Growing up in Little Italy necessitated that I would get hooked on Manhattan Special. Any Italian or Italian American knows of this delicious beverage that was found only in Italian neighborhoods. It is my favorite drink and I defy anyone to gulp down a bottle faster than me. It is espresso coffee soda at its finest. The company established in 1895 always displayed its Gold winning award on its label and as a child that impressed me. Wow, this delicious soda went beyond the neighborhood.
During the early part of the 20th Century, we didn’t know the term Little Italy, it was the lower East Side and among ourselves it was called ‘the neighborhood.’ Every block had a café or two, where Cafe Nero was sold…or espresso as it’s more commonly known today as well as Manhattan Specials. At home momma served Café Nero (black) or latte e café (milk and brown coffee.) So being weaned on espresso coffee at the dinner table, it was natural to fall in love with this soda so much like the ice coffee served on our roof tops. The tenement roof tops were the social gathering place of each building and families would go cool off up there toward evenings - the mommas bringing up the iced coffee. The only difference between ice coffee and Manhattan Specials was the carbonation in the soda drink…and thus this tale begins.
Labor Day weekend, Sharon and I went to the DoubleTree Hotel in Somerset. First stop is at A&G Bakery to bring bread to our friends at the hotel and grab a quick pizza to take along the trip and a can of Pepsi for Sharon and a couple of Manhattan Specials for me. One Manhattan Special never does it for me; it’s got to be a minimum of two.
Just before we were approaching the Outerbridge in Staten Island, I asked Sharon to give me a bottle (Manhattan Special) to wash down the Pizza, I was eating while driving. The bottle was still ice cold having come from the bakery’s refrigerator fifteen minutes earlier. Sharon is never any good with twist off caps and I attempted to open the bottle while she grabbed hold of the wheel. And that’s when it happened. The Manhattan Special erupted as violent as Mount Vesuvius did when it covered Pompeii. Here I was with this bottle of soda shooting out my favorite drink onto the steering wheel, my belly and my pants non-stop.
To say it was refreshing would be an understatement… as my shirt, pants and underwear were getting soaked with the ice cold drink. I was hysterical laughing, there was nothing else to do but laugh. Sharon was frantic, I handed her the overflowing bottle and took over the wheel, while she searched for napkins, tissues and whatever. As I was driving she was trying to dry me off by blotting my shirt and pants with napkins and tissues we had in the car. Fortunately, as luck would have it, there was still a sip or two left in the bottle which I gulped down, while Sharon was cursing me.
The following weekend, we stopped by A&G bakery to bring bread to our Grandchildren. I asked Anthony if he was attacked by any lightning bolts last Saturday because we were cursing him during the trip. “No” and he asked why? He laughed when I told him about the Manhattan Special erupting all over me. Anthony said it was probably over carbonated and then said “now that you mentioned it, a lot of customers were complaining about the same thing.” Let me have another bottle and I’ll try opening it from home later. Straight from the refrigerator I took the ice cold bottle to the sink. As soon as I started turning the cap off, I saw the fizz starting to squeeze through up the cap. I inverted the bottle over a large glass and Mount Vesuvius erupted again, but this time I was ready for it. To be continued.
Screech at you next week!
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