Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Another amusing language failure, but not entirely my fault this time

Just when I think my Italian is good enough to meet my needs for daily living, something strange happens. Could be it’s just a fulfillment of the Biblical proverb “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” I only wish all my falls could be humorous, like the one that happened to us two days ago in an enoteca in Pitigliano. Lucy and I were having dinner with my brother and his wife at the PanCaciUa, and we asked to have the bill split in two. “Possiamo avere due conti, per favore?” we said.

After we completed our order, the cameriera returned a few minutes later to verify that she had everything correct. Rosemary had ordered crostini and zuppa, Roger insalata mista, a mixed salad. Correct. Lucy and I wanted to split a lasagna bianca. A glass of vino bianco for Rosemary, and the rest of us would share a litro of acqua naturale. Tutto corretto. And then, due conti, vero? Yes, that’s right. Perfect.

We were about half way through the meal when two huge antipasti plates were delivered. What in the world was this? It was exactly what we ordered, the waitress insisted, reminding us that she had even returned to verify the order. She listed back everything we had ordered, ending with the “due conti.”

We didn’t argue, but I’m sure she could read the bewilderment on our faces. After she left, we discussed how we could have made such a mistake. Suddenly our looks of confusion turned to smiles, and then hearty laughter, and now we could see that the waitress, watching us from a distance, looked bewildered.

Note the second to last antipasto: Bruschettone del Conte.
The word for a restaurant bill is il conto, and the plural of conto is conti. But one of the antipasto dishes was named the“Conte.” The plural of conte is also conti. An Italian couple dining at the next table had been listening, and they understood exactly what had happened. They quickly explained to the waitress and the cook, and then we all had another good laugh. Lucy gratefully accepted one “conte,” and the waitress took the other back to the kitchen.

Italy is a beautiful place to visit, but we often find that one fantastic attraction blends with another, and a year later we can’t remember exactly what we saw. Instead, incidents like our “due conti” may remain with us for life and will make up our fondest memories. And that’s part of why we continue to be fascinated by travel.

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