Correspondence

The Pavlovian Sandwich

Giovanni and I were both in Milan for the day, and he asked me to join him for lunch at Bice with a friend of his, Lauren Bacall. The expensive restaurant was quite empty, we drank a good bit, and the conversation ranged from the actress's favorite New Yorker cartoon to the particulars of life in Venice. Then obliquely, in a stage whisper (for the most part inside my own mildly alcoholized brain), it went on to the mercurial ways of glamour and money, and this was what I continued to think about after we'd said our goodbyes, all the way back to Venice Santa Lucia. The father rabbit, seeing off his son at the station, hands him a small package, saving: "Your mother wanted you to have this for luck. It's her foot." That was the cartoon.

As for life in Venice, we got onto the subject when Miss Bacall dreamily recalled the finger sandwiches that used to be served on airplanes in the old days, when transcontinental air travel began to edge out the railways. We quickly established that the nearest thing going today is the tramezzino, and at that point Miss Bacall—I do not chide her, its just the way people think—added, blithely, "at Harry's Bar." Now, the truth is that the tramezzino is as fundamentally Venetian as pizza is Neapolitan, with the consequence that every bar in town makes a sandwich at least as amazing as what is on offer at the Cipriani establishment—and...

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