It was also Mothers' Day when my family celebrated my wife's milestone birthday. Other than celebrating several important events at the same time, the fact meant that there would be major traffic around the New York metropolitan area. After a night staying with friends in Manhattan, we drove out to La Guardia Airport Sunday morning to pick up our son, who had flown up from New Orleans. With time to kill before our 3PM early family dinner at L&B Spumoni Gardens, we decided to take a ride out to Jersey to pay a visit with my father-in-law. Having had a nice visit, we left for Brooklyn with what we thought would still be plenty of time even accounting for some traffic. Unfortunately, we had forgotten what holiday traffic could be like around NYC. A trip that should have taken less than an hour took over two.
My siblings and I have had a tradition when each of us or our spouses turned 50 of treating each other and our spouses to dinner at a restaurant of the birthday celebrant's choosing. Past restaurants have included Aldea, Il Mulino, The Four Seasons, Jean-Georges, Molyvos and Windows on the World amongst others. Despite the illustrious names mentioned, my wife didn't want anything too fancy, elaborate or expensive. What she desired was a restaurant that would bring back memories of family dining experiences we shared back in the '80's when we were dating. My family would get together to share meals at some Brooklyn Italian-American classics like Monty's in Carroll Gardens. They were meals at which we could enjoy good food and each other's company and they were good times that brought my non-Italian-American wife into the fold.
We were late thanks to the rubber-neckers in Staten Island and food was already on the table. My tension from driving through stop-and-go traffic started to dissipate as I dove into the baked clams, LB's famous Sicilian style pizza, fried shrimp, mozzarella en carrozza and amazingly good marinated roasted artichoke hearts. At this point, I didn't bother with the salad, as spaghetti with white clam sauce and another pasta with a Bolognese came to the table for, what else?, family style service. With great comradery with family and friends (including family friend Tommy Accariello and his family), plenty of fine food and a relaxed environment, we toasted my wife for her birthday and all the mothers of the family present and not for Mothers' Day with a special magnum of Pol Roger 1990 Millenium Special Edition I brought for the occasion.
Appetizers and pastas are not enough for an Italian-American family on a special occasion. These were followed by halibut francese, veal marsala and grill-roasted steaks to rival the best NYC steakhouses. Sides accompanied these dishes including mashed potatoes (more starch!) and Swiss chard. Reeling from all this food, we were still powerless to stop the onslaught of dessert, spumoni, ice cream, whipped cream, cheese cake, mud cake and a special Italian custard cake from Tommy!
The food was wonderful (we bought two pizzas to bring home and freeze) and the nostalgia was strong. My wife got what she wanted – a dinner to be enjoyed as a family, to reminisce and to create new memories.
Today is my wife's actual birthday. Happy birthday, my love! I love you so, so much!!!!