After our stumble through of the play today…I got in my car, exhausted, and set out on a mission for comfort. For me this meant a plate of hand rolled gnocchi that I didn’t have to make myself. Felicia’s, just one block east of Nanaimo, on Hastings, was the answer.unknown

Felicia speaks to me in half Italian and half English, much like my Zia Cinzella did: just enough for me to follow what she’s saying and the rest, well I should know anyway with a name like Frangione.

The restaurant itself is crazy awesome eccentric. There is a tiki roof, a fake palm tree dressed up in Christmas ornaments and pictures of Italy, family photos and articles about Johnny Depp everywhere. A couple of regulars are at the table in the far end watching the big TV. They are calling out in horror with Italian accents, “oh my God! I didn’t know monkeys ate that!” “No, Marco, it’s the bugs they eat!” They are watching a nature show. A couple of primates are digging through dung to get at beetles. I chuckle deeply to myself. What a great way to enter a restaurant and prepare to order.unknown-1

The kitchen is at the front of the restaurant and Felicia is the only person working in the entire place. She does the hosting, the waitressing, the cooking, the bussing and the cleaning. I order the gnocchi with the meat sauce. It takes a while because it’s all home made, but it’s worth the wait. The other couple leave and they have a little chat with Felicia before they go. Some wedding I think. Congratulations are in order. That much I understand. Felicia is at the stove. She asks me what I want to drink and I say, “water” She wrinkles her nose at me. “No vino?”
I shrug, “I have to work a bit more tonight.” She gasps as though I just announced I am half human half halibut. “Tonight?! No! What you do?” “Well, I am an actor and a singer, and I have to practice.” “Where?!” I better give her a satisfactory answer or I”ll never get my supper. “At home, just practice.” “At home? Then. You can have some wine”. She brings me out a glass of house white. I give in. I secretly wanted it anyway.

She brings out a basket of home made garlic bread. It’s fantastic. “I make myself” she says. “I like all my food cooked” She adds. The bread is crispy and hot and yet soft on the inside, really beautiful. She’s proud of it and she should be. She taps the perfect brown crust on it, “I only make soft bread for the ones who have no teeth.”images-1

Out comes the gnocchi. She reminds me that she makes that by hand too. I take a few bites. It’s very good. I think she’s from the North so the flavours are a bit more muted than I am used to, but it’s delicate and has a great texture. It’s just me and her now, in the entire restaurant. She peers out the window at the dark street.

“Nobody is out there tonight! Nobody!” She then proceeded to tell me a bit about her arrival in Vancouver thirty -five years ago, when she first opened the restaurant. lsIt seems it was a difficult start and then she had her hay day and now things are slow again. She walked past me and peered at my plate and headed into the kitchen. She emerged with a ladle full of meatball and plopped it onto my plate. “I give you meatball. You want? Nobody’s here to eat it. So good.” And it is good, very tender.

I ask her to pack up the rest of my starch festival and “Add another one of those amazing meatballs, Felicia, I’ll pay for it. It will make a nice lunch.” She does. When she rings up my bill, I’m pretty sure it’s meatball free and then she hands me a mint and a lollipop. “For the drive” she says.

I am rather sad to leave her all alone in that restaurant, her sweet tired face and her white apron, peering out into the street, two stringy curls beside each weary cheek. What a wonderful and quirky one woman show she is. Will she close after I’m gone? Or will she wipe tables and polish glasses under the mating rituals of African penguins and hope for more customers?unnamed

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