Ever since il Fornello first opened its doors on Bloor Street at Bathurst in Toronto I have loved it. I have loved its wood-fired ovens that produce a pizza crust to bring tears to the most calloused palate. I have loved its decor and music, its wine and aqua minerale, its caesar salads and its spiced oil to drizzle over the aforementioned pizzas from heaven. I have loved this restaurant so much that it is the setting for a scene in the novel, Weather Vane where four friends discuss the chaos theory, clarity in perception, and dance theatre. A romance also begins to bud.
This solstice evening I had the great good fortune to sit on the patio at the Danforth location with my lovely friend, Lucinda. I had invited her to choose a restaurant in which to celebrate her birthday, and I was like Augie Doggie from cartoon days gone by when she chose il Fornello. The evening was warm and the patio was packed. Ten dollar Tuesdays may have been part of reason for the overflow. All the pizzas are priced at ten bucks on Tuesdays now. For me, that’s a far superior offering than half-priced movies, for several reasons. The most crucial one is that Tuesdays are the day of the week I work in Toronto.
We ordered an insalata misto to share for starters. I have invariably chosen the caesar salad, but Lucinda chose the mixed greens so I joined her. When I took my first bite of that beautiful salad I was instantly reminded of the scene from I am Love, where Tilda Swinton bites into a prawn dish prepared for her by the man she will soon know intimately. The look on her face reflected a secret moment of pure ecstasy – just a pause, a tiny smile, but so evocative of all that lit up inside when she tasted that morsel. This salad was not drizzled or gobbed up with dressing, you couldn’t even say that it was coated, although flavour and juiciness stroked the tongue as each vibrant leaf made its way from lips to throat. Lemon, pepper, some dance of oil through everything… We murmured through the entire generous plate of salad.
And then came the pizza – crisp, thin crust moist on the inside – mine had prosciutto, artichoke hearts olives and mozzarella. Lucinda had the Quatro Staggione – each of the quarters with a different topping. We laughed. We ate. We talked about men and about the business of getting older. We talked about writing and art and literature. We spoke of friendship and love, money and family. And our conversation was punctuated again and again with comments about the pleasure of eating this exquisitely prepared food.
One of the things Lucinda had offered to do was to help my with my %(**&^&*^#^% synopsis, so she asked me to bring my laptop in order for us to tackle it after dinner. But as we finished our meal, I commented, Wow, I think someone’s mussels are off. The smell of fish had wafted across our table. And the patio had cleared out. After a while I noticed that huge yellow bags sat on the curb just beyond the patio. It was garbage night. So we sat in the fish ooze stink of the first evening of summer and doctored up my synopsis.
Luckily none of that smell rubbed off and I now have a decent piece of writing that reflects Weather Vane in an interesting and succinct manner.
I reflect now on most of my collective writing experiences. They are usually if not always preceded by the sharing of wonderful food. Sometimes it’s a potluck, sometimes Sue will prepare all the food for the entire day, as in Sanctuary Sunday, or it is catered in a residential setting, and sometimes it’s just sitting down in a restaurant and sharing good food. We feast and talk about writing, publishing, editing, ideas and we eat some more. Then we write. And the writing flows. Feeding the body is feeding the muse, perhaps. But I’m not so sure it’s the food as much as it is the sharing of food, or maybe it’s the spirit of sharing itself that greases the wheels of creation.
In any case, I love food, I love writing, and I love my friends. Any way you look at it, it’s a great combination.