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Ciao Bella Roma, Dublin, summer 2001

My first job in Dublin Ireland, June of 2001, was at the Italian restaurant Ciao Bella Roma.

They hired me as a pizza-baker-in-training. I was put in front of the oven with S_, a randy Italian fellow about 45 years old.

"I've been doing this for 20 years," he once told me. It struck me as a bit sad, here outside of the traditional Italian setting. While Ciao Bella was indeed an Italian business through-and-through, this was after all in the rapidly-modernizing Ireland, in rapidly-modernizing Dublin. But this feeling, I admit — the feeling that his point of pride was a bit sad — came well after S_ had determined that I was unable to bake pizza.

I admit, also, that he was good. He could handle a lump of dough and work it rounded across the stone edge of the table and produce a lovely perfect evenly-rounded-and-sized pizza base.

But he told me I couldn't bake pizza. I'd made good pizzas years before, New-York style (in Oregon,) using a wooden rolling-pin to shape the base. In that case, I'd worked with an excellent chef who had insisted that I could do the work — and I'd found, on her encouragement, that I could.

My skill didn't translate in the manly traditional world of the old-world Ciao Bella.

They relegated me to the basement, and the prep-work. Still, it wasn't a bad job. The work was neither arduous nor highly-stressful, and once settled in I discovered those of my co-workers whom I could appreciate. (My favorite was the ancient fellow whose name I cannot remember and who did not speak English. We liked each other, and laughed along with each other — not speaking five words of each other's language.)

I left Ciao Bella after a month or so, but only because I thought that I'd found a better job, working as a baker at much better pay. That other job turned out to be worse — starting with a misunderstanding about the wage-packet there, and concluding with a relegation to night-time hours (worse than any basement) based upon the [egad!] French head-baker's opinion that I do not know how to bake bread.

Worse, the manager of the bakery had hired me — at which point I'd submitted my intention to leave Ciao Bella — and then had told me we'd have to wait until their head baker returned from vacation (holiday) before I could begin.

I had no work. The rent, of course, was due as it always is. I asked the boss at Ciao Bella if he would re-hire me. He would not.