By Robin Kaye
Hi, I’m Robin Kaye, author of Romeo, Romeo, coming out November 1 from Sourcebooks, Casablanca, and Too Hot To Handle, due out in the spring of 2009. I thought it would be fun to visit my favorite restaurant, in my favorite place, Brooklyn, NY, and talk to one of my favorite characters. Believe me when I say Vinny DiNicola is a real character.
When I arrived, I was shown to the back dining room of the restaurant. It was 2:15, after the lunch rush but well before the diner crowd would show. I waited for the owner of Park Slope’s best Italian restaurant--DiNicola’s.
Vinny DiNicola rushed in carrying coffee and a plate of biscotti. His son must have told him of my weakness for biscotti and espresso. I’m just glad he didn’t come bearing cannoli – that would have been my downfall.
Vinny: I’m sorry I took so long. I had to finish… (he waved his hand as if swatting away the rest of the sentence) I’m here now. What can I do for you?
Robin: I want to talk to you about Nick and Rosalie.
Vinny: (His unibrow rose) Why you interested in them?
Robin: I wrote a book about them a while ago called Romeo, Romeo and I just wanted to get your take on their relationship.
Vinny: A book? Like you get in a library?
Robin: Or a book store. But yes, I wrote a romance.
Vinny: About Nick and Rosalie? Who else is in it?
Robin: Pretty much everyone Nick and Rosalie are close to.
Vinny: (Smiling widely) You put me in that book?
Robin: Of course I did. You gave some great advice to Nick in Romeo, Romeo and even Mike in my next book, Too Hot To Handle. You were a real player in both their relationships. What I want to know is how you got so good at all this.
Vinny: You sayin’ I ain’t real smart?
Robin: No, not at all.
Vinny: (He puffed out his rather large chest) It don’t take an Einstein to figure out a few things about women. I’ve been studying them all my life…especially Italian women. They’re a breed all their own.
Robin: You seemed to know Nick and Mike were in love long before they did. How?
Vinny: I know my boys. I’ve known Nick all his life. He’s my cousin. And I knew Mike since before he could shave. Not much gets by me. Besides, there were all the typical signs.
Robin: For instance?
Vinny: You askin’ me for an example? Okay, one day Nick found out Rosalie was workin’ late, and it sounded like she’d had a really crappy day, so he came here to get her a nice dinner. Rosalie loves my food. But usually, if some chick he was datin’ had a bad day, he was either the reason for the bad day, or he was runnin’ like hell in the opposite direction. He sure as hell wasn’t gonna spend time trying to make her feel better."
Robin: Are you telling me that Nick was-
Vinny: A prick? No. Well, not unless you were one of his bimbo girlfriends. Then, yeah, I guess he was. See, Nick likes women--he just always went for the kind of women you don’t marry. Until he met Rosalie.
Robin: What was so different about Rosalie?
Vinny: First thing was, she didn’t seem to like him much. (He sat back, crossed his arms and smiled) ’Course, she didn’t recognize him either. She thought he was one of his mechanics, and he let her think that. (Vinny shook his head in disbelief.) He actually thought she fell for it. I told him no nice Italian girl sleeps with a guy without knowin’ his first, middle and last name – at least not more than once.
Robin: He lied to her.
Vinny: Maybe Father Francis would say so, but is it really a lie if you don’t correct someone’s false assumption?
Vinny: (Shrugged) Yeah, that’s Father Francis’ take on it, too.
Robin: Back to what was different about Rosalie.
Vinny: (Slicked back his thinning hair) Yeah, okay. She didn’t want to get married and she gave him the first date talk. Right here at this very table in fact.
Robin: The first date talk?
Vinny: You don’t know much about this, do you? I hope your book doesn’t suck. I mean, shouldn’t you know this shit since you wrote it and everything? No offense.
Robin: (I almost spit out my coffee when I started laughing. Vinny just watched me the way a little boy does when he can’t figure out if he’s going to get a swat upside the head or a pat on the back) No offense taken. I know what happened, I just want you to tell everyone in your own words.
Vinny: Oh, sure. (He smiled his cocky grin, sat a little straighter, and puffed out his chest while holding in his gut. If he were a peacock, he’d be strutting with his feathers fanned for the world to see.) Oh yeah, she told him in no uncertain terms that she liked being single, she liked havin’ her own place, she liked doin’ what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, and she didn’t need a man to tell her how to live her life. In other words, she gave Nick the same speech he’d givin’ women for years. But she did it better. Nick told me if he hadn’t been so shocked, he’d have taken notes. Her style was ingenious.
Robin: When did you know things had gotten serious?
Mona DiNicola entered the dining room and gave me the once over. She brought an espresso pot over and refilled our cups.
Mona: I can answer that one. I suspected when Nick brought her to dinner. He never brought his women here. Not since he was a kid. It’d be like bringing a girlfriend to meet your family. Which we are. (Mona sat on Vinny’s lap and wrapped her arm around his neck) Family, that is. (She fluffed her bleached-blonde hair with her other hand, and then inspected her nails) I knew for sure the day Nick called us from the hospital when Rosalie had pneumonia. He asked me to go grocery shopping and bring food to Rosalie’s apartment. He stayed to take care of her. Nick never cared for anyone but his family. I knew then.
Vinny: (Laughing) Yeah, but he was such a putz, it took him a couple months to figure out. It wasn’t until she dumped him that he knew, maybe even longer. He’s a stubborn son-of-a-bitch.
Robin: How did they get back together?
Vinny: I taught him how to grovel.
Mona: (Mona rubbed Vinny’s back and kissed him on the cheek) He’s real good at groveling. Aren’t you, Vin?
Vinny: Shit, Mona do you gotta tell the whole world? (He wrapped his beefy arm more tightly around her and if I’m not mistaken, gave her a pinch. I didn’t see exactly where his hand went, I just noticed she jumped a little on his lap. Vinny, obviously pleased with the result, smiled) I gotta say, Nick must have done somethin’ right, since he got Rosalie back. Considerin’ how bull headed they both are, I must be a feakin’ genius of a teacher.
Mona: Or you’re just the leading authority on groveling, and you imparted your knowledge to your favorite cousin.
Vinny: (Winked at his wife and waggled his unibrow.) Eh, you been happy all these years, and it ain’t just because I know how to grovel. Matter of fact…(he checked his watch)…we got somewhere we need to be. Don’t we, Mona?
Mona: Yeah, we sure do. (Her voice was breathless) If you don’t need anything else from us, we’d better take off.
Robin: (Shaking her head. It’s not often you find people married for almost 20 years and still be so obviously in love) Thank you for all your help, and have a nice afternoon.
Vinny and Mona: We will. (In stereo)
I gathered my bag and left them canoodling at the table. Obviously, Vinny imparted a few more pearls of wisdom to Nick. Mona and Rosalie both look at their man the same way. As if they’re looking for an excuse to drag him into a private place just to get their hands on him. I found myself walking briskly back to the hotel where my very own Domestic God waited for me. We had plans to go to DiNicola’s for dinner…I planned to make it a late one.