With every trip I make to Italy, I bring back more treasured memories of the warm and endearing hospitality of its people. In fact, not only do I keep a ‘diary’ of sorts by writing my articles for Timeless Italy, but I seek out ways at home to keep this Italian way of life vibrantly alive on a daily basis.
One activity I have recently taken up has been to join a book club of Italy lovers like myself. Between us all, we keep Italy alive and well in our hearts and minds as we enjoy a monthly Italian lunch of prosecco, salad, main dish and tiramisu while discussing our latest book choice.
At our last book luncheon, we were accompanied by a journalist for the Lake Oswego Review. Here he shares his observations of our lively group at Nicoletta’s Table. Although the group looks to me as the “Italy expert,” I can honestly say they are just as knowledgable and have shared their incredible Italian journeys as well. Enjoy….
Showing their love for Italy
That is if you can get a seat at the table…..
The club meets in a side room of the popular Lake Oswego restaurant on State Street, and a typical meeting recreates the Italian family dining experience because there are so many (too many?) people sitting around the large oval table. Everyone is animated, laughing and talking, wine flows, and the food is “magnifico.”
When good food and good company come together, the result is magic. Especially with Italian food.
“This club has taken on a life of its own,” club founder Lori Greer said. “This is a community built around a love of food, travel, love of Italy, meeting new people.”
“Love of Nicoletta’s is why we’re here,” Cheryl Dotten said. “It is so nice to have a place like this instead of going to downtown Portland and fighting the traffic.”
The club is also about the love of Nicoletta’s Table owner Shari Newman. Having a book club was her idea in the first place, and since so many people love Newman’s restaurant, Greer thought it was a great idea. Even though she had to shrug off some early discouragement.
“At the first meeting, I was the only one there,” Greer said. “But the setting was so beautiful and the food was so good, I knew this club would be a success.”
Of course, she was right. Greer is now surrounded by happy Italophiles, all of them ready to enrich their Italian experience.
They even discuss books about Italy. The tome reviewed at the most recent meeting was “An Italian Journey” by James Ernest Shaw. The discussion is loud, witty and the laughter rolls. Observations are pungent: “When you marry an Italian, you marry his mother.” What the women liked most about the book is its description of how close Italian families are, living in one city and one neighborhood for decades, maybe centuries. This remarkable strength of community is something they envy.
Almost all of the club members have traveled to Italy and could probably write a pretty good book about their adventures. But when it comes to knowledge of Italy, the club looks to “our expert” — Susan Nelson. Her great Italian experience started 13 years ago on a quick two-week vacation that covered three countries — France, Italy and Switzerland.
“I loved it all, but Italy captivated me,” Nelson said. “I think it was a combination of the medieval villages, monuments from the Roman Empire, food and wine, the gorgeous art, history, the people, and the beauty of the countryside. I felt like I was cast under an exotic spell.”
Once under the spell, Nelson kept going back. Now she travels to Italy once or twice a year and has written 200 blog articles about her experiences and discoveries. Her best discovery has been new friends.
“The first time you meet, you are friends,” Nelson said. “The second time you meet, you are family.”
Having a person like Susan Nelson around is a valuable asset for the book club, and the club, with its “wonderful group of ladies” helps Nelson ease her craving for all things Italian.
Certainly it will help to have Nelson’s expertise when the club has its dream come true: a trip to Italy by all of the members of the Nicoletta’s Table Book Club.
I hope you enjoyed this review and that you have thought of ways to keep Italy alive in you own world, wherever that may be.