Bettola Bistro, 5:30 pm, March 21, 2019
Three men enter and are seated at a table in the otherwise-empty restaurant. The men convey a positive mood that suggests to the staff that the trio had just returned from a successful golf outing or a Robert Kraft-esque visit to a Northglenn strip mall day spa where they may have each enjoyed up to 20 minutes of discount handies from slaves. They peruse the menus as the two older men recount the last time they had dined at Bettola together.
John Elway: I am telling you boys, this place has some wonderful marinara sauce. Joe, you like spaghetti and marinara sauce?
Joe Flacco: Haven’t dared try it but, hey, I guess it is the offseason. Why not try something spicy?
Elway: Anything you want, Joe! We’re so happy to have you aboard after all these seasons in quarterback purgatory. I’m glad you could stick around for a couple weeks since the trade so we can get you familiar with the Denver area.
Flacco: No no, I appreciate you, John. I’m so excited to be out of Baltimore and I feel immediately embraced by this wonderful community. And I think Rich Scangarello — under the guidance of Vic here — has the offense that will highlight my skills and make the Broncos an immediate contender in the AFC West.
Elway: Well, I think if you take to Denver as well as Vic here has, we’re going to have something special here.
Vic Fangio: Eh, real estate’s too expensive. Looks like I might be stuck getting a townhouse in Longmont.
Elway: Well yeah, cost of living here has been going up. Thank goodness we all make NFL salaries, I guess.
Fangio: Tell you what though — ain’t as many of the blacks as we had in Baltimore, eh Joe?
Waitress: Gentlemen, are we ready to put in our orders?
Elway: Uhhh yeah, I’d like the cioppino please. And could we start with an order of the house-made ricotta to share?
Fangio: I’ll have the half-serving of the pesto pasta from the lighter sides menu.
Elway: Come on, Vic. We’re taking you out to dinner and you’re ordering a half-serving? Get the Bolognese Pappardelle!
Fangio: It’s $24! Now I’ve told ya, John, it’s your business but I treat your money as my own and I’m not gonna waste it. You know, for the price of this meal Kathy could have made us an entire spread of cheese sandwiches and Crystal Light that would have lasted the entire staff until the draft.
Flacco: You know, that does sound good. Ever notice how cheese sandwiches are always better when someone else makes it for you?
Fangio: Well Joe, we’d love to have you and Dana over — once she gets moved out here, of course — for some cheese sandwiches and pickles.
Flacco: Ooh, pickles? I kind of prefer my cucumbers untampered.
Waitress: Ummm sir, could I get your order as well?
Flacco: Butter noodles, please. Dry. Side of parsley.
Waitress: Okay, got it. And anything else to drink tonight besides —
Elway, Flacco, Fangio: Tap water is fine.
Waitress:Alright, I will get your orders in. While you wait, please enjoy our complimentary house-made bread service.
The men hand the waitress their menus and sit quietly while she exits the dining room.
Flacco: Sooooo….is this a thing here?
Elway: No no, this must be something new. This is an eye-talian place. Surely Mario just hired her for the help.
Fangio: The Chinese do cook up some good noodles. Ever had pho?
Elway: It’ll be fine. Probably just had the normal staff call in late after St Patrick’s Day. Makes sense considering the Catholic ties and all.
Fangio: Those micks are so damn unreliable.
Flacco: So loud. And then always making such spicy dishes like potato cakes and cabbage. Plus they drink to excess which, I find, is not a healthy lifestyle.
Elway: Well, even if something has changed there are plenty of good eateries here in Denver, Joe. You’ll have no trouble finding all your Baltimore favorites right here in the Queen City of the Plains.
Flacco: Like fresh crab cakes?
Fangio: Listen, Joe, you gotta get it out of your head that you’re living in some kind of…uh….what is it now? My son had the DVD for Christmas…Damn it! The…the….The Wire! That’s is. You’re in the AFC West now. No more of this east coast talk.
Elway: You’re our guy, Joe. Like we said at the presser, we believe you’ve got plenty of good years left ahead of you. I just want you head down and focused. There isn’t going to be a Lamar Jackson nipping at your heels here.
Fangio: He’s right. The Broncos are completely incapable of drafting a decent quarterback.
Flacco: Well, since Tim Tebow anyways. I think that guy didn’t get a fair shake.
Fangio: You’re right about that one. A generational talent right there.
Elway: Well the important thing now is that we’re building to make a push in the division. We have a solid defensive core. We’re making aggressive free agency moves. The Raiders won’t be strong next year and I think both KC and LA may have hangovers so let’s get hungry here.
Fangio: You know what? I am hungry and this is taking too long. I’m not even in the mood for pho. Joe, you want to get out of here and see if we can’t go get a couple bowls of tomato soup from the grocery store or something?
Flacco: That’d be great coach. Thank you!
Fangio: Alright John, we’re gonna take off. Enjoy your chow mein or whatever. We’ll see you tomorrow at HQ to start going over some new concepts we’re putting together. Have a good night.