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"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" • Billy Joel (by Kevin Risner)

Not Olive Garden.

OK, I guess it could be.

The song was the first one on the first mix I gave

my wife. This was before we were dating. We'd

gone to that chain multiple times in friend groups

before I sent this mix over to her

on a CD.

Limitless breadsticks are inevitable.

Wherever you go, carbohydrates are a requirement.

I’ve told people that a little bit of basil and

thyme go a long way. Before we stop and think

why we don’t get sparkling water

at most dining establishments, I want jazz

to connect the sections between us

until there’s no more room for the initial

narrative and I have to go back decades

when my wife and I went on

our first date.

It wasn’t an Italian restaurant,

some bistro.

I had a Rob Roy,

and I still have the button-down shirt that I wore on the


It cost under a dollar at a random thrift store…

Can you believe that one?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was

Garfield and he was obsessed with lasagna. Just

think, us both, on our next anniversary sitting

across from one another

shoveling lasagna into our gullets with our

hands and no one even flinches.

We get some Pellegrino to wash everything

down. And the breadsticks are flowing

sprouting up like lilies in spring.

Bottle of red, white, rosé, whatever the hell you

desire. I’ll meet you anytime you want.

Kevin A. Risner is the author of Do Us a Favor (Variant Literature, 2021); You Thought This Was Just Gonna Be About Cleveland, Didn't You (Ghost City Press, 2022); and There's No Future Where We Don't Have Fire (ELJ Editions, forthcoming in 2025)


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