Naples: Never Trust an Italian

This is a pizza. There are certain things you don't do to it...
There was a remix of some old Phil Collins song playing through the room. The DJ was really into it. A fridge full of Italian beer and a shelf of whiskey faced the bar where the bartender was singeing a bit of rosemary for a Monte Negroni that I had ordered. I liked its bitterness, which also slowed down my drinking.

The Italians with me were getting gin and tonics, our Brazilian friend ordered a Long Island iced tea. We went outside, Phil’s lyrics more muffled at this point.

We clinked our glasses and in the chill of a Saturday night in Naples, what in London would be considered springtime bliss. We drank while a woman danced on an aerial ring hanging from a balcony because, well, she could.

“So you’ll never guess what Bryan does,” an Italian named, let’s say, Giuseppe, said to a Brazilian named, let’s say, Alice.

“What?” she asked.

“Please, don’t, this is ridiculous,” I said. We had discussed this earlier over a glass of wine. It was an honest confession that needed no publication, but here we were.

“Sometimes he orders two pizzas.”

“Seriously, stop,” I pleaded.

“And he eats one for dinner.”

“You’re embarrassing,” I said.

“And the second he puts in the refrigerator.”

“This is entirely normal,” I argued.

Naples from above, where untrustworthy people live...
“And he eats the second one cold for breakfast. Cold!”

I slapped my forehead in mock disgust. Alice didn’t flinch. She sipped her Long Island.

“Well, I have a confession,” she said. Despite being in Italy for a long time, she wasn’t beholden to some imaginary custom where pizza is only eaten hot. “I used to do that, too.”

“No!” Giuseppe said. “No that’s not possible!”

I applauded her.

“But I also put ketchup on it,” she added.

“What?” I said. “That’s even worse, you know. That is a violation.”

“Oh it’s not that bad,” Giuseppe said. “I do that, too, but also with mayo.” His confidence in attacking me began to fade.

“What? That’s still worse yet. Bad. Molto bad,” I said. Even Alice thought he had crossed a line. Mayonnaise on pizza? No. In no way was that a thing that civilized society could tolerate. I was surrounded by monsters.

“No, it’s fine,” he said, his English faltering as he began to realize that maybe, in fact, it wasn’t. I imagined even Pizza Rat turning up his nose.

“So I can’t eat cold pizza, but you can bastardize a margherita with mayonnaise?” I asked, indignant, angry, fuming.

“And ketchup!” Alice added. She was in no position to criticize, but I appreciated the support.

“I’m Italian, it’s fine,” he said. This was a common defense to cover up sins of all kinds. It was beautifully innocent and, as I have learned over the past month, works in many, many situations. I am learning, however, not to trust an Italian when he or she tells me something is the way it is. I will ask for proof, and in the absence of any, I will tell them I don’t believe them and that it is untrue.

When they ask me why I think that way, I will say, “I am French,” and cite Descartes, evoking the scientific process. I needed evidence. If that doesn’t work, I’ll say, “I’m American,” and hopefully they'll try harder.