November 19, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C

Buona Sera, Uncle Ray (Rosebud, New Jersey, 1969)

By Jeff Freiert
Published: 2017-10-29

"Aw, Uncle Ray, play the radio!" From the backseat.

"The radio? Forget the radio. This is your heritage."

"Who is this?" Louie asks. "Jerry Vale?"

"Marone, Jerry Vale! This is Jimmy Roselli, Hoboken's own."

"I thought Sinatra was from Hoboken." Louie again.

"They're both from Hoboken."

"Old Blue Eyes," Tony contributes.

"Never mind Old Blue Eyes. Jimmy Roselli is the real thing."

"He always sing in Italian?"

"You don't like it? Let me ask you something. Is this your car? Are you paying for dinner tonight? If you're paying, you can choose the music. Otherwise, silenzio, capish? Your mother likes this music."

"You heard Uncle Ray," she says but doesn't turn around. Chin cupped in her palm, elbow resting on the open window, she gazes out.

"They talk to their father that way?" Ray says to her. He points his chin over his right shoulder. "You talk to your father that way?"

"No," Tony says. "He'd give us a bungala-bungala on the coolie." He drums his hands on the seat.

Ray looks at Bella, who's turned to him, and he raises an eyebrow. She shrugs and smiles a little, one corner. Those blue eyes of hers.

Jimmy Roselli sings his heart out.

•

Cash in palm gets them a table out on the terrace at Tre Fratelli. The orange flames of the torches dance in the gentle evening breeze and candles flicker atop Chianti bottles covered in dripping wax as the first pink hints of sunset paint the New Jersey sky. Beyond the smell of refineries and exhaust, the pungent scent of garlic permeates the open air. Crooners, mandolins, accordions waft from mounted speakers. They walk past tables, couples, to a corner of the terrace, and Ray steps smoothly before the mβitre d' to push in Annabella's chair.

"Al fresco, boys," Rays says.

"What's that mean?" Tony asks.

"Outside."

"Very nice," Annabella says, unfolding her napkin.

Ray orders a bottle of red. For appetizers, the boys munch fried calamari while he and Annabella share the antipasto. Annabella chooses the chicken marsala, Ray has veal scaloppini, and both boys have chicken parm.

The sky darkens, and their faces are lit by candlelight.

When knives and forks are down, Ray says, "Boys, you want to watch TV?"

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