margaritas. And then there was José, my fave bartender, who always had a smile on his face.

I can’t wait to see if the latest spot on the Sunset Strip holds a lady of liberty torch to the Lincoln Center location. Though I have a feeling I know what my answer will be.

What’s your favorite Rosa Mexicano locale?

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Filed under Dining, Friendship, Los Angeles, New York

Eat Pray Love: Take Two

Count me among the over six million people to buy Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. And count me among the many who didn’t finish the  New York Times bestseller. My gold Oleg Cassini bookmark is right where I left it three years ago. On page 72.

It would seem that I, of all people, would be able to relate to Liz’s story for I too had moved to Italy on a quest. But unlike Liz, who embarked on a “search for everything” after her marriage failed, I went to eat, drink and pray for love. And she, unlike me, had a finite number of days she wanted to spend in the boot-shaped country before moving on to more serene pastures in India and Bali. I went in 2003 with the notion that I’d never leave Italy, which I ended up calling home for just two years due to the weak dollar and failure to find a Count worth marrying. Still, I was eager to read about her soul-searching journey and saved the book until a three-week sojourn to China in spring 2007. During a brief solo stay at the desolate Red Capital Ranch, where I hiked alone along a crumbling and non-restored Great Wall, I struggled to get into the book. Although I dog-eared some pages and put stars next to passages that resonated with me, it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped. Finally I gave up.

I thought it was just me who couldn’t get through the book but over the past few years oodles of people, mostly writers, have confessed that they didn’t finish it either. Just before the theater lights dimmed at last night’s screening, a colleague seated nearby told me that neither she nor her boss cared for the book either. (I’m sure Liz doesn’t care any more than, say John Grisham or Dan Brown, two commendable storytellers whose prose don’t match up to their book sales.) My failure to connect with Liz’s words didn’t stop me from wanting to see Julia Roberts, whom I adore, portray the author on the big screen for in the end it is the subject that fascinates me most.

Rarely is a movie better than the book on which it was based but even those who couldn’t stomach reading Eat Pray Love should enjoy the flick. I know I did. With my recent month-long stay in Tropea and few days in Rome still fresh in my mind, I salivated at the Italian scenes. The days of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) and outings with female ex-pats and local men were reminiscent of my time in Firenze and Positano when lengthy dinners like the one in the photo above taken in Positano were common. Brava to Julia for nailing the Italian accent and the filmmakers for capturing the essence of my adopted country. (Although I’ve never seen such chaos in trying to order a cup of coffee anywhere in Italy.) Most of the dialogue isn’t memorable and another round of editing is needed. But the acting, characters, colors and cinematography captured my attention — and made me want to book a flight abroad.

Outside of my visits to several spas, I didn’t fall in love with Bali when I visited in 2000 but maybe that’s because I didn’t meet anyone as sexy as Javier Bardem.

I’m willing to give Indonesia another try. And despite having a visa for India in my passport, I never took the trip. I’m sure I’ll get there. Some day.

And maybe one day I’ll finish reading Eat Pray Love. I promised myself I would and now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m more inclined to do so. It says something that I moved the book from my Upper East Side apartment to Harlem then to L.A. If I didn’t want it, I would have tossed it when packing my belongings for each move. When I opened the book last night after returning from the screening I found the Oleg bookmark with the words, “To be well dressed is a little like being in love.”

Two people who can attest to that are Liz Gilbert and Felipe.



Filed under Beauty, Dating, Dining, Fashion, Harlem, Italy, Travel, Wine

Next time I’ll ignore the little man

I’m minding my business, wearing a pink Betty Boop tank top, Levis jean mini-skirt and Target flip-flops, waiting for my take-out lunch at Viva Fresh, anxious for my first Mexican food and Bud Light Lime in several weeks due to my travels to Italy, France and Monaco. A short white man, 60ish I suppose, approaches me and says, “You’re so tall and I’m so short. How tall are you, 6-foot-2?”

“No, 6-foot-1.”

I stare down on his pink scalp and make the mistake of asking him how tall he is as I try to pass the time while waiting for my food and the U.S. World Cup team to score against Ghana.

“5-foot-4,” he says, obviously pleased that I didn’t tell him to go f&^* himself.  “I used to be 5-foot-7 but you shrink as you get older.”

“So I guess I’ll end up 5-foot-10 at some point,” I say with a laugh.

Then he tells me that he dates a sister and that she’s out of town. I remind him of her, he says.

“Oh, is she 6-foot-1?” I ask.

“No, but she’s a sista,” he says.

As if I hadn’t heard him the first time. Now it was time to ignore him and turn away, as I should have done in the first place.

I’m sure the Black girlfriend does not exist. It was the little man’s way of letting me know he’s available and open to Black women should I decide to step down to his level.  Or am I just jumping to conclusions?


Filed under Dating, Dining, Italy, race, Sports

Is it time to meet his mama?

Just as Layne and I were complaining vehemently about Tropea men not knowing how to properly treat women, we go out Saturday night and meet due fratelli (two brothers) who show us a good time and can teach these men around here a thing or two.
We met them at a restaurant when Paolo fell innamorato (in love) with me at first sight. Seriously. He couldn’t take his eyes off of me the entire time. Eventually his group, which included his fun brother Giampiero and a quieter friend, Carlo, joined me and Layne at our table. I followed as much of the conversation in Italian as I could and had Layne translate every so often. Giampiero wanted to practice his English but I said no. I need to practice my Italian more so let me tough it out. We drank wine and grappa and danced (my friends know that I do NOT dance so this was huge), at one point joining arms and jumping up and down in a circle. If only I had a photo of that!

And we cheered on Paolo when he took the mic to sing.

When I went to the toilet, Paolo told Layne that he was in love with me. It was quite apparent.

 Then we hit another spot for more wine and conversation. I learned to make sure I enunciate well after accidentally dropping the “d” when I said ho ordinato (I ordered) and it came out ho orinato, which means “I peed,” and caused both Giampiero and Paolo to quickly correct me in unison. I remembered years ago when I started studying Italian and I made a similar mistake in school when I tried to say to the class that every afternoon I take un pisolino (a nap) but instead I said every afternoon I take a little penis. I thought about sharing this with the guys but decided against it. Finally around 3:30 a .m., the trio walked Layne and I to our door. We made plans to get together the next morning.

The boys, who conveniently were staying at a bed and breakfast right across the street, were to come to our place to cook lunch before they returned to their respective cities. Giampiero, who boasted of his cooking skills, said he would buy the food and we didn’t have to worry about anything. Sounded easy enough. But nothing is ever easy in Italia.

Paolo showed up alone at the appointed time. I was still getting dressed and Layne said something about him going to get the other two and then we were going out for lunch, which was fine with us. Then all three return with a Nespresso machine in a box that had never been opened and we had espresso. Giampiero opened the kitchen cabinets to check out the cookware and deemed the pots and pans adequate enough for him to make us a meal. The next thing I know, we’re all leaving.  Layne and I weren’t really sure where we were going. Wasn’t somebody supposed to be cooking for us? Even Lucy was confused. She was in the kitchen with the five of us, hoping some food would drop on the floor. But there was nothing but espresso. The trio talked about getting tartufo (truffle) pizza and we said yes, great! There was more confusion on the street. Layne and I thought we were walking to a pizzeria in Tropea but then there was talk about whether I would fit in Paolo’s car. (My height was a never-ending joke which got on my nerves but I kept smiling.) Okay, this meant we were driving somewhere. Somehow the five of us crammed into the Audi and off we went. Where to? I didn’t have the slightest idea.

Our first stop was at a fruit and vegetable stand a few blocks away and only Giampiero exited the car. Huh? I’m thinking we could have walked here. I wondered if Layne was as clueless as me. After all, her Italian is great and I’m figuring she picked up on something that I didn’t so I was fine to go along for the ride. Paolo, who drove, and me, who rode shotgun, munched on delicious dried tomatoes and bananas that Giampiero bought, still not knowing where we were going. I just knew I needed food because I had skipped breakfast in order to get my beauty sleep. Giampiero, a true Alpha male with an engaging personality, was soooo much fun that it didn’t matter where we went. As long as we ate at some point. I was getting to know Paolo with my bad Italian and Giampiero entertained Layne, whose language skills I envy. Paolo learned English when he was in school but hasn’t spoken it in a long time. Giampiero is studying English again and loves practicing. For me, it’s frustrating having to concentrate so hard to speak. (Yeah, I guess I could go to school here and I MIGHT next week but I’m on vacanze!) I tuned out the conversation when Jay-Z’s and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind came on in the car.

By the time we ended up in a crumbling yet charming town called Pizzo about 30 minutes away Layne was nauseous from sitting in the back seat scrunched between two grown men with little air. Windy roads, espresso on an empty stomach and a backseat apparently don’t work well for her. But once we got out of the car, her head cleared and she asked me what’s going on. Neither of us knew but we figured we would have lunch. She said she told the guys to leave us at the piazza after lunch (really so we could continue to drink wine without them knowing how much we drink) and take Carlo, who had an early flight, to the airport, then to come back and get us. And that way there would be more room in the car. But Paolo couldn’t bear to leave me. (Can you blame him???) Giampiero had made phone calls but we were still basically clueless as to the plan.

We climbed stairs, walked past apartments with laundry hanging from windows and flower boxes overflowing with colorful fiori before ending up in a piazza with a lookout point over a beautiful body of water.

A cousin came to the piazza and Paolo, introduced me as his fidanzata (girlfriend).  Layne and I assumed there was still tartufo pizza somewhere in the plans but we sat down at a gelateria, where I ate tartufo gelato, which was quite good.

Now we understood. The cousin was there to take Carlo to the airport. That left the four of us, who trudged back to Paolo’s car and discussed what we were going to do. I’m thinking finally we’re going to have the tartufo pizza they’ve been talking about. But no. Instead we feast on a delicious seafood meal and drink wine on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking blue and green waters.

I had filled up on the big bowl of ice cream and the banana so for once in my life I wasn’t that hungry. I even begged off pasta after eating two seafood dishes first. And after I warned Paolo that I eat A LOT. (I think he was scared but better to prepare him first than shock him later.)

During lunch Paolo asked if I’d like to come home and meet his mama and of course me, playing along, replied si. (Mothers always love me. It’s the sons who don’t for some odd reason.) He called his mama from his mobile and told her about me, that I’m as tall as he is and have curly hair. That’s as much as I picked up though I’m sure he must have used the word bella. Suddenly he handed me the phone for me to talk to my soon-to-be mother-in-law. I quickly corrected myself when I spoke to her, going from the informal to the formal. I told her she has raised two fine sons, which she appreciated. She giggled like a schoolgirl (I think she was a teacher) as we try to communicated and then she passed the phone to her youngest son, Dino, whom I chatted with for a moment before I gave the phone back to Paolo. Now la famiglia knows about me – the father died last October – and by now I’m sweating from the sun beating down on us and my nervousness. We move out of the sun but still enjoy the view.

As it turned out, I didn’t go home with Paolo, an attorney with no kids or a girlfriend, to meet his mother Sunday night. He drove back to Tropea, dropped me and Layne off, then took his brother Giampiero, who lives in Rome, to the airport.

By the next day, it seemed like every man in Tropea knew we hung out with other men. One of Layne’s more athletic admirers was quite hurt and questioned Layne as to why she would rather go out with a big guy than him while another seemed relieved to hear that it was Paolo who was innamorato with me. (Both Layne and I absolutely adore Giampiero, who too bad for Layne is married because they both live in Rome, and we would take him and his extra pounds over a chiseled sex-starved jerk any day. For the record, Giampiero was a perfect gentleman.)

Meanwhile, Paolo, also a perfect gentleman who lives 120 kilometers away from Tropea, said his mother asked how come I didn’t come for dinner and when will she meet me. We chatted on Skype and I told him I had just talked to my brother. He wanted to know if I had told Kevin about him yet. Well, not just yet, I said. Will I go home with him and meet la mama? We’ll see. If I do, I have to make sure I know the word “nap” from “little penis” and “order” from “pee.”


Filed under Dating, Dining, Italy, Lucy, Travel, Wine