The portrait (for it was a portrait, not a merely a painting) of a horse on a red background, hung on the wall of the Kori Ristorante near San Marco. RJ had a perfect view of it, and the horse was staring at him. Though we had come by to drop off a book to Lorenzo, one of the waiters, we now had unplanned seats next to the mirrored wall. Lorenzo was to deliver the book to our friends Laura and B, who were home in the UK visiting family. A couple summers ago we had met Lorenzo when we all spent Redentore together on a party boat captained by Boat Jesus, a long haired, silent guy who motored us just under the fireworks so that we felt the ash fall on our heads and into our eyes.
While dropping off the book was the plan, things didn’t quite play out that way. Lorenzo asked, “Beve qualcosa?” And though I had planned to not drink any alcohol today since I felt a tickle of a cold coming on, I just couldn’t say no to his eager offer. So we sat by the mirrored wall, across from the red horse, while Lorenzo pulled up two enormous wine glasses and poured prosecco into them, and then saw that the bottle was nearly empty and poured the rest. I didn’t have the willpower to face that no.
Then Lorenzo returned and said, “Do you want the crazy cake? Come, I show you.” He gestured with his hand sweeping toward the ground for me to follow him, down the steps, around the corner past the other diners to see that he meant a panettone. “Okay,” of course I replied, because who has the willpower to say no to free crazy cake?
He brought an enormous plate with an enormous slice of panettone on it, drenched in yellow cream and sprinkled with cinnamon. Now, I always thought panettone was kind of dry, but I had never had it like this before. We gobbled it up. RJ said, “There must be some story behind that horse.”
“I can ask Lorenzo, ‘e’ una storia del cavallo rosso?’” I said, trying to figure out the right Italian words. “I like how storia means history but also the story of it. It makes history seem more like storytelling, more interesting.”
At this point RJ was helping me finish my prosecco since, really, I was trying to not come down with a cold. “I think I’ve drunk half a bottle of prosecco,” he said. “Is the bathroom upstairs?”
Oddly, when he said that, I flashed on a memory. My first Carnevale a dozen years ago with Karen, Dawn, and Wilson. That was the night that Karen, Dawn, and I met the Four Gentlemen of Verona at a pasta bar and toasted across the crowd, then we girls changed into our costumes and raced across town to find them in this restaurant. It had different décor then—not the leathered upholstered walls and metal stairs and gilded chair. And who knows if the red horse was there then? But I remember squishing into the upstairs booth with the Four Gentlemen and then waiting in line for the bathroom with a gorilla.
As I put on my coat and recounted this story to RJ, Lorenzo came by. “Oh no no,” he said, and grabbed a fresh bottle of prosecco and refilled our glasses. Maybe alcohol will kill the germs that bring on a cold. But it would be rude to turn down his gift. So we drank up.
We snuck on our coats while Lorenzo waited on a table across the room. After thanking him for everything, we asked, “Is there a story for the red horse, the cavallo rosso?”
Lorenzo called out to his boss, who was at the register, “E’ una storia?” The boss cocked one eyebrow and shook his head. “There is no story,” Lorenzo reported. “We don’t know why it is there.”
(I’m sorry I don’t have photos with these yet. When I get to the land of easy internet, I will post the photos. Right now I’m am poaching internet from the backside of a cafe where we had coffee a couple days ago!)