Our five-day stay in Venice ended at the same place where it started: Trattoria Misericordia in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice. On our first night, we arrived before anyone else, and sat outside at a table on the edge of a side canal in Venice traveled by locals and a few water taxis. Our host came out and immediately started giving us trouble in an incredibly charming and teasing way, and of course, we gave as good as we got. I said we should get half off, because our sitting down had enticed others to take tables. He said he should charge double because he was getting real work done inside until we showed up early and made him get up.
At one point, he asked me to guess where he was from. I guessed either Morocco or Eygpt. He insisted I narrow it down. I said Morocco, even though I suspected Egypt. He was born and raised in Cairo, and came to Venice in 2003 looking for “something different.”
I asked him for his name. He said he would give it to me, but that I would not believe it was genuine.
I said, “Try me.”
He said, “Peter.”
I said, “You’re right. I don’t believe you.”
He showed me his resident card. His given, or as he put it, Christian, name is Peter.
Peter and his wife and two daughters are Coptic Christians. On the day before our first visit to his restaurant, Peter’s compatriots in Egypt were attacked by ISIS in two Coptic Christian churches, and three dozen Egyptian Coptic Christians were killed. Paula and Peter and I talked for a long time about the battle between good and evil, and about our belief in good ultimately triumphing. But it was clear that the attack was a heavy personal burden for Peter.
Peter has been running Trattoria Misericordia for more than three years. He has hired other Egyptian immigrants, such as the delightful Aya, pictured here, and trained them in the restaurant business. He says the only thing that makes it worthwhile is that he gets to serve tourists, and usually they are on holiday, so they are happy.
Peter teases everyone at first, and waits to see whether his guests like it, or don’t, or don’t understand it. But if you get him, there isn’t a more delightful proprietor in the world. On our last night, celebrating our second wedding anniversary, the check was, as before, a little light on some items we had ordered, so we left a 20 Euro tip for his staff, which is unheard of in Europe. As we left, we told him: This is for your staff, but you must not have ANY of it, because we do not like you very much.”
We will return soon to Trattoria Misericordia, where our Egyptian-Venetian friends Peter and Aya will be awaiting us with welcoming arms.