Our “L’il Marco” at the Bocce Restaurant, 1959
The picture above was taken around 1968 at the Bocce Court of the “il Vagabondo” Restaurant on E. 62nd St. in New York City. I was excited when I came across it and this is why:
Dick and I were married in 1958 and living in the city. We used to go to a favorite Italian restaurant and I’m pretty sure it was this one. You entered through a neighborhood-type bar and then into the back room which featured an indoor bocce court. It was so much fun to enjoy a magnificent Italian dinner while watching the men compete.
In July of 1959 our first son was born. We named him Mark and he was an exceptionally good baby. We felt confident that he would behave so we took him with us when we treated ourselves to a night out at “il Vagabondo”. He was about 2 months old.
The bar was very crowded that night and we knew many of the locals by sight, if not by name. Many of them were elderly Italian men and their eyes lit up when they saw Mark and they wanted to know what we had named him. Of course he became “L’il Marco” to them and they insisted that we leave him with them and go in and enjoy our dinner.
I suppose that sounds a bit shocking in today’s world, but we felt very secure leaving Mark with them. Even when we were seated at a table in the next room we could hear them “ooing” and “ahhing” over “L’il Marco” as they passed him gently around the bar.
When it was time to leave I remember that our usually good baby started to cry and I was amazed. In a very short time he had come to love those rough old men and he hated to leave. I felt the same way.
When I was in Italy, many years later, I would watch and listen as the Italians laughed and gestured their way through a conversation. It would remind me of that magical night when Mark, (who will be 49 this July) became “L’il Marco” and was held in the loving arms of those old men.
I wrote to the “il Vagabondo” restaurant when I was researching for this blog entry and they actually answered me. It makes me feel sure that it is still the same warm and friendly spot that we loved. If you are ever in New York City I would highly recommend that you pay them a visit.