Trattoria Tantrum

I woke up with a sore throat, stuffy nose and clouded head. I slept all morning, Ada continued her shower drumming and Aaron took care of us both. We left the house after lunch, made a quick visit to St. Peter’s square and continued on to the Trevi Fountain (for Ada) and a quest to see the church Santa Maria sopra Minerva, to satisfy the adults.

The Trevi Fountain is another example of Rome’s magic tucked in at the end of an average street. You hear the roar long before you see its splendor. The delicious blue water beckoned me to jump in, but I resisted, since it was swarming with tourists like bees to honeycomb. Like most kids Ada loves fountains and the Trevi is on our Ada must see list. But we arrived at her nap time and she slept through the excitement.

I needed pictures without people so I left Aaron to get closer to the fountain. I bobbed and weaved through other picture taking people, dodged flying coins, and evaded the hawkers selling roses dipped in fountain water (and these strange plastic doll heads whose eyes bug out when you squeeze them. Does anyone buy these?) Politeness got me nowhere but a few gentle nudges did, and I finally reached its edge.

The roar of water creates a surprisingly peaceful oasis. I reveled in it. But once I looked up and saw Aaron’s annoyed face within a horde of people, about to strangle the insistent doll head sellers, I felt selfish and hurried my way back.

With Ada still asleep we left the fountain and tempted fate by visiting Santa Maria sopra Minerva, a Gothic Church with works by Bernini.  She immediately woke up, saw the lit candles and expressed her joy by squealing OHHH — LIGHT loud enough for all to hear and for all to glare. Alright, we get it, kids not welcome, and we quickly left. We ate gelatos on our walk back to the apartment and got ready for our big dinner out.

Aaron made it his mission to eat at a restaurant called Alfredo e Ada. They’re only open a few nights a week for dinner at eight o’clock. This is an hour past Ada’s bedtime. But Aaron argued this authentic restaurant, where you eat whatever they decide to simmer on the stove, was worth the risk of a tired toddler meltdown.

Finding this hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the dark was impossible. Eventually we found the street, but we couldn’t find an address number or a sign. Or any marker identifying that a restaurant was behind one of many doors. We deduced it was behind the one door without an address number, and a woman walking by confirmed this.

We stood and waited… and waited and waited… We were hungry, frustrated and Ada was starting to squirm. The door didn’t open and we gave up by 8:15, forgetting that Italian time is not like American time. Perhaps they open once the sauce finished cooking. We’ll never know.

We found a charming trattoria, took a table in the back and ordered a ½ liter of house wine and two courses. Instantly, Ada morphed into the fussy toddler. She sat in the high chair until she tried to squirm out onto the floor. She moved onto Aaron’s lap, whined and reached for me. He passed her over the table onto my lap but the whining (much louder) continued. The restaurant is now crowded and this is embarrassing, so I decide to take her outside. People shuffle their chairs to make a path to the door, but once outside in the dark, Ada starts screaming DA-DA! Back inside, more shuffling chairs, back to Aaron and we try to feed her while she continues to cry and complain.

I chugged my wine. But neither the alcohol nor the loud atmosphere eased my anxiety. I glared at Aaron because I had to glare at someone. Second course arrived and we wolfed it down while Ada performed back-bending protest acrobatics. In the midst of it she whacked her own eye and burst into a mind numbing wail.

Everyone turned to look, saw that the toddler wasn’t gushing blood or being abused and resumed their conversations. When we left a few minutes later we were greeted with a path of smiles. Not, thank God you’re leaving smiles, but genuine what a cute toddler smiles. I was shocked and as equally relieved that I’d just survived one of my worst travel-with-toddler fears.

That night, Ada taught us that we work around her schedule, she doesn’t work around ours. We will return to the Trevi Fountain and she will skip the churches. And dinner?  Never after bedtime.