The first time I experienced riposo I had no idea what was happening. I was eighteen, backpacking around Europe and I had feet on the ground in Italy for about six hours, off the train in Brindisi before hopping the ferry to Greece. My travel companion and I were eager to explore so we held off eating lunch until we had seen a few sights. After a few hours of walking, we worked up a tremendous appetite and were excited to dig into legendary Italian food, only to discover that everything was closed. The streets were empty, windows and doors were shuttered, a quiet had descended upon the city. We couldn’t figure it out. We wandered for over an hour, hunger growing into delirium.
Then, lost down a non-descript back alley, we stumbled on an open door with a few red and white checkered table-cloths inside. We were welcomed in by a jolly, round woman. She sat us down and brought a platter of the simplest, most delicious pasta, and a jug of wine. We gave them money, but in hindsight I’m not sure the place was actually a restaurant. There was no menu, even if we had spoke the same language, she didn’t ask us what we wanted. She sat at another table with what seemed to be family, chatting and laughing idly. Whatever the situation, as we emerged from the alley with a belly full of food and a plastic water bottle full of leftover wine, we knew we’d had a special moment.
Riposo, similar to siesta, is the Italian custom of shutting down business for at least a couple hours in the middle of the day. Time is taken to recharge, connect with friends and family, eat, nap and refresh yourself to finish the day strong.
Mionetto took inspiration from the tradition of riposo to create The Orange Table, a space for people to press pause on their day, fill their glass with Prosecco, fill their bellies with affettati, and fill their time with conversation. The fun twist here is that complete strangers were invited to meet at The Orange Table and take the time getting to know each other. I was lucky to participate and found the experience particularly compelling in the wake of the pandemic.
Restrictions are mostly lifted, but many of us are still living in a pandemic mindset. We are used to living within our bubble. We’ve become accustomed to conducting business meetings, doctor’s appointments, court appearances, job interviews, fitness classes, grocery shopping and so much more through screens. We connect with our friends and acquaintances through “likes” and emojis. We entertain ourselves with content that is funneled through algorithms which cater to our specific interests. In addition, our days are packed. There is an expectation that we need to always be on, inspired, productive, pro-active, responsive, motivated, blah blah blah….
So, I felt both intrigue and anxiety at the prospect of taking two hours in the middle of the day to sit face to face with a person I didn’t know. No agenda, no attempt at anything like networking, or romance, or brainstorming, or community building. Just two human beings talking.
The nerves quickly disappeared as I sat down with my riposo partner, Evie, a vibrant woman with a penchant for travel and food. Mionetto provided a series of fun question cards on the table that we could use to get the conversation bubbling. Soon, the discussion flowed freely, jumping from one tangent to the other. We vibed over things we had in common, playfully debated things we differed on, traded advice, shared experiences, and had a wholly lovely time. It helped to have the Prosecco and Nodo’s delectable selection of salumi e formaggi joining us at the table.
The Orange Table was set up in Vancouver at Fiorino, and in Toronto we were at Nodo’s gorgeous new Liberty location. Nodo has done a fabulous job at creating a bright, open space with pockets that feel quiet and intimate; a perfect setting for The Orange Table.
Evie and I were the last booking of the day, and we realized suddenly that we had gone well past the two hours allotted. Time had been gobbled up by the conversation, the orange-labeled bottle was empty, and there was one piece of cheese left on the board. We heard from the organizers that this was a common story with the pairings of strangers. Actually, the two before us got up from The Orange Table and moved to Nodo’s bar, continuing their conversation over cappuccinos.
I can’t think of another scenario where Evie and I would have been given the opportunity to sit and chat as friends. Perhaps our professional paths would have crossed at some point. Maybe we would have been seated next to each other in one of our favourite food spots without a thought to say hello. But this was a unique opportunity for us to get to know each other. And really, even though we remain connected through social media channels, that is likely the only time we will ever get to hang like that. It’s not that we wouldn’t want to, but it was all about that moment. A moment we can cherish, and take with us. These days it is de rigeur to talk about being in the moment. In reality, there are few moments for us to just be in. This experience makes me realize we need more. I think the Italians have it right in their strict adherence to the tradition of riposo.
Obviously, Mionetto set up The Orange Table to inspire people to drink their Prosecco. What I appreciate about Mionetto, having previously worked with them, is that they don’t just want you to put their liquid in the glass, they want you to have the complete experience that comes with it. They want you to have a feeling of the culture as much as the feeling of bubbles on your tongue. Mionetto takes great pride in the Italian traditions that give sharing a bottle of Prosecco with friends the same importance as working hard.
Over here, in the new country, it’s probably unrealistic to take several hours off every afternoon, but we must learn from our elders. We can find time to put down our devices, rest our minds, open up and connect with friends and family, and even invite new people into our lives. I hope The Orange Table becomes a regular thing, but in the meantime grab a bottle of Mionetto Prosecco and give it a try yourself.