So I mentioned earlier this week that my children walked the entire Freedom trail – all two and half miles of it – over the course of about six or seven hours one gorgeous July day. But in that post I didn’t tell you the sad end of the story. Given the amount of loving attention I dedicate to food on this site, you may be surprised to learn that it was lack of planning around a meal that was my stumbling block. Allow me to explain.
It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, something of a long and tiring day, even if we did have a good time. After we toured the USS Constitution, we waited for about a half an hour to catch the ferry that would return us to Boston proper. That’s because just as we headed for the dock a container ship entered Boston Harbor, shutting down all boat traffic. Although it was getting late (it was probably about 5:30 at this point) I wasn’t concerned because I had a plan. For dinner, we would walk ten minutes from the dock to the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in America and the traditional dining spot of JFK. This is a place where the menu says you can order “Ye Olde New England Favorites” like broiled scrod. When we finally landed in Boston, I was musing whether I should order some uber-traditional 1950s libation like a martini with an olive in it as we pushed our way through the crowds on the wharf. Because, oh yes, there were crowds, an ominous fact that didn’t register at first.
Now here’s the key piece of information: Although I had a clear plan, I hadn’t made a reservation because I wasn’t sure when we would be done with our walk and ready for dinner. And surely, it wouldn’t be too busy on a Sunday evening!
I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that when we arrived at the restaurant (at just after 6) we were informed that it would be a 45-minute wait. Just like that, the martini that was hovering over my head in a thought bubble disappeared with a poof.
No problem, I assured Matt. I know that the best place for pizza in the nearby North End is Regina Pizzeria. We’ll just head over there and order a pie. (Those of you with a practical bent might wonder why we didn’t head for the zillions of restaurants at Faneuil Hall a mere few blocks away in the opposite direction. But we were not going to be just hungry tourists! Not us! I have a reputation as a foodie traveling mom to protect, thank you very little.) Tommy and Teddy looked ravenous but utterly defeated. And Matt, knowing me all to well, followed obediently along. So really it’s their fault. If ever there was a moment for dissention from the ranks it was that one.
I was surprised at the chaos that greeted us as we entered the warren of streets that make up Boston’s Little Italy. Every restaurant we passed had a line out the door. It seems that with the demise of the highway that once cut this neighborhood off from the rest of the city (and which now runs underground with a gorgeous park above it) tourists and locals of every stripe had decided to make the North End their destination of choice. And of course, thanks to Internet and travel bloggers (thanks A LOT travel bloggers) all of them knew just where to find the best pizza in Boston. The line at our destination might have been the longest of all.
I was starting to panic a little as my own blood sugar dropped; Tommy looked even worse than I did. Matt realized the delicate and critical nature of the crisis and as we trudged along blindly headed in the general direction of our (restaurantless) hotel he kept his eyes open for a likely spot to dine. As we headed down Salem Street, all of our heads lifted at the scent of perfectly-roasted garlic that seemed especially strong around one storefront with yet another line of people stretching down the block. “Hang on,” he said, entering the door under the illuminated Antico Forno sign. He was back within minutes bearing a pager. “The wait here is only a half hour and I think we can sit down inside,” was his happy report.
We cozied up to the bar as best we could (there wasn’t a lot of space and only two stools were available) and revived the children with chocolate milk and soda and baseball on the television. A glass of wine or two may have also been consumed by the grownups as well, but who’s counting? I watched for 30 minutes, then 45, as the young hostess with an impassable face and gleaming black hair seated table after table while the lights on our pager remained stubbornly off. Finally, seeing two or three tables of people leave, I walked casually up to her and asked when we might expect to be seated. “Oh,” she said vaguely “You’re the second or third people on the list, so I’m sure it won’t be long.” Then I watched as she filled all three tables and then three more without summoning us.
That did it. Grabbing the pager and summoning all my dignity, I swept us out the door, dropping it on her stand without so much as a backward glance, past the long line of people that still stretched up the block, and into the first open door I saw, which happened to be that of a small pizzeria selling slices the size of dinner plates. Since I was basically speaking in gibberish at this point, Matt translated, insisting that, yes, we did want two slices each (this order required four separate pizza boxes, but no mind).
I had so lost my sense of humor that I don’t even have a picture of us eating the huge, greasy (and probably halfway decent but I could barely taste them) slices of pizza near the fountains where two evenings previously the boys had frolicked. Trust me, we all survived.
I’ve shared my food fail – now it’s your turn to ‘fess up: Have you ever run into trouble trying to feed your kids on the road? And how organized are you generally about meal planning? Inquiring minds want to know!
Photo courtesy of Night Owl City via Flickr.