There are places where one is always welcome not because one maybe rich or famous but simply because one showed up and took a liking to the what one found as well as the people. The kind of place I have in mind is the one where guests mingle with one another in an atmosphere that is created not by anybody in particular but by the little things for instance the way in which guests say â€œciaoâ€ (hi or bye in Italian) to one another whenever coming or going or the way everybody knows ones name. It is these details and many more which make the bar-restaurant â€œSan Lorenzoâ€ located in downtown Warsaw on â€œJohn Paul 2nd streetâ€ be precisely that sort of place.
I am talking about a place where Italians as well as their descendents like myself or even people who have no traces of being Italian what so ever are never denied the affability and joy that is in the Italian way of entertaining. This holding true in San Lorenzo because of its main owner, Gianfranco who is equally charming when talking to the President of Poland (who can on occasions be found there nibbling away at his Lasagna) as when talking to the most modest of guest.
As for my relationship with â€œSan Lorenzoâ€ this dates back to late in the summer of 2001 when I accompanied by my wife and daughter ventured to take a table outside deciding to give this place a go. My wife and I were not hungry so we limited ourselves to ordering espresso for me and a cup of tea for her while our daughter (Paullina, The Star of â€œThe Little Opera Singerâ€) needing to satisfy her youthful sweet tooth ordered Tiramisu with her favorite drink, apple juice to wash it down.
I as a person who had traveled to over 30 countries had encountered many a restaurant claiming to be Italian with not as much as the slightest connection to the â€œold countryâ€ apart from the name of the establishment or the fact that they served pseudo Italian dishes. I for my part can not claim to have immediately noticed from the outside or even the inside which I saw when I went to the menâ€™s room that this was a restaurant whose proprietor was Italian. It was not that the interior of this restaurant was in bad taste as that was not the case but I also had seen places which though well decorated were not Italian. I had even been to this particular place before which I knew to have two stories as I had visited it on many an occasion when it was being used as both a clothing store which was the upstairs part and a cafeteria on the lower level.
The interior decorating I had to admit was nice even more than it had been but I was still curious to see if the owner was Italian so after having looked the place over both upstairs and down, I went outside again to join my wife and daughter who had already been served.
The tiramisu my daughter ordered tasted like the real thing (her allowing me a small taste) but I needed proof in regards to the authenticity of this place.
The verification came when Paullina stood up as she was 3 and a half years of age at the time and kneeled on the floor to play with a toy car she had brought with her and just as she was in the middle of playing a dark haired man approached the table and said â€œHey Pokemonâ€ due to my daughterâ€™s t-shirt of the popular cartoon character. This man whose name I would eventually find out was Enrico Buscema, part owner, his partner in the business being Gianfranco Lucese, a Florentine man living in Poland married to a Polish lady whose mother is Stefania Kozowska, a well known Polish singer of some years back.
There wasnâ€™t anything special I noticed about Enrico till he sat down joining the group of people who were sitting at his table who were speaking Italian. I donâ€™t know what it is but there is something about hearing people speak my language in a foreign country that unites me to them. Perhaps it is knowing that that person is also a foreigner from the same place I am from or curiosity to simply share impressions of another country but be what it might I always seek to became acquainted with people whom I hear speaking Italian outside of Italy.
This being a large group made me shy about approaching making me bid my time till the party that had been at the table nearby was reduced to a party of one. A well attired redheaded gentleman who was rather on the portly side had been left alone leaving me with my chance to speak.
â€œExcuse me, are you Italian?â€ me of course addressing him in Italian which seemed to catch him slightly of guard as he in Italian replied â€œyes, I am and you?â€. I at this point having his full attention told him that I was American but my father was Italian, like the actor Sylvester Stallone. I also introduced by wife and child to this man whose name escapes my memory as it has been over 5 years since I last saw him. We must have conversed for about 5 minutes when Enrico came back to the table and upon hearing that I spoke Italian introduced himself to me and the rest of my family.
This was my first visit to San Lorenzo which like most firsts we never forget specially when they are not lasts as this place saw me come back the following week on August 9. This date being of significance because it was the one on which 4 years prior my then fiancÃ©e and I took our vows in the church in the act of holly matrimony. Our daughter was past the age of 3 and capable of proper conduct prompting my wife and I to let her join us on that occasion for a relatively late dinner. A dinner which delighted all of us specially Paullina (the restaurant having a special chair for her) by including some of the finest dishes in what is known as Italian cuisine with the wine that again could not be other than Italian.
One of the things that impressed me about that particular visit was that several of the guests whom I had not yet introduced myself to who saw me sitting at my table or walking around the place with my daughter seemed to know who I was. They knew my name, that I was a writer born in New York but could speak Italian because of my father and many other things all of which I had told the gentleman with the red hair in the short conversation I had had
Another thing that caught the eye of my wife as well as my own (my daughter being too young at the time) was the photographs on the walls of all the famous people who had already been there. Then the place being open less than a year only included photographs of local celebrities such as Kasia Figura (Polish actress) but eventually this collection of photographs grew to include such noticeable patrons as Jose Carreras, Steven Segal, Roman Polanski, Alexander Kwasniewski (then President of Poland), Lech Kaczynski (current President of Poland) and his brother JarosÅ‚aw (current Prime Minister of Poland) and many others to numerous to mention.
The evening was a true enchantment for the 3 of us for many reasons but above all it had been the Italian cuisine. The dishes which we tasted not only on that evening but on many others to follow were the real flavor of Italy and it is with intensions of not influencing anybody who should go to San Lorenzo after reading this that I refrain from mentioning any by name.
The year was 2001 which like one can expect was followed by 2002. That being a world cup year which saw the greatest enthusiasm for the â€œSquadra Azurraâ€ as its fans mostly Italians but not only gathered at â€œSan Lorenzoâ€ to show their support for what would be the fiasco of being eliminated by South Korea before even getting to the quarterfinals. It was a bitter pill for us the â€œFratelli dâ€™Italiaâ€ (this meaning brothers of Italy while also being the Italian National anthem) to have to swallow seeing our â€œnazionale di calcioâ€ play 4 games which only yielded us one win combined with 2 losses and one draw.
However it was in defeat that we see the real character of the individual particularly the one who can keep his dignity as that is how we did it taking comfort in having previously won the world cup on 3 different occasions and with the hope that there would be brighter days for our â€œazurriâ€.
Another consolation for us was how some of the local television stations came over to our beloved San Lorenzo to see how the many nationalities living in Warsaw were following the world cup. Me being fortunate enough to be among those who were interviewed on TV.
Like the saying goes â€œit is always darkest before dawnâ€ this meaning that Italyâ€™s time would come as it did last year in the â€œ2006 World Cupâ€ held in Germany. This was the world cup in which Italy claimed its 4th F.I.F.A. world championship after 7 games the last two being the most grueling of all.
The last two games being the most arduous as they were the semifinal and the final. It was the first of these games which pitted Italy against Germany, the home team as well as 3 time champion and 7 time finalist. The second of these games pitted Italy against France who had won it all in 98 as well as being the team that had eliminated us from the 86 and 98 world cups and had defeated us in the 2000 final of the European Championship.
It was the way in which San Lorenzo was packed to capacity by all the people whom I had been seeing on a weekly basis for the last 5 years that gave me the courage to believe that such opponents could be overcome. These people after all had been with me through the tragedy that had been the previous world cup at least as far as Italy was concerned.
The semifinal against Germany was difficult to watch as we suffered at the agony of seeing two of our shots hit the woodwork in overtime but out of it all came the moment that allowed us to yell out the word â€œgoalâ€ in a huge action of relief as Italy was finally able to break the deadlock through Grosso who scored in the last minute of O.T.. however the game was not over nor was the scoring which would continue less than a minute later when Del Piero found the back of the German net for what would be our second goal guarantying us a place in the final.
If the semifinal was a spectacular show than the final could not be any less as the brave Italian tifossi at San Lorenzo some of which were Polish, Egyptian, Russian etc braced themselves for what would be a game against â€œLe Blueâ€ of La France which would be winner take all. The place was naturally packed to capacity one more time on the Sunday of the final with tensions running as high as the expectations of being world champion for the fourth time. If truth be known I do not think I would have preferred to be any where else but at San Lorenzo with the sole exception of the site of the final itself in Berlin. This was where I would celebrate or cry with my fellow Italians like I had done 4 years ago but win or loose the friendships would not fade.
The final kicked off with us sitting in many tables drinking our beers and eating our pasta, pizza and other Italian dishes and just as we were getting in to the flow of the game a mistake by the referee gave France a penalty. A penalty which led to France drawing first blood when Zidane barely converted giving France the early 1 to 0 advantage.
We the Italian tiffosi were down but far from out as it took a little over 5 minutes for San Lorenzoâ€™s supporters to once again shout goal when Matterazziâ€™s header leveled matters at one a piece. As anybody who has ever seen his country in a final can confirm there is nothing like seeing ones country score and for us it was elation extraordinaire as we had not come this far to give up after trailing by only one goal.
The rest of the game including overtime went by with the score leveled at one a piece necessitating penalties which had never at least in a world cup seen Italy come out on top but this I felt deep down was our day as all the people whom I had known for so long were not going to be denied.
8 penalty kickers took their turn with only Trezeguet missing for France and it all came down to Grosso (scorer of Italyâ€™s first goal against Germany) to deliver us to the promised land that was our 4 title leaving us with only one less title than Brazil. The moment of truth had arrived one kick, one goal to end all and earn all, would he do it? Our hearts were in our mouths as we saw Grosso step up to take the penalty which he converted sending me along with everybody else in to a wild frenzy that led to fireworks on the street as well as an all night party.
Italy winning the world cup was wonderful and it no doubt would have been such no matter where or with whom I had seen it (as had been in 82 when we beat Germany in the final 3 to 1) but for some reason I felt that being at San Lorenzo made it just that wee bit better particularly because all those familiar faces were there to share it with me.
My name is Gianni Truvianni, author of many an article to be found on the internet along with the book â€œNew Yorkâ€™s Opera Societyâ€. My works also include the books â€œWhat Should Not Matterâ€, â€œLove Your Sisterâ€ and several others which still remain unpublished though I am presently looking to change this.