Driving home last night, I went by Papaspiros around 10:00; I was hungry, the lights were on, it was an easy target of opportunity, so boots were on the ground in seconds.
The place was fairly full, even at 10:00 PM. Got off to a rough start: my waitron spoke as though he had the Elgin Marbles in his mouth. I was still able to get across my single wish: Fasolia Gigantes, the giant Lima beans at $3.50 a plate.
My limas arrived steaming, plump in tomato sauce and shiny with moist vegetable fats. Actually, the Limas were not so much in red sauce as framed by red sauce: dressed up and set off, enhanced, presented to best advantage in all their savory Limatude. These big bubbles of intense flavor each had their own personality, unique and of varied texture. Some were hard, some soft, but none were squishy or under-/overdone. I ate these huge Limas one at a time, sometimes salting, sometimes peppering, cutting some with a knife, enjoying them slowly, meditatively and fastidiously, as Charlie Chaplin might savor a shoe.
As I ate them, it was like all the sounds in the restaurants were swept away. The guy with the girl who was talking too loudly. The earnest middle-aged women going on about the war. The coalition of the swilling right next to me (three guys on their fourth bottle). All those sounds were shut out, like the whole room was suddenly sucked into a vacuum. Just me and the beans. I wasnt sure if I was consuming them, or that they were consuming me.
As I was leaving, I nodded to the owner, Papageorge, who was standing at the register. You Greek? he asked. Italian, I said. Close enough, he smiled, and went back to the kitchen.
733 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL 60301