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Al Dente

So, last time, I had us just leaving Polcari’s Coffee. It was time, now, for lunch. And we had...plans...for lunch. Serious plans.

And they all involved the Al Dente Ristorante, which can be found in the physical universe at 109 Salem St. Boston, MA 02113, and in the virtual one, on the web, at

Okay, we’ve got history with Al Dente. We’ve gone there for years, and years, and years.

I don’t remember how we found it. By accident, surely. There are dozens of restaurants in the North End. And we’ve been to many of them. But, somehow, over the years, Al Dente has become our favorite. It is just a little place. Very much the proverbial hole in the wall. But it is comfortable. The light is, at night, subdued. There is much wood in the decor, and the tables are in a double row.

And the food...the food!... is terrific.

About the photos: My usual two today. First, an interior shot of Al Dente’s. Like I say, it’s cozy.

As I say, we’ve been going there for least, we went there when we lived in Massachusetts. It was where we went for special occasions, for celebrations, and consolations. We went there for birthdays and holidays and just-for-the-hell-of-it. We went there when David graduated from high school, and, a few years later, when he was admitted to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts affiliated with Tufts. It was where we went again when he was admitted to the graduate school of architecture at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

It was not where we went when we learned that he and Emily had plans to marry. But, that was only because by then we were living in New Mexico. Ah, but if we’d had a Lear jet and a vast personal fortune, doubtless we would have given it a try.


And, while we’re on the subject of weddings, when we were still in Massachusetts, it became the place we went each year to celebrate our anniversary. And, yes, I’ve got a story about that. One year we went and it was, for some reason, a quiet evening at the restaurant. I think it was a weekday night, and perhaps we were unfashionably early. But, anyway, there were only a few other people in the place, and we were sitting and chatting and holding hands and looking at each other that way that couples will do on date nights.

We realized that some of the waitresses were in the corner, watching us. We didn’t quite know what to make of that. Then, I guess, they realized that we’d seen them. Anyone, one of them -- a middle aged woman with blonde hair -- detached herself the group and came up to us.

“We want to know,” she said, “if you two are married.”

We looked at her, a little startled, but not offended, and I said yes, we were. In fact, this was our anniversary. I didn’t remember which number it was. Martha provided that.

“And you’re still holding hands...that’s so cool,” she said, and hurried back to tell her friends.

Second, Martha eating Italian food...but not, oddly enough, at Al Dente’s. (I neglected to take a picture of her there.) So here, instead, is her having a bite at Piccolino, an excellent Italian restaurant in Santa Fe (of all places). I’ll be writing a great deal more about Piccolino in the near future when I discuss our most recent New Mexico trip.

We spoke to her about it later. It seems that they had been wondering, you see, about our status. Apparently, in their line of work, they’d seen a lot of courting couples recently...of all ages, sizes, and descriptions...being affectionate with one another. And they’d seen a lot of married couples, also of all ages, sizes, and descriptions. But, of late, it had been rare for the two groups to, as it were, overlap.

And so, we were a nice change, she said, for the evening.

We were flattered by our special status as happily married couple. But we also a little saddened by the fact that we seemed to be rare.

(One sweet additional detail. I hesitate to mention because I don’t want people going into the restaurant and thinking they get special treatment just by being, or by pretending to be, on their anniversaries. But, anyway, the staff ended the evening by giving us both tiny glasses of limoncello liqueur. Like I say, we were delighted, and toasted one another with it. But, like I also say, when you visit, don’t expect the same thing. It was an unusual moment, and probably not to be duplicated soon.)

But, getting back to our trip this summer. That afternoon, we headed for Al Dente’s. We got lucky and there was a party leaving as we came to the door. Plus, we were there at an off time. And so we were seated.

I got my usual Spaghetti Carbonara. When I sat down to write this, I didn’t remember what Martha had, so I was forced to ask her. “Oh, Chicken Piccata,” she said. “That’s been my go-to lately.” I remembered, then, yes. That is her usual dish at Italian restaurants. It’s got sautéed chicken, garlic, and capers. What more could you ask?

We ordered wine -- white wine, though it isn’t traditional. When we were younger, it was always red wine with Italian food. But, alas, that was years ago. Martha was never really fond of it, and now she actually dislikes it. Me, I used to enjoy red wine, but for the last five years, I seem to have lost the ability to digest it. Ah well, such is the price is growing older. And considering the alternative, that’s not so bad.

Anyway, we ate. It was wonderful.

We finished. But we weren’t quite ready to call it a day. There was still one more ritual we needed to carry out.

And that’s for next time.

More to come.


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