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The Chef and the Cowboy

by Melody Ridge

While sitting outside at L’ Oste del Re, a local Italian restaurant in the historic center of Orvieto, the smell of cured meats and fresh Italian cooking circled the air. On this cool and cloud shaded day, there is a calmness in this restaurant as people stop to enjoy lunch or just a glass of wine. A wide variety of foods adorn each customer’s table, including round sandwiches on soft baked bread, a giant plate of freshly cured meats and cheeses, and large bowls of steaming pasta.

As customers enjoy their meals, a small older lady dressed in a fashionable floral shirt and yellow pants walks out to greet each customer and make sure they are happy. She approaches the table and pushes her short grey hair back to reveal a large smile accompanied by her bright red lipstick. Her welcoming demeanor shows she cares about each customer and their experience here. Her engagement is natural, but serves another purpose: she and her husband own the restaurant.

This woman introduces herself as Maria Grazia, a 53-year-old local form Orvieto who has owned restaurants in Orvieto alongside her husband since they were twenty. When Maria is working, she speaks to every customer as one of her close friends. She has a passion for developing a personal relationship with each customer and having the ability to please them. She makes sure to ask if customers enjoyed their meal and tells them she hopes they will come visit again. The radiating sense of calmness and joy that Maria carries while working shows that she is proud of her business and loves sharing it with others.

When asked about her job as a restaurant owner, Maria explains that she has always had her shop open for lunch, but began closing it before dinner time. “It is important to enjoy life and not always be working.” she says through an interpreter. “Work is not the most important thing, but doing what you love should be.”

Although she doesn’t want to work all the time, she explains that she enjoys spending her free time expressing her creativity and creating new recipes to serve at her restaurant. She assures us that work is her hobby because she truly enjoys what she does.

Maria also talks about her marriage and how she and her husband are able to work so well together. Her husband has always had a passion for the United States and even decided to travel to Wyoming alone, knowing no English, to learn how to be an American “cowboy”. Maria has always embraced her husband’s love for the States and allows him to go on these journeys whenever he pleases. “This is a key to an everlasting marriage,” she says while she explains that her husband also gives her space to explore her creativity and make new dishes for the business. Maria is so happy to talk about her job and her contentment with life can be seen while she talks about it. Maria says her true goal in life is “making others happy and connecting with her community,” and this restaurant is how she achieves that goal.