Over the weekend I received news that Danny, my favorite restaurateur in Guangzhou, passed away. No trip to the Guangdong provincial capital was complete without a stop at Danny's Italian Restaurant (formerly Danny's Bagel).
During my first year in Shenzhen, my brother sent me an email. One of his clients had a friend who made bagels in Guangzhou. This was music to a New Jersey native's ears (even though I was reading it)--I had spent the previous two years in Colorado without any decent bagels. It was another year before I finally made the trip to Guangzhou to eat at Danny's.
On my second solo trip to Guangzhou, to obtain useful information to apply for Jia's tourist visa (of course, the consulate provided no useful information), I made a point of having a bagel for lunch before heading to the consulate. Fortunately, Danny's is housed in a furniture shopping mall nearby. At least, I thought it was nearby. Turns out a thirty minute walk through Guangzhou in late spring is a painful reminder of the oppressive heat and humidity of the region.
I arrived at the Home Garden Mall a bit early. Danny's wasn't opened yet, so I found a sofa--the staff gave me awkward looks as I read a book. When I finally got into the restaurant for my bagel, I was greeted by Danny himself. It was nice to meet another New Jersey native. And he gave me some advice for dealing with the consulate. Although our conversation was brief, his affable personality led me to return on every trip through Guangzhou. And each time I visited, I tried something different from his menu.
We celebrated Jia's tourist visa with dinner at Danny's. He talked about some of the things he missed about New Jersey--he loved Harrold's Deli, and I brought back one of their cheesy napkins with deli Yiddish just for him. On that trip I had a chicken Parm sandwich that made me homesick--it was just like those I used to get at home.
Even on our final trip to Guangzhou we stopped in for lunch. It was only a short time before we moved to the US, and we wanted to see a few friends. Even though the restaurant closed between lunch and dinner, Danny stood around talking with us for two hours.
Since moving back to the US, I kept in touch with Danny. Every now and then I'd get an email asking how everything was in New Jersey or updating me on the goings on of Guangzhou. He especially liked to gloat when the northeast got excessive amounts of snow and he was in a much warmer climate.