Today galpal S and I went to brunch at Nini’s in San Mateo. Is it still brunch if you start at 1:00 PM?
Nini’s is always crowded on the weekend. But it’s well worth the wait. It’s a place full of real people, real food and real history. The walls are covered in memorabilia dating back as far as the 1930s with photos of Nini and her Italian family. The cash register is ancient with those buttons you push that are actually levers to pop up your total with a loud clickety-clack. I am not sure if it is still family run – but you want to believe it is.
These days everything in our world feels franchised, manufactured and cookie cutter. It’s nice to go to a place that probably has not changed much in over 50 years. I have noticed that many of Nini’s customers seem like neighborhood regulars. A lot of people come on bikes or seem to walk up in huge groups including toddlers up to grandma. There is usually a dog or two tied up outside with bowl of water.
Today I noticed an elderly gentleman ride up on what looked my sister's blue three-speed bike from 1980 proudly flying an American Flag. He sat at the counter and had a ball cap on under his bike helmet that said veteran of Korea. He kept his bike helmet on during his meal and was wearing a brown suit that had definitely seen better days. He was sitting right across from us and spent a lot of time talking to the young man working behind the counter. As we paid our bill he talked to me and told me the young man was going to become a schoolteacher and wasn’t that a wonderful thing?
The young man blushed and smiled. After the older man left, explained to me that he came there all the time, loved to chat and was "still sharp as a tack".
It was nice to see something real. It was a real connection of respect between two people who probably would not know each other if not for coffee and eggs.