Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Emilio...King of Portsmouth

I happily found myself in downtown Portsmouth, NH this past Sunday afternoon. As I walked down Daniel Street, a colorfully painted portico caught my eye and I decided to snap a couple shots of it. As I got off a couple good ones, I heard a gravely voice ask, "Whadaya takin' pictures?". I turned to face a pleasantly plump, older gentleman in a black beret unloading his car of groceries. I answered him, "yep, this doorway's beautiful". He introduced himself as Emilio and then asked about my digital camera. We traded our nostalgic thoughts on the lost days of film...which lead to a nostaligic discussion about food and how things used to be. This is when I found out that this was actually his building and he had painted the doorway himself.

Emilio Maddaloni had owned and run the Italian Sandwich shop, on the first floor of this building for 30 years. But he made the tough decision to close it's doors just a couple years ago. As we stood there chatting about my Nana Testa's homemade italian dishes and his recipe for Pasta Fagoli, no less than 5 passers-by yelled excitedly out to him, "Hey Emilio, are you opening the shop today?!!" It turns out that "Emilio's" was an INSTITUTION in Portsmouth and the people genuinely miss him.

It was the type of shop that was open when Emilio wanted it to be and closed when that day's homemade food sold out. There were no hours of operation, no set menu, and no telephone. That's right...for the entire 30 years Emilio NEVER had a phone in the shop. He said it would have taken away from his attention on the customers. They don't make 'em like Emilio anymore. It made me a little sad that I just missed experiencing all this for myself. We talked for almost an hour about our families, trips to Italy, the shop, politics, the old neighborhood, italian recipes, and life.

It was hard to leave. As you probably deduced, Emilio is a talker... and I'm a listener. I eat-up old stories about how things used to be and I wanted to hear more and more. But in the end we left each other with a big Italian hug and a promise to keep in touch. I feel lucky to have befriended someone who has touched and "nourished" so many lives! :)

1 comment:

Humble Farmer said...

You are lucky that you happened by when the Big E was there. I used to eat lunch there every day and Portsmouth without Emilio's will never be the same. "You want your pizza HOT? Go to Pizza HOT!!!"