The last time me and Jackie the Juice did a job together was back in the Old Country when the Don’s son-in-law Flavio needed some skull-work on account of Flavio playing hide-the-prosciutto with the neighbour’s wife. Now Jackie’s sitting aside me at a joint in Africa goes by the name of Stellenbosch, where the Consiglieri sent the twos of us to check out the rumours that a branch of the Mafia is operating in this little old town.
We’s parked up in Decameron, a restaurant with which the whole town is apparently well-acquainted – especially this Stellenbosch Mafia business, of which some guy goes by the name of Pieter du Toit wrote a book about. The Consiglieri read the book, and before you could say “broken kneecap” The Juice and I are being told to get on a plane to see who these wise-guys in Stellenbosch are tagging themselves Mafia without letting the Don know about it, see?
From our booth there’s a good bead to the door, so if any action appears in the form of a slick local mobster, The Juice and I can both get a good shot in. But this seems unlikely, as the Decameron place appears about as threatening and dangerous as a vegan dinner-party in San Francisco. Me and The Juice, we like to eat between handing out the odd whack, and the menu at Decameron looks pretty good. On the menu we got starters of calamari and bloody carpaccio; we got salads and soup, and The Juice orders the egg-plant and tomato while I’m thinking mushroom al forno.
The rest of the menu appears pretty real Italian: pastas and pizza, pork and chicken cooked with the traditional sauces and stuff. The waitress is tall enough to catch an Iranian aeroplane hijacker, wearing a pair of black pants so tight they look as if they were spray-painted onto her legs by Michelangelo. She says the veal’s pretty good, too, we should try it.
But we’re waiting, and now there’s some guys walking in, but if any one of them’s Mafia I’m a wedding-dress designer called Matthew. The guys are in shirt-sleeves and pull-overs: no place to pack a piece, and they have not an inkling of the demeanour required to belong to the Family.
Me being the wine guy, I order a bottle of Shiraz. A Mister Borio from a wine farm by the name of Simonsig, which I guess is local as Stellenbosch appears to be hot for wine. The spray-paint waitress pours, and the wine is to my taste being deep bloody red with the scent of spice and that tasty flavour of danger.
The Juice shows me pictures of the guys being Stellenbosch Mafia, to remind me, but I swear on my Nonna’s life they ain’t sitting in Decameron. This means we can go ahead and eat, build-up enough strength so by the time the local Mafia appear in the restaurant we can get down to some serious whacking. I’ve already scoped the perfect place to hide two of the corpses, should we get lucky.
Time to eat, and the food is good. My mushroom al forno is baked hot, like I like it, a golden crust forming on the melted, gooey cheese in which drift a couple of hot, tender mushrooms. It’s real – if I were a member of the Stellenbosch Mafia I’d be sure to pop in every day for the mushrooms. But they ain’t here. Yet.
Next to me The Juice is having equally fine dining on his eggplant. Tenderly cooked with a fresh hot tomato sauce smelling sweet. I know it’s good as The Juice is grunting as he eats, always a sign the food is to his liking.
A suit appears at the door and I put down my fork and slip my hand under my coat. The grip on my Glock feels reassuringly cool, and I wonder if I shouldn’t just pop the guy in the dark suit and leave the finding out if he’s Mafia to later. But the eating is so fine, and there’s nothing worse than going through the motion of stashing a dead body between first and main course in a fine restaurant.
I was feeling like a beef-steak for main course and The Juice was thinking veal parmigiana as his mother Morita makes the best parmigiana in Brooklyn. But then the waitress says the V-word, and we wilt.
Vongole pasta, this being clams on the shell laying on a bed of spaghetti coloured black with squid ink. We both order it, hoping the waitress ain’t thinking we’re choir-boys or musically inclined.
The Shiraz from Simonsig is going down great, and I’m getting that warm cocky gangster feeling, and really begin wishing we can get a good hit in before the end of the day. Just to get the blood rushing.
Then the main course arrives, and time stands still. A bed of clam-shells covers the bowl and the aroma of garlic, olive oil and parsley bring a tear of longing to my eye, although we only left the Big Apple three days ago. The clams are sweet and moist, I eat all mine and have an urge to ask the waitress to wipe the clam-juice from my chin. But strange girls can be dangerous: just ask our friend Freddy Three Thumbs who got his throat punctured with a high-heel shoe after asking its brunette-owner if she’s ever taken an oral exam.
With the clams out the way, I can dig into the pasta. These are glistening black coils, perfectly cooked to al dente which is good news, as in our part of the valley it’s acceptable to break a chef’s elbow with a pizza roller if he’s over-cooked the pasta. The Juice is silent, slurping his pasta and drinking wine, and wiping his oily mouth and just being a guy.
For a moment, we wonder how lucky we are to be able to travel the world, eat in restaurants on the Consiglieri’s tab and knock-over the odd human trouble-maker.
We sit back after the beautiful food, sipping espresso blacker than the pasta and the coffee dark and well-roasted.
The rest of Decameron is a calm and quiet restaurant, friendly and laughing. We know a Mob joint when we see one, and this ain’t it.
The Juice reckons we go looking for the Pieter and bump this guy who wrote the Stellenbosch Mafia, causing us to fly halfway around the world to find some Mobsters who don’t exist.
But it’s the feeling good we like now, slow moments we feel we deserve. I want to call the Consiglieri, but it’s only 08.00 back in New York. So we’ll sit back and wait as life goes by and some of us live to tell the tale.
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