Rome

A sweet tale of gelato and a kiss

by Rebecca Bricker on January 20, 2013

This may be the sweetest story ever told about gelato and the happiness it brings.

The tale begins earlier this week, when I was in Rome for a little Roman Holiday. I had many things on my list to do and see. But near the top was Giolitti – a famous gelateria that opened its doors in 1900. Its decor hasn’t changed much since then – its marble, mirrors and massive chandeliers evoke another era.

I stood in awe before Giolitti’s immense freezer case that offered at least 40 flavors.

“I need a minute to decide,”  I told the man behind the counter.

“You like?” he asked, pointing to the vast array of gelato tubs.

 

“It’s amazing.” (If you haven’t guessed by now, gelato is my favorite food group.)

He disappeared for a minute and came back with a gray-haired man in a white jacket. “He makes the gelato,” the Man-behind-the-Counter informed me.

I can’t quite explain what happened next. I’ve never in my life (not once!) ever said this to a man…

“Will you marry me?” I asked the gelato maker.

He liked the idea instantly, I could tell.

His name is Orfeo – Or-FAY-o (not OR-fee-o, as I pronounced it the first time, in my American way).

The Man-behind-the-Counter grabbed my camera and snapped a photo of Orfeo and me. “Kiss! Kiss!” he implored as he snapped away.

“After the wedding,” I said demurely.

Orfeo offered me his arm. He took me to a table and presented a menu.

“Tell me your favorite flavors,” I asked him, trusting him implicitly.

Orfeo suggested cioccolatto fondente (deeply dark chocolate), pistacchio and crema marrone (chestnut), which, he confided, was Pope John Paul II’s favorite flavor. When Michelle Obama visited Giolitti with her daughters, he told me, the girls ordered banana and pistacchio.

I went with Orfeo’s top three and ordered a cappuccino to counteract the chill of gelato on a winter’s day.

Within minutes, a cappuccino arrived unlike any I’ve ever ordered. Stenciled in the foam: A chocolate-dusted heart and the name “Mario.”

Mario?

Mario appeared and Orfeo introduced him as Giolitti’s “dirretore.” Orfeo took my camera and a few photos of me with Mario.

I suddenly felt like my life was changing in an afternoon.

Orfeo served my three scoops in a tall glass – the Pope’s favorite flavor on top. Orfeo took another photo as I lifted my spoon – and then smiled at my look of sheer bliss as I savored the first taste.

He appeared a bit later with a Bacio chocolate for me and then with Giolitti’s wi-fi code. I sensed he wanted me to linger and I did. I took out my journal and started writing this sweet story.

He and I chatted and exchanged e-mail addresses. I gave him my card, which has the cover of my book.

“Will you autograph this for me?” he asked sweetly.

As we said good-bye, he kissed me on both cheeks. Then he pretended to write on the palm of his hand.

“I will write to you – before the wedding,” I promised.

I said good-bye to the Man-behind-the-Counter, with Orfeo at my side.

“Thank you for introducing us,” I told him. “We’ll invite you to the wedding.”

“I’ll be there!”

At the front door, I turned around to take one last look.

Orfeo was watching me and waved.

I saved Orfeo’s Bacio chocolate for a bedtime treat. Tucked inside the foil of Bacio chocolates is a little piece of translucent paper, printed with a saying about love and kisses (baci).

I pulled out the slip of paper, smudged with a little chocolate. It read:

The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.