“Here’s the big guy!” Mr. Ichino called out. “How’s it goin’, Corey?” He stood up and strode over to Corey with his hand out for a shake. Corey, still reeling, shook his hand, but did not return the one armed hug that followed.
Corey swallowed hard and stammered, “I’m w-well, Mr. Ichino.”
Mr. Ichino smiled broadly, patting Corey on the back of his shoulder as he presented him to the rest of the family.
“Hey, folks, it’s Corey!” He gestured to an old woman sitting at the table. She seemed to be a healthy old woman with rich olive skin and very little in the way of osteoporosis. Her sharp brown eyes were fixed on Corey.
“This is my mamma. Almost everybody else calls her Nonna.”
She smiled and nodded. “Call me Nonna.”
“It’s easier ‘cause my daughter’s got the same name.” He gestured to the beautiful, young girl beside Nonna. “Giovanna waits the tables, but we’re gonna get another waitress soon, I think. Business has been all right, after all, so we gotta beef it up ‘round here.
“And, uh, this here is my son Dom. He’s gonna be teaching you how to cook the stuff. Mamma will be there with you, too. She likes to see over the cooking herself, see?” Mr. Ichino winked at Corey, patted his shoulder again, and asked, “Corey, you all right? You look not so good.”
“I’m fine, sir. I’m fine.” Corey tried to smile well enough to convince everyone, but he managed only a sickly upturned mouth.
“Hey, Dom, take him out back and—”
Corey’s heart leapt into his throat. “Out back where?”
The family all exchanged confused looks, but Mr. Ichino’s spicy laugh exploded all over the place. “Corey, Corey! Take you out back to the kitchen. Dom, take him to the kitchen and show him around, will ya?”
“Yeah. C’mon Corey, let’s go… out back.” Dom smirked and shook his head as he passed by, thumping his hand down on top of Corey’s shoulder as he did.
Corey clenched his tacky hands briefly, closed his eyes, muttered a curse word at his own flub, and then, opening his eyes, followed Dom to the kitchen area.
“You got a lot of experience?” Dom asked.
“Ah, cut the sir crap. Call me Dom. Here’s the walk-in.”
Dom opened the big metal door and gave Corey a quick look at where to find everything, then led Corey out, the walk-in door thumping closed behind them, and to the front of the kitchen.
“We got the lowboy down here.” Dom gave an innocuous kick to the little fridge. “Right about now we gotta get the pasta cookin’. We use cuscusu, busiate, and anelletti the most here. I’ll show you where it is in the back.” He smirked, beckoning with his hand.
“Nonna about killed us all when we told her we weren’t gonna make all our noodles fresh in the restaurant,” Dom laughed. “It’s not her way. She wants it all to be like she does things, y’know? It’s just not gonna happen. We make our sfincione and breads though, and that settled her down. You studied the menu, Corey?”
The sudden shift startled Corey. “Men… Yes, I studied the menu.”
“Good, good. Nonna’s got this idea that only a Sicilian can make Sicilian food right. We told her, ‘Nonna, we’re not gonna find any Sicilians ‘round here,’” he piled up the bags of anelletti, cuscusu, and busiate in Corey’s arms, “and me and Vanna aren’t anywhere near getting’ married an’ makin’ little cooks yet, y’see what I’m sayin’?”
“Dom!” Giovanna’s voice came from the front with a tint of urgency. Dom rushed ahead of Corey while Corey attempted to grapple the bags of pasta into submission. He quickly followed once he had them mastered.
“What?” Dom asked.
“The mattonella. We have only one left out here.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“Yeah, I’m serious.”
“Why didn’t you tell me yesterday?”
“I just forgot, okay?”
“Vanna, I can’t just poop out a mattonella. Keep your head in the game.”
Giovanna rolled her eyes and walked away.
“The mattonella with chocolate and figs is our best-selling dessert.” He growled a little. “That Russian boyfriend of hers distracts her. She’s not the same woman these days. Here, fill the pots with water and get ‘em on the stove for the noodles.”
Dom stormed out of the kitchen through the swinging doors.
Corey’s nerves had calmed down a little. He grabbed one of the large pots from the counter behind him and took it to fill up at the sink. Just then, Mr. Ichino barreled through the doors and into the kitchen.
“Corey, where’s Dom?”
Corey stammered and shrugged.
Mr. Ichino cursed. “Well, which way did he go?”
Corey pointed. “He went out that door.” His palms were sweaty again.
In a huffy jumble of rush, Mr. Ichino blustered through the doors to the front, leaving Corey alone with his pot nearly full. He turned the water off and took the pot to the stove top where he turned the heat on high and took the next pot to the sink.
Mr. Ichino returned as Corey place the second pot of water on the stove top. Corey put his hands out in front of him and backed away just a little as Mr. Ichino came closer than Corey expected.
Mr. Ichino’s breathing was thick, his expression, conflicted.
“Listen, uh, Corey, my son, Dom, he’s uh…” Mr. Ichino sighed, flopping his hand in the air. “he was a police officer back in Jersey, y’see, and—”
Corey puffed a small laugh but regained his senses quickly when Mr. Ichino’s face turned from conflicted to quizzical.
“What?” he asked. “What’s funny?”
“Nothing. Nothing, sir.”
“Something about Dom bein’ a cop made you snicker?”
“No, no, sir.”
Back paddling wasn’t working, Corey needed to paddle back to where he began.
“Yes, sir. I snickered because so many people believe that Sicilians will be connected to crime, as opposed to fighting it.”
This was going to be ugly. There seemed no way around the offensiveness of this behavior, and Corey knew it. He sighed and closed his eyes.
Mr. Ichino’s laughter rolled and rumbled all around his throat and out his mouth. Then he said, “honesty!” He chuckled again. “As I was sayin’,” he lowered his voice, “my son was a cop in Jersey, but he ended up with a head injury. Ever since then, if something sets him off, he’s set off. That injury is why he couldn’t go back, and joined us instead.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Ichino.”
“Yeah, so, well, uh, you’ll be learning how to make mattonella di cioccolato con fichi tonight! That’s a good thing.” He patted Corey on the shoulder and smiled. “Dom will cool down and be back shortly.” He peeked into the pots. “And, uh, don’t forget to salt the water— I mean, really salt the water— once it’s bubbling real good.”
Corey swallowed his nerves down. “Mr. Ichino, did I offend you?”
“When I laughed.”
Mr. Ichino chuckled again. “Corey, no, no. Forget about it. I like you. We’re gonna get along real nice.”
As much as Corey wanted to believe him, he couldn’t. He cursed under his breath.
Now where was the salt?
Yay! Part 2! Thank you for reading. 🙂 As I want this to be a story where the readers have some say in each part, I’d like to ask you all for your input for part 3.
Giovanna warms up to Corey and causes mischief.
Nonna warms up to Corey and causes mischief.
😉 If you have any other thoughts on where the story should go, or something a character should do, please, let me know. I’d like to consider it. 🙂