“I feel like we’ve heard this here before,” I say to Kate as we walk in. It’s Bossacucanova & Adriana Calcanhotto’s “Previsão.” I don’t really know why Il P so often favors Brazilian music. In fact, it always feels like Italian restaurants never play Italian music. This much seems to be confirmed as the next track, “Agua de Coco” by Marcos Valle comes on. I pour Kate some water because I’m the one wearing the flannel, the sartorial construct most associated with maleness. And, in point of fact, it’s more than likely that the waitstaff here thinks we’re together based on the frequency with which we come. They all want to know: will they or won’t they? “Bïa” by Mariana comes on. I’ve never heard it, but it seems like a fitting title for International Women’s Day.
The restaurant is mostly empty as it’s not exactly date night, nor prime dinner hour. And yet, the woman who comes in announces that she has a reservation for three. “Sit anywhere you want,” says the early 20s waiter, who I’ve already confused with another early 20s waiter when I thank him for the wine and indicate that I think he’s someone else. “Sorry, all white people look the same,” I titter. He’s not amused. “Parece Mentira” by Katia B is next. Seriously, what the fuck are these songs?
“You don’t like tuna?” Kate says suggestively to the waiter. He shakes his head. Nobody seems to like tuna these days. It’s all steak, steak, steak. This is iterated by the deep, throaty vocals of E Depois’ “BiD” featuring Seu Jorge. Its dark sound casts a pall over the restaurant as the lights dim. This is replaced by the levity of Bebel Gilberto’s “August Day Song (King Britt Remix).” It’s so light, in fact, that I can almost forget all the memories of the past contained within this restaurant, starting from the very first time I was introduced to it by a high school friend of mine back in 2010. This place has been here for eons by New York standards.
My pear salad comes as Antoine Olivier and Glaucus Linx’s “Meu Amor” softly makes its presence known. The combination of pepper, asiago cheese and arugula is almost as much of a revelation as João Gilberto’s “Saudade Fez Um Samba,” a jaunty little ditty that, like most of the tracks on this playlist, reminds one of what Americans pictured South America to feel like in the 1960s. You know, “Girl From Ipanema” shit. “I think they do think we’re lesbians,” remarks Kate. “At this rate, I am,” I say.
Sometimes, even food can’t detract from the agony of being a detached-from-all body in the ether. This is why we’ve ordered a carafe of Montepulciano. Lubrication of the mind can help to free it for a time before you put it back in that pesky solipsistic cage. I eat the last piece of bread in the basket without asking. I’m a cunt. But Kate’s always watching what she eats so it doesn’t really matter. Does anything really matter?
It does to the waiter, who mentions to a patron friend of his that his girlfriend is coming this Friday. Fuck him. What is it with guys preferring the long distance thing? The waiter is too attractive to work or to be relegated to a woman who can’t sexually pleasure and be pleasured all the time. An instrumental version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” breaks up the motif of the playlist, which I’ve lately lost track of because my Shazam can’t hear most of it anymore. Either that, or it’s all just too obscure. My bucatini arrives. It’s clear that the quality of the dishes at this restaurant have diminished as the red sauce looks distinctly like Prego. Even though we’ve both noted that the food isn’t as good anymore, we always talk ourselves into coming back. I think we both want to re-create the experience and sentiment of something that can’t be re-created. Or maybe that’s just me.
“Birmingham has like a little hipster Brooklyn side,” says the same woman who had previously declared her reservation for three. She’s now sitting at a table with the other two women in her party. Maybe they’re celebrating International Women’s Day. Guess Birmingham’s come a long way from the riots. Another random Brazilian song that my Shazam can’t detect drowns out their voices, thank fuck. I know it’s not very feminist, but clusters of women together really give us all a bad name. And yet somehow I hear that one of the women in the cluster is “in the doghouse ” with her boyfriend. Like, what did she do? Not give head? How does she have a boyfriend? She’s a clucker. Il Passatore is definitely not the place to go when you’re not in a couple. It just makes you realize all the injustices in the world, that to “secure a mate” means being a complete eunuch with zero brainwaves.
The dreamy sound of the now unknowable songs punctuates the arrival of two textbook douchebags who sit at the bar. I compliment them for having the gumption to sit at the bar as two men who could easily be mistaken for being gay, as Kate and I are. My compliment is wasted on them. They are humorless, as this meal is tasteless. But the wine is fine. And that’s really the takeaway from Il Passatore: you can always find something in a situation that’s just fine. Though, in this case, certainly not the music, which really ought to be more tailored to the theme of Italianism.
Bossacucanova & Adriana Calcanhotto-“Previsão”
Marcos Valle-“Agua de Coco”
Katia B-“Parece Mentira”
E Depois-“BiD” feat. Seu Jorge
Bebel Gilberto-“August Day Song (King Britt Remix)”
Antoine Olivier and Glaucus Linx-“Meu Amor”
João Gilberto’s “Saudade Fez Um Samba”
Instrumental version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”