Nona grew morose the day she turned 93. She stopped eating and perseverated about a dinner she shared with a man named Pietro on her 19th birthday, back in Positano. Alberto, her grandson and namesake of Nona’s husband, had never heard of Pietro before.
Nona’s melancholy upset Alberto. He desperately wanted her to eat. Each morning, Nona sat at the kitchen table, staring down at her frail hands folded before her.
“Nona, please eat some breakfast,” he said.
“Nothing sounds good. Just coffee, eh?”
He made her a cappuccino and toast.
She sipped her coffee.
“Have some toast, Nona.”
She took one bite.
Alberto felt compelled to cheer his grandmother. Before he reached high school, his mother died, and his father moved abroad for work. Nona raised him. Now Alberto took care of her.
Alberto went to Nona’s small garden. He picked two zucchinis, a dozen squash blossoms, a handful of fresh basil leaves, then stored the harvest basket in the kitchen covered by a damp cloth.
He found Nona in the living room, sitting in her chair, her eyes closed, listening to Puccini’s La Boheme. Alberto lightly touched her shoulder.
“Nona, tonight I am cooking something special for us.”
“No…No…do not trouble yourself with me. Take your lady out for a nice dinner,” she said.
He kissed her cheek.
“Nona! You are my lady,” he said.
She smiled faintly.
“I’m going to the store. You rest now,” Alberto said.
Alberto drove to San Remo’s Market and picked up the ingredients he needed to recreate her 19th birthday dinner. He grabbed a bottle of Vermentino white wine at The Bottle Shop. He went to Gelato Luna and purchased fresh pistachio gelato. Then Alberto headed home and went to work.
At dusk Alberto escorted Nona to the picnic table set with her favorite dishes on a white tablecloth. Nona overlooked the garden. Alberto lit several candles and a decorative string of lights strung on their fig tree. It was a mild, clear, June evening.
Taking it all in, Nona said, “It’s beautiful.”
He poured two glasses of the wine.
“Salute!” Alberto toasted.
He served the cream of zucchini soup topped with crostini.
“This tastes like my mother’s soup,” Nona said.
“It’s her recipe!” Alberto exclaimed.
Smiling, Nona clapped her hands. She finished her entire bowl.
Next, Alberto served the fried squash blossoms, the dish she remembered most fondly from her dinner with Pietro.
“You made the blossoms! Questi sono meravigliosi!”
Nona bit into the delicate fried, stuffed flower. It dribbled.
With his napkin, Alberto gently wiped basil and ricotta from her chin.
Nona ate three.
Before dessert, Nona recounted the story of Pietro, a man she loved but her father disapproved of,
confessing to Alberto she loved his grandfather, but had never been in love with him.
“What if I had eloped with Pietro?”
Alberto just smiled.
“Follow your heart, Alberto!”
Darkness fell as they ate gelato. Fireflies danced in the garden. Nona’s eyes twinkled.
“Just like Positano! Grazi!”