This post is a surprise but a very pleasant one. I received a response from an acquaintance and now friend that I met on Oceania Cruise.
I spent 5 months last summer as the Italian Chef in Oceania’s Toscana Restaurant in their Insignia ship. I met guests and coworkers literally from all over the world! To this day I still keep in touch with many of them and it’s one of the better perks of working on a cruise ship.
The story below and input from one passenger that has kept in touch and has placed some ideas and information about two previous blog posts of mine. I am glad and very appreciative of the feedback!
I received a very welcomed e-mail from a woman named PM. Funny name but that is her nickname and what we go by. PM and her family were on the mid-August cruise last year on the Insignia. I met PM along with her mother and two sisters in the dining room of Toscana during busy dinner service.
I was told by her family (in secrete) that it was PM’s birthday and she was not interested in making a big deal of it. The family was all very nice, friendly, well dressed, and taking PM to Toscana to have a quiet “wahoo – happy birthday?”
I could tell PM was a little bit bummed out over the whole “birthday thing.” So, I proceeded to tell her that just a few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday onboard and it was, unfortunately, a day just like any other day.
I told her ” you are very fortunate to be with your mom and two sisters on vacation, all of you are in good healty well and able to enjoy this fantastic ship and this delicious dining experience in Toscana.” I tried to convince her that she most certainly should celebrate in some way since she has been blessed to be with her family on a fantastic holiday cruise!
So, secretly I told the waitress of the section, Ivana, to inform me when PM’s table was done eating. I want to do a birthday celebration for the table. However, the birthday girl doesn’t want all the whistles and bells. Ivana understood and together we thought of a way to still make it special and memorable.
Only three of us from the Toscana team approached the table. Myself, Ivana, and the Matre’d. As we approached the table with a beautiful assortment of our best desserts The faces of everyone lit up, especially PM’s elderly mother!
Once we placed the birthday sweets in front of PM we lit one candle, quietly said happy birthday, smiled, and walked away. Immediately you could tell that the birthday girl was pleasantly surprised and touched by it all. Her entire demeanor changed instantly from being bummed out over her birthday to becoming elated along with the rest of her family!
We did something memorable for them all while on their cruise of a lifetime and we made new friends. PM and I have stayed in touch and she frequently reads my blog posts.
Now to the point about Little Italy!
PM informed me after reading my two posts on Little Italy that the city of Boston has in its Italian North End a great Little Italy. And, it’s very much like what I mentioned in my article about how NYC’s Little Italy should be and not what it had become today.
“She felt that Boston’s Little Italy would be a good example for NYC to follow. She has been to both and agrees that the Little Italy in NYC is in dire need of help to revitalize and preserve it. It might actually already be too late!”
I feel like this. If Boston can clean up and gentrify its “Little Italy” then so can we in New York City!
New York was the main center of Italian immigration and the Little Italy area offered a first sted in obtaining the American dream. Unfortunately, the neighborhood now is full of street hawkers looking to entice tourists as they walk by and offer them a mediocre meal at best. Not to mention trying to avoid and stop the ever-pressing presence of “China Town” that has infiltrated what little is left of Little Italy.
Here is exactly the quote from PM’s e-mail to me:
“I read your most recent post about the downfall of Little Italy-lots of good thoughts. Have you been to the North End in Boston?
I wonder why they are able to keep their Italian section in better shape-the city has improved accessibility with the Big Dig project-it seems to be a lively, busy area that locals and tourists use both day and night-it does help that there are some important historic sites there and a decent amount of Italians still living in the area.
The Italian area there is much more authentic and inviting than the one in NYC!
Keep writing… Chef!
Hope all is well with you,
I hope someone in NYC’s – Government or State level eventually hears the cry for help from those that care about New Your City’s Little Italy and takes action. If not then I’m just an Italian-American chef hollering into the wind. Let’s hope that’s not the case!
In the meantime it’s two thumbs up for Boston! Maybe we in NYC. will follow the great work you’ve done with your now thriving Italian North End!
Here are the two blog posts mentioned above. May 19, 2010, Not…What it was, Little Italy – NYC and May 25th, 2010, What happened Little Italy – NYC.