Not long ago I went to lunch with three good friends. Since they all live in Escazú, we decided to find a restaurant there. And since there is always something new going up in Escazú, they decided to try a restaurant in a new business complex. It is somewhere between Hospital CIMA and I think, Avenida Escazú. We arrived at a completely paved enclave with parking spaces and a huge glass business building that did not seem occupied as yet. In front of that building was a string of businesses not quite ready to serve the public. There were a number of restaurants. Some did not seem to be fully open yet. Others didn’t strike our fancy or were too pricey for us. We all agreed upon a comfortable looking place with tables outside that served pizza, and we settled for that.
It was not really a sidewalk café because there was no sidewalk in front of the tables, just the paved parking area.
What struck me as I looked around us was that we could have been in any modern city in any modern country in the world and I would need a map or a local person to tell me I was in Costa Rica.
Thinking about that, some days later I suggested to my friend, Doug that we head downtown, where as much as things change, San José is still idiosyncratically Costa Rica. With that in mind, and also because we had recently enjoyed the food of Chef Tony in his new digs, we decided to revisit his old digs, Il Ritorno.
Il Ritorno is still in Casa Italia on Avenida Ocho, 200 meters south of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Chef Marco Caldi, who took over after Tony, is still preparing the meals on the original menu and doing a great job of it. Antonio, who, I think is the head waiter, is still greeting people and serving plates of steaming Italian food to a room filled almost to capacity. It is amazing how two waiters can so efficiently see to everyone’s need.
Much to our surprise, Antonio not only remembered us, but asked me if I was going to have my favorite entrée.
It was like coming home to see all of the charming and comical porcelain and glass figurines on the window sills, side by side with slim bottles of liqueur. And windows that revealed the traffic moving from the busy intersection.
We settled into our tapestry covered chairs, and I marveled again that such a variety of patterns and colors at the different tables seemed to blend very nicely, and more importantly, were comfortable. Il Ritorno has retained its personality.
I did order my favorite entrée, salmon with mushrooms and a cream sauce with a mélange of baby vegetables that included squash, zucchini, carrots and broccoli prepared just the way Chef Tony taught Marco and I wish I could learn. The salmon was cooked to perfection, and so generous a serving that I made another meal and a snack out of what I took home.
After lunch we walked a short way up the street and hailed a taxi and had the pleasure of driving through San José on Avenida Ocho, which has been paved with cement and makes a comfortable ride all the way to Paseo Colón.
One thing that we can count on is change. We change, and the world around us changes. As we get older, we change in ways we may not always be happy to recognize: Like not always finding what is new to be better, to be progress or an improvement. My mother, who lived to be 99, managed change by living in the small city she had lived in for 50 years. Jamestown didn’t change much either in all those years.
Having moved so often and lived in so many different places, change became a part of my life, and I enjoyed it. But now I have been in Costa Rica long enough and find I like it the way it was and figure if I want change, I will move to another country or part of the country where I can expect things to be different. That is not going to happen, but it does have me thinking about the nature and sameness of change, the inevitability of it in this electronically connected world, except for a few self-isolated societies