NYC: Leon & Isle of Capri

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday was the last evening I’d be in NY. I’d seen the sights, well, as many as I was up to seeing. A trip to Broadway sounded great, but I knew that would make me miss my beloved even more. With a passing glance at myself before I left the office, I thought it best if I went to get my hair professionally washed and blown out before the training session with NOLA. What a perfect opportunity to go back to that little salon!

I showed up and they were able to squeeze me in. I was totally and completely prepared for a simple wash and dry, but Leon convinced me that my hair was too yellow and the rest of my color wasn’t fitting. Keri, my stylist in Dallas, warned me that I would need to do more maintenance when she first applied the new color, and since I didn’t heed her advice before I left Dallas, there I sat while Leon confirmed my worst nightmare: dull yellow lifeless hair. I'd been walking around with dark roots exposed and the ends looking dried up and withered, even though they weren't. (That man in the back was cracking me up! He was older and spoke 4 different languages, fluently.)

He promised me that he would add more life to it and he certainly delivered. He added a rich toner and an overall color that made my hair pop! Don't you love the mirror?

Unfortunately, the little money that I was going to be able to spend from what remained on the tax refund was spent on this one night of luxurious indulgence. The salon was decked out in all sorts of worldly bits, matching the myriad of cultures represented. I’d overheard the workers saying that 8 different languages were spoken on a daily basis: Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, French, Japanese, Italian, and of course, English, the one that united them all. The music selection was just as colorful as the people, which, in themselves were quite amazing. They flitted around the salon in their stylish black outfits, but their personalities emanated from their very fibers. When Leon asked Caroline (who gives a phenomenal shampoo!) to help with color, another gal popped on over after they were complete to wipe away any stray drops from the mixture that lingered on my face. She had such kind eyes and a gentle touch, I swore I was getting a facial instead of being wiped with a simple terry cloth. After my initial shock wore off (because let’s face it, I was still in shock when he did the big reveal!), I did think that it was money well spent. I felt beautiful and magical and for the first time in nearly two weeks, I, Mommy Bianca, was turning heads when I walked down the street. I felt like a beautiful New York woman. I knew my confidence would come when the time was right. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to teach a billionaire something new. Heck, it isn’t every day you get to teach someone something new (unless you’re a teacher), so this would be a treat.

When I left the salon, my stylish coif blew in the wind, and the Isle of Capri at 61st and 3rd Ave. was calling my name. I’d walked near this spot several times, Don and I even passing it by a few times on our earlier visit in November. I figured now was as good a time as ever and I was in the mood for something beefy and hearty. They sat me in a prominent spot in the center of the place, table for two. Amidst all of the typical conversations, the background was filled with rock ballads from the 80s, made famous from bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon. So atypically camp w/o trying to be and I ate it up! Like with all of my meals, I pretended Don was across from me, even setting my cell phone over there with his picture smiling back at me until the backlight of the phone would fade. I ordered a glass of house red and the ossobuca. My waiter, pleasantly returned with an overflowing glass, more generous a pour than I’d ever seen while dining out. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear it was cousin Simon’s doing. It was 8:30 and their business was slowing down a bit. Across from me sat a trio, who were gone by the time I’d nibbled my 2nd piece of fresh wheat bread. The older woman, sporting the Birkin bag, as they draped a large fur coat onto her small frame.

I’d just settled into my seat when the meal arrived. Immediately, they swiped the white daisies from the adjacent table and put them onto mine. It was just the right touch, because my small table was now perfect sized for just me. I didn’t feel lonesome. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be at that very moment and I knew I was about to experience something very, very special.

The meat, so tender, crumbled with the slightest touch from my fork. I put it in my mouth and an eruption flood of flavor enraptured my senses. I sipped a bit of wine and an even bigger boom exploded in my mouth. I wanted to cry. I wanted to travel back in time a few minutes, and reach across the restaurant and slap that old woman just for the sake of doing it because yes folks, this was that good. (And I knew full well she’d slap me back, because I gathered they were frequent diners of this jewel on 3rd avenue, and she knew the goodness that came from that incredible kitchen!) Hands down, this was one of the best meals of my life and this isn’t hyperbole, but truth. I can honestly say that I’ve had the privilege of eating some fine, very fine, meals (my BFF’s husband is a chef, Primo Simon is a chef, and I like delicious food). The marrow from the shank was to die for! No, I didn’t suck it out. I used the tiny fork they provided, but I can say that I was scraping the insides, like people do when they are eating crab legs. I ate a little of the pasta, which was fresh made as well, and the sauce! All of the flavors married together wonderfully, I swore this was a signature Simon dish!

Oh…a delicious tomato sauce that was simple, but I knew it was very complex. I must say that the fresh mushrooms were chopped with sheer precision and perfectly sautéed because they didn’t taste overly oily! I saved a large bit of the pasta and bread. This meal was far too perfect for just my belly. Someone at the church HAD to share in this goodness because my soul was flooded with this love, and I knew they’d appreciate it too!

After the meal was taken away to be packaged up neatly, two workers busted out the straight edge to swipe away any lingering crumbs. What incredible service! Again, my server appeared, enticing me with another glass of wine. Sure, I nodded, it was my last night, right? Again, he showed up with another glass of overflowing wine, filled even more than the initial glass, if such a thing was even possible! He’d also brought a small plate of homemade biscotti, which I happily nibbled on, passing the time.

After munching the first, he made his presence with a small aperitif glass. In a thick Italian accent, he offered me Limoncello or Grappa. I asked the price and he said it was on the house. I relented, but only agreeing to it if he took a drink with me.

He agreed as he took my hand to shake on our deal. He seemed intrigued by my gesture, and scurried away quickly, to only reappear with another small glass for himself. He poured the libations and we happily, verbally toasted. I took a sip and it was powerful. I breathed through the fire, grabbed my glass of wine, and downed any remaining bits. When he showed again, he gestured to my glass, quizzing me with his eyes because I’d not touched it any more. I teased back, that his own glass hadn’t moved. I chided him a bit, taunting him that no one was around and to just do it. This time, we raised and clinked glasses and shot the drink. Mine had bits of tart fruit that I couldn’t stomach swallowing. I chuckled, shook my head, held up my hand saying “escuze” and spit the bits of fruit in my napkin with as much grace and delicacy as could be expected. We both let out a rip-roaring belly laugh. I thanked him kindly and he asked if I wanted another. There was a small part of me that wanted to agree, but I just shook my head no, remembering that I needed to be on point for NOLA. He frowned and asked if I was tired. I explained to him, that I wasn’t and even though it was my final night in NYC, I had to get back because I had a very important meeting. Plus, I needed to get back to the room to chat with my beloved. He reluctantly brought the bill and I was pleasantly surprised that he only charged me for 1 glass of wine and my meal. I thanked him over and over again, and tipped the full amount if he would’ve charged me for the 2nd glass of wine. Gotta love that Italian hospitality! My heartstrings tugged at the thought of re-visiting beautiful Italy.

I thanked him over and over again because little did he know that I needed that small ego boost. It felt amazing to feel that beautiful again! I beamed when I walked back to the church, and smiled even more after I left the warm package atop the talking cardboard box in the blistering cold.

I made it to the room, and happily sang as I packed my things. After I spoke to my beloved, I settled in, and for the first time, I immediately drifted off to sleep, with a slight bit of melancholy at the thought of leaving my 2-week home away from home. Bittersweet, of course.

The perfect end to a great stay and I’m so grateful for the opportunity, but there’s no place like home.

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