It is almost impossible to write a happy holiday column in the present world situation, especially with what has occurred in my native country of the United States. President Obama is right when he says they must put an end to the culture of violence. Can you have a culture of nonviolence at home when there is a response of war as a solution to problems with others?
Like Candide, my personal solution seems to be to cultivate my own little garden or, in my case, my own urban neighborhood.
But, truth be told, I am not happy with much that is happening in my neighborhood. The stadium has brought an invasion of cheering crowds and traffic jams. Cheering crowds are no fun unless you are part of them. Traffic jams are no fun, period. Now, four blocks from my nice, large picture windows that look towards the mountains, I can see one of those towers that I assume enables us all to have cell phones. It looks like it has tambourines hanging on its side. And I am aware in my bedroom of a new humming sound. My Chicken Little brain has decided it must be the lethal waves from the tower falling on my head. My Dr. Pangloss side says, “Don’t be silly, just keep whistling in this best-of-all-possible worlds.”
Then, not far from this structure, going up is a huge apartment building, four blocks from me and smack up against some of the handsomest homes and buildings in the neighborhood. I am told the new building will reach 18 stories. It only blocks my view of the mountains, but it has to block the breathing space of its surrounding neighbors.
To my mind, it is a lousy location for a huge apartment building that will house hundreds of people, all of whom will want cars in order to get out of there, and then they will find the street along la Sabana (Avenida de los Americas), blocked off every time something goes on at the stadium. I don’t think there is another exit from that cul de sac. It makes the Nancy Drew inside of me think that maybe the builders are not really interested in filling those apartments. The Walter Mitty in me is happy to just imagine myself as a fearless private eye creeping around the place at night. My Inspector Clouseau propensities would have me falling down an empty elevator shaft. That is all happening on the north side of my apartment.
As the Fritz Schumacher in me emerges, I look out my office window facing south. Happier things are appearing on the south side. The tiniest restaurant in the city has just opened down the street. It is not a soda, of which there are many small ones in Costa Rica. This is an Italian bistro, if you will, not as big as my office — probably eight feet square — with six tiny tables and twice as many little cushioned stools. It is called Il Dolce. The menu is fittingly small, too, no book-long offerings that takes your whole lunch hour to read. Il Dolce serves spaghetti with the choice of bolognesa or a béchamel sauce and lasagna with carne or pollo, or vegetables. Their ejecutivo is 2,500 colons and includes salad and a drink.
The one suggestion I would make is that they toss the salad Italian style with olive oil and vinegar before serving.
They are open those killer hours that many new restaurants start with, Sunday to Friday from early morning until 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 until 3:30. All of this is done in a space about nine feet square, charmingly designed by, I believe, Franco’s mother.
The owner/chef Franco Cersosimo Keith and his helper, Claudia Calderón, are both unreasonably cheerful in the face of their daunting hours and their chances of surviving, given the statistics for restaurants.
So, if you are a small-is-beautiful aficionado, and on your list of things to do is visit the small restaurants in Costa Rica, you might try Il Dolce. I had the lasagna with chicken thinking I would never eat the large portion I was served, but I did. Then my companion and I shared a chocolate tiramisu.