I had just bitten into my street-vendor Nutella crêpe near Notre Dame Cathedral when I met Walid. His first impression was that of a grown woman licking chocolate hazelnut goop from her fingertips.
Walid was the brother of a friend of an artist I had met wandering along the Seine; a multilingual architect from Damascus; and a divorced father with, according to him, fourteen girlfriends. On this particular afternoon he was also my volunteer tour guide.
Our extended promenade through the 5th Arondissement burned through my tank of Nutella. Instead of a proper lunch––salade niçoise, steak tartare, anything with a baguette––at Walid’s favorite brasserie, I opted for a Côte d’Or chocolate bar from Monoprix.
“You eat too much chocolate,” he said. “I think you need to have more sex.”
Determined not to be unlucky number fifteen, I rolled my eyes and lunged for the French chocolate. Walid grabbed my arm and led me through throngs of tourists in the Latin Quarter to a gelaterie called Amorino. The line extended out the door and to the end of the block. I started counting heads, but lost interest after twenty. I refused to queue up for ice cream, even gelato in Paris.
My guide persisted. See their faces, he pointed. The customers looked elated when they exited the shop, licking their plastic spoons and cones, and smiling at the heavens. Also, he added, they form the ice cream into flower petals atop the cone.
My curiosity justified the 30-minute wait.
Inside the shop, images of Amorino’s signature cherub adorned the walls, the cups, the napkins. The smell of waffle cones wafted out the door with smitten patrons. Vats of colorful frozen waves with names like amaretto, stracciatella, and frutto del passione inspired awe and salivation from behind a glass barrier.
Screw the fruity sorbetto, I thought. Òu est le chocolat? Walid pointed to a creamy mocha option called “L’inimitable,” which seemed untranslatable. Nutella flavor, he clarified.
I understood the necessity of the glass partition. Little else prevented me from hurdling the goods and burying my face in a bin of this magical frozen discovery. But, why not just call it ‘Nutella’? It’s Italian, after all.
“Je voudrais l’inimitable!” I shouted.
The woman behind the counter wielding an ice cream spatula scolded me in French for leaping ahead of myself. Walid explained: choose a cone or cup, then choose a size, then pay up, then choose the flavors. Mere formalities, I assured him; I wanted my frozen Nutella.
Amorino allows up to three flavors per order, but why mix it up and risk disappointment when I could have a triple serving of l’inimitable?
I left the shop clutching a melting Amorino flower, which seemed too beautiful to eat for a moment, until it began to drip onto my fingers. Like the many customers ahead, I stopped outside to slurp up the sweetness. I was another elated cherub with an expression that encouraged the hungry queue to wait just a bit longer for their turn.
Walid was wrong––I didn’t need more sex, just another serving of l’inimitable. I suggested we return for dinner.