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Chicken and Chips

A Chicken and Chip Dinner in a Hotel, July 2009
We’d booked on internet a Great Western hotel between Verona and Vicenza at what seemed like a bargain price. And so it turned out to be. Either new or newly refitted, and a great plus for us was that it had a swimming pool that you could swim in (as opposed to just pose alongside), in a pleasant garden with the main Verona-to-Venice railway line running past the end of the garden. So you couldn’t get bored, even while swimming. The hotel was obviously trying hard to attract custom by means of promotions, one of which we’d picked up on. And good luck to it.
The hotel was trying hard and one group of people it appeared to have succeeded with was Serbs, from Belgrade. There was an extended family of Serbs. It’s nice to know that Serbs are getting the opportunity to get out and about at last.
Dinner was in an over-elaborate dining room presided over by a little chap with a moustache. He presented us with the rather extensive and fancy menu, which was in Italian and which we proceeded to peruse and come to some decisions. After a while the moustachioed man came to our table and said, ‘Sprechen sie Deutsch?’ This is not the first time in Italian restaurants that we are thought at first to be German. We replied in Italian that we spoke Italian and he said, in Italian: Benissimo, then may I offer some advice? It’s quite normal for an Italian waiter to offer advice, and even more normal for the customer to ask the waiter for his advice – the Italian word for advice in this context is consiglio – rather like the English word, counsel.
Moustachio advised that there was a special on tonight, two courses and coffee for only 15 euros. Tonight’s special consisted of spaghetti all’amatriciana (a sauce of tomatoes, onions and fat bacon) followed by chicken and chips. And may we add an antipasto from the buffet table? Si, for an extra five euros. So we did that. The help-yourself antipasto was extensive but fairly tasteless; the spaghetti all’amatriciana was not too bad (or, more grammatically accurate for fear of being ignominiously corrected by someone: were not too bad), and the chicken and chips tasted just like . . . chicken and chips.
Banking on the monolinguals
It seems that the restaurant had a big menu in a red folder to look swish, but was banking on no one who was not Italian being able to understand it, at which point the waiter comes along and explains in either German or English that he advises tonight’s special. There were some Italians in the dining room too, mostly also eating the special, though one somewhat elegantly-dressed slim blonde woman of about forty came in, evidently staying there on business, and ordered something we didn’t catch, and which turned out to be a sheet of brown paper full of shellfish, baby octopus etc, deep-fried in batter. A kind of shell fish and chips without the chips.
The woman spent the entire dinner either talking on or fiddling with her mobile phone, and picking at the deep-fried items in a rather unenthusiastic way. She ate about a third of it, and apologised to moustachio that it was just too much for her, and then went on her way. Apart from her – and we smelled the deep fried batter as the waiter brought the parcel to her table and it smelled rather considerably like deep-fried batter – apart from her everyone seemed to eat the special: chicken and chips.
And there’s nothing wrong with chicken and chips, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with anything. But if you’re going to do it, do it with panache. Quite hard to do chicken and chips in style. I’ll have to see if I can find an example where it has been done impressively.


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