SHOW SYNOPSIS (spoiler alert!)
Salvatore Mantini, a middle-aged Italian man, walks into his family dining room. Addressing the audience directly, he extols the importance of il tavolo, a household's table, because it is where eating happens. Remembering his move to Canada in 1960, a table was the first piece of furniture he'd purchased for his house.
Salvatore explains the rituals of Italian dining, where every meal tells a story. He mentions it starts with an aperitivo, a pre-meal drink to whet one's appetite, and relates this to his beginnings in Tossicia, a town in Abruzzo, where he was born on a farm.
Francesco, Salvatore’s son, recalls the difficulty of growing up in Jasper, Alberta, as an Italian. Wearing a suit and eating pungent lunches at school, he was often bullied by a peer named Mark Hendreziak. This upset Salvatore, who worried Francesco was the one making trouble. As a promise to his late wife, Domenica, who died in childbirth, he vowed to give their son a good life in Canada.
Salvatore notes antipasti, the appetizer, follows an aperitivo. Most nights, the Mantini family dines together: Filippo, Salvatore's older brother, sits next to him, followed by Margherita, Filippo's wife. Likening his enjoyment of stories still nascent to the primi piatti, the first dish, Salvatore says his favourite kind was his mother's pasta fagioli which he didn’t have again until returning home in 1976.
That summer, the family returns to Tossicia after a long flight and drive, where they are greeted warmly by relatives. Surprised he had no girlfriend back home, Francesco's cousin Peppino decides to help by taking him clothes shopping, then to a brothel in the middle of the night, for his 17th birthday.
Salvatore brings out the secondo piatti, the second dish, a salt cod that's Francesco's favourite. He compares the patience required for its preparation to what his son lacks, seeing the difference between the respect he's gained for himself slowly and the disrespect Francesco experiences at school.
Returning to Jasper in autumn, Francesco feels confident in his new clothes but continue to be bullied. Gaining a role model in Rocky Balboa after seeing the film, he decides to get in shape. Winning a fight with Mark Hendreziak for the first time, he finally sees himself in a new light.
Two years later, Francesco has started a band with his cousin Angelo, booking gigs at local venues. They decide to try for CTV's "Search for Talent", but the audition goes awry after Francesco drinks too much to calm his nerves. Visiting a pub to forget their woes, a fight with a tourist there lands him in jail. Salvatore decides not to bail him out that night after a heated exchange.
Salvatore reminisces how, despite their differences, Francesco always came home for dinner on Friday nights, ringing the doorbell. One day, however, he stops. Salvatore speaks of how Italians eat insalata, the salad, at the end of a meal for digestion.
Now performing in Edmonton as Frank Martin, Francesco has not spoken to his dad for two years. After their second and successful audition for "Search for Talent," he and Angelo prepare to perform on TV. A few weeks later, Angelo gets news that his dad, Filippo, has had a heart attack, and it causes a rift when Francesco refuses to leave town to see him.
Salvatore brings out dolci, the dessert, a chocolate almond cake Domenica used to make in Tossicia. He says the last course must be sweet or one wonders what the point of everything before it was.
Angelo shows up to “Search for Talent,” but warns Francesco to be ready because his family is counting on them to make them proud. From a Jasper hospital, Filippo, Margherita, and Salvatore are watching live. Francesco performs Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water"; coming to terms with his identity mid-song, he finishes with verses in Italian.
Salvatore mentions that caffè, or coffee, is served at the very end. Though he doesn't know why, because it keeps him up at night, he suspects it's so one can stay alert to tell the next story, because life doesn't finish when one story ends.
Salvatore sits at the head of his table. The meal he has been preparing throughout the show is now fully arranged on a place setting, just in time for the sound of a doorbell.