By Emanuele Stefanori & Michela Guida, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 5 – Who’s the Critic?
Among steaming saucepans and sizzling frying pans, Stefano moves frenetically from one hob to another.
Now that his mother has gone to keep an eye on Oreste it falls to him to manage the orders coming from the dining room as well as preparing the food.
Given that the restaurant does not have many tables, Stefano has never needed help in the kitchen other than Carla to carry out the more simple tasks.
“Everything OK, big brother?”
Chiara enters the kitchen and comes over to where he is working.
“I’ll be OK when this evening’s over,” Stefano replies with a sigh.
“Come on! You’re doing fine!” she says, encouragingly, “Everyone out there is happy with their food and we’ve had a lot of compliments. You’re brilliant!”
Stefano smiles weakly. He moves away from the stove and fills a glass with water. He drinks it slowly, staring in front of him as if lost in thought.
“Trust me! Don’t be so quiet and nervous. Really, everything is going very well… only watch you don’t burn those onions!” Laughing, his sister points to a pan on fire.
“Mamma!” calls Stefano, recovering, “Come here, I need help.”
Chiara returns to the dining room with the dishes ordered for table five, the one near the fireplace. To her dismay, she sees that her father is there, talking to the clients and pouring wine into their glasses.
“Not again! How could he? Didn’t Mamma tell him to stop pestering our guests?” she thinks, as she serves the food.
Oreste takes his daughter by the arm and accompanies her towards the kitchen.
“Now I’ve got it! It’s them!”
“Ah… so there are two of them now?”
“Well, I don’t know… but I’m sure one of them is. He asked me a load of questions about the ingredients and the recipes…”
“And you told him everything?”
“Of course! We need to let them know how we work, that we use only quality products…”
“Papa’, you remember those two people who came here some time ago, who appeared to be husband and wife and were asking for information on all the dishes on the menu…”
“Who? Oh, those damned spies? The ones who were from a restaurant in the next village and were pretending to be ordinary clients so as to steal all our secrets?”
Chiara pats him on the back, grinning broadly and disappears into the kitchen. Left alone, Oreste grasps his daughter’s point and begins to have some doubts.
“Perhaps Chiara’s right, maybe they are just a couple of spies…” he thinks. “Well, I’ll go and check the next table. There’s that sophisticated looking woman, sitting with two other women… Who said the critic has to be a man?”
So, continuing his investigation, Oreste moves from one table to the next until closing time.
By about eleven o’clock, quite a few people have already left and Chiara begins to clear the tables. Only a few clients remain, chatting and drinking an amaro or some other liqueur. Oreste feels satisfied with the way things have gone and believes he has finally identified the critic in the sophisticated lady at table four. But then, just as he turns to go into the kitchen to congratulate Stefano on the excellent job he has done, he hears the sound of the little bell that announces the opening of the restaurant door.
“Good evening! Is it still possible to eat here at this hour?”
Oppure scopri il testo in inglese con traduzione a fronte (.pdf)