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“Yes, the heads are very interesting, no?”
“I’ll bet there is a story behind them.”
“I will tell you all about the legend if you wish to come to dinner with me tonight. I will be free in an hour or so. I will come to meet you in the lobby of your hotel at eight o’clock. I know an excellent restaurant that few tourists are aware of.”
“Dinner sounds wonderful. I would love to hear about Sicily from you. I’ll go get changed and let you get on with your work.”
Antonio pressed the back of her hand to his lips. Sarah felt weak. Her mind was racing, a spring wedding in that white church she had admired just yesterday, then living in this gorgeous town in the Villa Marino...Wait, did he even have a villa? She had to get back to the hotel to shower and dress for dinner. She glanced back at Antonio one last time to make sure he was real.
“I’m looking forward to this evening,” Sarah called excitedly.
Antonio smiled until she was out of sight and then a worried look came over him. He would need to come up with a new set of excuses. He wondered if his wife would believe him one more time.
The mild evening breeze wafted over Sarah. The tiny restaurant was hidden in a courtyard filled with potted palms and frangipani flowers which perfumed the night air. They sat on the terrace and gazed into each other’s eyes. She had pulled out all the stops and felt that she looked as good as she possibly could. The candlelight was flattering and Antonio was so attentive. He sat opposite and reached over to take her hand. “Such a lovely, delicate hand you have. I am so happy that today you came into my shop and my life. I feel we will be great friends and maybe more?”
He raised his glass to her and toasted. “To us!”
“To us!” Sarah echoed, taking a sip. “It’s really good!”
“I’m glad you like it. It’s comes from a winery called Morgante. The grape is Nero d’Avola. There, try the aroma. Ripe cherries, sweet spices, cocoa. It is special, like you.”
Antonio took the liberty of ordering for both of them. To begin, they shared some arancini, which in Antonio’s words were balls of risotto, breaded and deepfried. They were delicious and a must-have in Sicily, he said.
“Tell me about the flags I see everywhere with the three legs,” Sarah said, making conversation. “What is that all about?”
“That is the flag of Sicily. The three legs symbolize the triangular shape of Sicily. Here, look.” Antonio got out his phone and googled a map of the island. “See here, the 3 points. And in the middle the head of Medusa from Greek mythology after the ancient Greeks conquered the island. Medusa was a witch whose glance could turn a man to stone, she’s a sort of evil-eye against the enemies of Sicily. Ah, here comes our pasta alla Norma.”
The waiter brought two steaming plates to the table.
“This smells divine.”
“Pasta alla Norma is named after an opera, it's a simple pasta but a masterpiece of tomatoes, eggplant, basil, garlic and ricotta.”
The couple ate and drank and talked as the moon came out. Sarah was completely charmed.
“But the heads in your shop, you were going to tell me about them. I’ve seen them in other shops too. I’ve seen them on balconies around town.”
“The heads,” Antonio began, “this art form was brought to Sicily by the Arabs, they taught us how to make this type of pottery. The most popular ones are called the Teste di Moro which means the head of the Moor. The legend goes back to the eleventh century when the Moors controlled Sicily. I warn you, this story has violence.”
Sarah nodded. Sicilian history. Of course there would be violence.