Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I have begun the Augean labors of major housecleaning, and I am already encountering the usual serendipity problem. My house is so cluttered with junk that pretty much wherever I go to clean I will encounter something I had forgotten about, and be captivated by it. Today's exhibit is a huge trove of restaurant business cards from my earlier life. Each one is a vivid, and not always welcome, memory.

On the front full-color picture of a typical German hotel with fat and happy Germans Pension zum Rosenbaum 39010 NALS Sudtirol. This was a restaurant I took Penny to in Bolzano when she came to visit me in Italy. Bolzano was a place I had always wanted to visit, and it lived up to my expectations: All the cleanliness and order of Germany, all the charm and warmth (and climate) of northern Italy, in a magnificent vineyarded valley surrounded by the Dolomites. What makes me sad to find it is the other side of the card, which is a calendar of the year 1998.

Kartoffel Haus, Frankenstrasse 423, 4300 Essen. I have Essen memorized, but I was only there three times, once in 1995 with Chessex (where I paid my own way to the show, and worked at the booth), and in 1996 and 97 with Stratelibri. Essen is a small, utterly charmless city in the middle of the Ruhr, and I remember it not for the biggest-in-the-world game fair, but for the people I spent time with there, Holger and Uli and the other Uli, and Fitzroy demanding schwein, which led us to the Kartoffel Haus.

Porcao Churrascaria, via Abaddesse 30, 20124 Milano. Once, Giovanni took me to this glorious Brazilian restaurant for a meeting with A., that rare person, a competitor that Giovanni didn't despise. A. came from money but not from sense, and was forever outbidding everyone in Italy for licenses, but never managing to get any product out. In conversation he would only speak about the other licenses he planned to buy in the future, while Giovanni sat there deadpan, encouraging him to buy even more things. Baiting A. was one of Giovanni's favorite pastimes.

Coppa d'Oro Ristorante-Pizzeria Italo-Cinese, via Monfalcone 1, 20099 Sesto San Giovanni. Sesto San Giovanni was the suburb immediately north of Milan, and I would walk to this place, about a mile and a half away from where I lived. I only got pizza there, though--it always like there was something terribly wrong about ordering Chinese food in Italy. This was the only place in Sesto that I could stand--everyone else in that silly town would glare at me when they found out that I was an American, and made it a point to inform me smugly that their last vacation was in Cuba. Not the friendly Chinese people at the Coppad'Oro, though--they were always happy to take my money.

Tadsch Mahal, Frauentorgraben 39, 8500 Nurnberg. I've been to four Nuremberg Toy Fairs, the last one in 2000, which was the last time I was ever in Europe; every time there I would go to two places: a Konditorei in the middle of the old city which has the greatest desserts I have ever tasted, and the Tadsch Mahal, which is a lovely Indian restaurant. (I don't have the same reluctance to eat nonindigenous food in Germany that I do in Italy, obviously).

L'Orlogio, via Bellotti 4, 20129 Milano. Giovanni's favorite restaurant. He would go there only occasionally, as if he didn't want to get too used to it.

Lakruwana Gourmet Restaurant, 358 West 44th, New York, NY. The only Sri Lankan restaurant I've ever eaten in. I ate there with Giovanni when he came to the New York Toy Fair in February 1997, a trip which was the longest sustained period I've ever spent in Manhattan, and at the time I came to like it far too much. But I don't think Giovanni ever recovered physically from this trip, and that in retrospect makes the memory a bitter one.

Neecha, 2100 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94115. A Thai place I went to in February 2001 with Norman and Quan when she and I went out to visit him. As usual, I challenged the chef to make the curry too hot for me to eat.

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