Discover more from Rat Report
Exploring an extremely lit Italian eatery
New York City offers a vast array of delicious cuisines from around the world. Among such cuisines, none is more storied and famous than New York's Italian food scene. Puglia is a charming Italian eatery nestled in Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhood that is frequently full on weekends, but not because the food is good (I don't remember whether the food is good, or even what I ate). Rather, people go to Puglia because it's lit.
You start by visiting their website, which informs you that you need to make a reservation via Facebook Messenger. If you remember how to log into Facebook you can book a spot for you and some friends on a Saturday night. There's a normal menu, but the prix fixe menu is the way to go because you get unlimited beer and wine for $50 (you'll need it).
You show up, sit down, and start eating whatever they bring to your table. You're picking at your food and guzzling your red wine when suddenly an ancient couple who look like they've seen some shit, known professionally as Jorge Buccio and Debbie Broadway, enter the room.
Debbie Broadway wears a long dress and is so slender you'd think a stiff breeze could send her tumbling. According to the Puglia website she was the lead singer of a wedding band for many years.
Jorge Buccio is a dark-haired crooner from a bygone era. According to the Puglia website Jorge was recognized by Radio Mix FM 102.7 as one of Little Italy's "Icon Singers," though I'm not sure how many singers he was competing against within the 12 square-block confines of Little Italy (besides Debbie Broadway, of course). He even released a CD once!
They begin playing music with Jorge on the keys and Debbie belting out anything from Frank Sinatra to disco hits. The drunk diners are loving it. The crowd sings along; some decide to get up and dance in the already-cramped space, forcing servers to expertly dodge between their flailing bodies.
But then something magical happens: the Napkin Dance. The singing turns into a chant of "get up, get up, get up and shake your napkin!" Everyone in the restaurant jumps to their feet, climbs on top of their chair, and waves their napkin around in the air. You don't know what's happening, but you climb on top of your chair like everyone else and shake your napkin like your life depends on it. You realize how easily you could be convinced to join a cult.
Eventually they stop, everyone sits back down, and the musicians pack up and take a break. You're sweating and wondering what just happened. Your heart is racing; never before in any Italian restaurant have you felt so alive. Eventually things calm down. You pick at your food some more, sip some more red wine, and resume conversing with your friends, but all you can really think about is when you'll get your next fix of the napkin dance.
You realize you urgently need to go to the bathroom due to the bottomless beer and wine you've been drinking. Much to your dismay you discover a long line because the bathroom is full of people vomiting and doing cocaine.
After some time the musicians return and resume playing their music. Quit playing these wretched 70's hits, you think to yourself, just play that fucking napkin song again. But you know how it works now; the music is but auditory foreplay before the main event, and enduring it will make the napkin song that much more satisfying. Your muscles are tensed, ready to spring to your feet when the time comes. Your vision narrows and your palms start sweating. It's loud. You look at your friend and her lips are moving, but you can't hear a thing. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins along with red wine that probably came out of a box. At last, Jorge and Debbie stop wailing and you hear it: "get up, get up, get up and shake your napkin!" The next thing you know you're on top of your chair, waving your napkin like a madman, and all is right in the world.
Eventually you leave, and you walk out the door a different person than you were when you came in. You can't stop thinking about your experience. Jorge and Debbie haunt your dreams, and you catch yourself standing on your chair doing the napkin dance at a work happy hour weeks later. You sheepishly apologize and climb down from your chair as your coworkers stare in shock. But they don't know what it's like. They haven't been to Puglia.