Here in northern New Jersey, old ladies shout “Jackass!” to drivers who cut them off, fervent Catholics worship “Gawd” and middle-aged hookers have pink hair. New Jersey also has the most dense diner per capita in the country and it is here, in the diner, where you not only get to enjoy the most pillowy French toast around (we’re talking French toast more pillowy than Angelina Jolie’s lips!), but you also get to immerse yourself in a microcosm of all things Jersey all at once, the accents, the hair, and the Mafioso ambiance.
Last Saturday, the hubby treated his ladeez to platters of pillowy French toast at our favorite diner, a place where the waitresses know Anna and know to have crayons at the ready. Because we have a toddler, we dine on toddler hours which means eating breakfast around 8 a.m. When we go to the diner, usually the only other folks there are other folks with small children, hookers getting off a shift (and yes, we have seen that), and old people. Many of these old people look and sound like extras from The Sopranos. It’s the kind of place where guys named Vinny, Tony, Big Lou and Little Lou gather to discuss business over “cawfee.”
This time, our booth was sandwiched between two parties of middle-aged Italian men with Jersey accents thickah than buttah. One thing we’ve noticed about New Jersey and its middle-aged Italian men is that they like to dine with one another and not with the women folk, who are probably all home cooking up big pots of tomato sauce.
In one booth was a guy who said “How you doin’ beautiful,” to the waitress in the heaviest Joey Tribiani accent imaginable. What intrigued us was the other table, where four guys in their 50s and 60s talked about contracting in New York City. It sounded like a scene from The Godfather. I had my back to these guys and I said to Mike “it sounds like Marlon Brando is sitting behind us,” and Mike said, “that’s because Marlon Brando is sitting behind you.”
Then one of the men stood up, walked to the other side of the table, and kissed another man on the cheek while the other two kept talking. We thought maybe the presentation of a family pinky ring would follow, but it didn’t.
My husband and I have discussed this and we feel sharing plates of eggs and bacon (and French toast) with the locals, whether they be mobsters, hookers, or somewhere in between, is a good way to introduce Anna to the ways of this world. It won’t be long now before my little girl, who doesn’t have a drop of Italian ancestry in her, will finish her sentences with “Capisce?” After all, she was born here and she could travel the entire world and live in exotic lush lands, but just like Meryl Streep, Martha Stewart, and Bon Jovi, she will always be from New Jersey and these will always be her people.