bellagio italy

The rains came yesterday. Thunder and lightning directly overhead, loud and wet. We were housebound.

We have packed only summer clothes – nothing appropriate for a downpour, but we were hungry and there was no food in the apartment. We threw on whatever was handy and ventured into the deluge.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked. Bellagio has 53 restaurants, but Louise has them all memorized: location, menu, even prices. Every restaurant posts their menu outside and she has read them all.

“There’s a cafe down by the waterfront,” she said, “with hamburgers.” (Hamburgers have been on her mind ever since we left Portland. Europe isn’t big on hamburgers – or beef, for that matter. Louise is.)

We arrived, dripping like mongrel dogs, at the hamburger’s door. The restaurant was ritzy, and nearly empty. The waiters wore starched shirts and creased slacks. They were the kind of waiters who just work there and wait; not owners, not family. No welcoming fanfare at all.  But they seated us courteously in the back of the room, put out place settings, a basket of bread, the requisite Italian oil and vinegar, gave us menus.

I turned to the page with the burger. Yes! As promised, a real burger here in Bellagio. I read the description with increasing enthusiasm. Big meat. Sesame bun. Tomato. Lettuce and cheese. The description read like a promotional photograph of a Whopper. At the end however, like an ambush, was the price: €12.50. That’s almost $17 US. Seventeen dollars for a hamburger! (Louise later ascertained that $17 is exactly the same price as the burgers at the legendary P.J. Clarke’s in Manhattan. But we were not there, were we?

The waiter returned. “Solo due birra,” we said. “Piccolo, per favore.” Just two small beers, thank you. And “we won’t be eating.”

The waiter whisked our place settings away, grabbed our bread before we could soil it, and relieved us of our vinegar and oil. We sat at our naked table, dripping wet and eying the exit, dispensing with our beers in hasty gulps.

We retreated to a familiar restaurant at lake’s edge. Sat under a dry awning and watched shorts-clad people huddled under umbrellas hurrying to and fro. Most were laughing; there were only a few scowls. We ordered half a liter of wine and toasted the laughter.

Sometimes it rains in Bellagio. Most people laugh.

(Photo credit: Karen Tarlton, http://karensfineart.artspan.com. Used by permission.)