Friday night it was dinner alone at La Pizza, the village restaurant in Morières-lès-Avignon. The clients there are ouvriers, workers and their families. The men and boys come in jeans and the heavy knit ribbed shirt/sweaters in vogue here; the women and girls are dressed to go out, not fancy but "proper" and attractive. It’s situated on the village square, the church opposite, a few businesses around about. The front door enters into a dark, quiet bar, where a couple of middle-aged men check out the newcomer. One could see, down a long narrow space next to the bar, an open-fronted wood-fired pizza oven (identical to those one sees in southern Italy - the small fire visible through the opening and a guy in a wrap-around tablier busily making pizzas) There is a set of tables down the length of that room; at 7:30, when I walked in, there were a couple of those tables occupied with folks eating the first pies of the evening while joshing with the cook.
The main room is simple and economically tasteful - typically Provençal with off-white stucco walls, a row of small wall lamps for light, and bright pictures of local scenes and herbs on the walls. The small wooden tables all have double sets of decent tablecloths in the colors of the region, maybe a little threadbare but bright and clean - set with the usual cheap stem-ware and stainless steel flatware. This place is a cheap restaurant as those things go here, but I do like their style. No hassle about "keep your knife and fork"; they bring new ones with the new course. The vin du pays is in a stone pitcher, the water is in a re-cycled vin blanc bottle, service is attentive and the bread basket is always full. The menu - a wide variety of local things à la carte, plus a "menu" at 16 euros, with the usual entrée, plat principal, salade, fromage et dessert. Just like the big city, except that the portions are big enough to satisfy folks who have done manual labor.
By 8:00 the main room was getting a steady flow of newcomers, and by 9:00, when I had finished, the place was full. I had been first in; I think I was first out. No one was in a hurry. I noticed particularly how well the families were getting along with the little kids. The parents seemed to make a point of paying attention to the petits, who, in turn, seemed content to sit for a long dinner and be entertained by the process of eating out. There were the usual trips to the jon, with a kiss from the kid for the parent left at the table. Teenagers, of course, seemed to manage to be civil to their siblings, but not exactly convincingly.
I couldn't help recalling my first encounter with Restaurant La Pizza. It was in 2002, while I was a beginning student at the residential French language school in Morières. On a Friday afternoon I was to make a reservation for four for that evening. With my professor at my side, I nervously dialed the restaurant.
— Bonjour, La Pizza
— Bonjour. (and very carefully,) Je voudrais faire une réservation pour ce soir, une table pour quatre personnes à dix-neuf heures trente. Mon nom est BARNES, b,a,r,n,e,s.
— Very well Mr. Barnes, we’ll see you at 7:30.