I got this menu somewhat ironically: Meena and I were standing outside of a cafe that replaced one that I used to frequent when two French women approached us with this menu in hand to ask us if we knew where to find Cafe Rienzi. We took one look at the menu and knew it couldn’t be there anymore—the worn paper didn’t suggest a restaurant that was fancy enough or historical enough to have survived this long. I looked it up on my phone anyway. It’s not there anymore.
The woman who owned the menu, Nelly, told us about how she visited New York when she was a student and that Cafe Rienzi was a place for writers, artists, students, and musicians to meet, collaborate, and just hang out. When I told her I studied food, she asked if I wanted to keep the menu. It was just a little bit beautiful, I thought, that she had taken the menu when she was a student and was now giving it to me, a current student. It’s also interesting that the artifacts from her student hood are now a part of my own studies.