Louis has family in Rome, and he asks me to go visit them for him. They’re his second cousins or something along those lines, and there are three brothers who own a pizzaria not far from the Spanish steps, he tells me. Also, as a bonus, it’s supposed to be the best pizza in Rome, although my source may be biased. “Go early,” he tells me “it can get crowded.”
I take the metro to Spagna and head down Via Condotti. Valentino, Prada, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel line the street, displaying impossibly high heels and beaded dresses and delicious leather handbags. Behind me, the sun is setting. At the end of the street, there’s a huge sign for Fendi, and a triangular mess of small streets, and I duck into the Via Leoncino and find myself face to face with the pizzaria.
There’s a man at the door who I find out later is called Antonio, and I remember that I should have been practicing my Italian on the way over to try to explain the point of my visit. I get as far as “yo sono…” and then ask if he speaks English. Not very well, he says, and thinks I want something to eat when I try to tell him who I am. I shake my head.
“La familia DiConti,” I say, “In America. You know? I am the girlfriend of Luigi DiConti.”
He is intrigued, but still very confused, so he takes me back to the pizza oven and finds someone who speaks slightly more English than he does. It is enough to get the point across. I find a photo on the wall of Marc, Louis’ father, from when all the family but Louis came to visit the Italian cousins, and point. Antonio asks me, in Italian, which one of the brothers pictured is my boyfriend. I shake my head. He says, oh, he was the one in Iraq. I nod. “Si, si,” I say. Is he still in Iraq, or did he come back? Asks Antonio. I gesture cheerfully to indicate that in fact, he has come back.
At this point, two other older men, the other two brothers who own the pizzaria, come out and kiss me on both cheeks. They welcome me in Italian, and I sit down, and order in (bad) Italian. That much I can do. My pizza comes, along with my sparkling water, and a few locals come in and sit down. I can hear Antonio explaining to one well-dressed couple who I am. The man speaks English, and he tells me, grandly, that this is the best place for Roman pizza in all of Rome. It’s the best pizza I’ve had in Rome, anyway. It is nothing like American pizza, and the crust is so thin in spots that it crumbles like a cracker. The olives, salty and plump, still have the pits in them.
I finish the entire pizza, and I ask the waiter for the bill. He goes off, and Antonio comes back. “No, no,” he says, waving his hand at me. He turns and asks the couple to translate for him.
“No, no,” the woman repeats, waving her hand.
“It’s only one pizza,” the man finishes for Antonio.
The other two brothers come out again and kiss me goodbye, along with Antonio. They say to give their regards to Luigi and Marco. I nod. The well-dressed man repeats this for me in English case I haven’t understood.
And then I head back towards the metro, with a full stomach, smiling.