I first met Caity DiFabio at the epicenter of all clichés. A bar. On a trip to Louisville two years ago, bored and waiting for a friend, I settled onto a stool and ordered an Old Fashioned. That such a young girl could serve an ancient cocktail the right way surprised me, almost as much as her sarcastic wit and quick smile.
Eventually my friend showed up, Caity got off work, Old Fashions took a sharp left toward tequila, then dinner, which was a great excuse for….more tequila, enough laughter to annoy everyone at the bar who wasn’t in on the joke, and tears. Lots and lots of tears. If you happen to have two x chromosomes, you know that four seasons of emotion over a seared tuna salad with a stranger is rare.
Not only was I impressed with Caity’s mind, but also? That girl could drink. She was the one with her arm around me at the end of the night as I sniffled over a long-lost love and babbled my way into a cab. Anyone who doesn’t agree that tequila is the ultimate truth serum hasn’t gotten to the bottom of the bottle.
Even though she was hardly born the year I left Louisville to go to college, I knew almost instantly she was an old soul, and we would be friends. Not the talk-on-the-phone-every-day-to-compare-notes-on-life’s-little-nuances kind of thing, but a real connection nevertheless. It seemed what we had to say to one another mattered, regardless of the chunk of variable time and space placed in between.
So it came as no surprise when I got a Facebook message over a year later that she had something important to tell me. Caity is from a family of restaurateurs, and spent considerable time in and around the kitchen growing up. They had decided to open a branch of their restaurant in Louisville, and she was to be a key player in the new initiative. At the time, she was excited and scared and nervous and ready, and was also only twenty-two years old.
DiFabio’s Casapela opened in 2010. Caity was barely legal to crack the pop-top off a beer when her family launched the restaurant, much less understand the delicate balance between supply and demand, and that the term “management” is really just secret code for “what the customer wants, the customer gets.”
Yet somehow she got it, and is doing it, and still has time to sit down over a shot of tequila and listen to the bleary-eyed stranger of the night lament the things that matter most.
Day after day and way too late into the evening she shows up, often early, to orchestrate the chaos and earn an MBA on the fly that kids her age pay up to $40,000 a year to buy. If you ask, she won’t tell you that running a family business in a foundering economy is harder than she thought it would be. She won’t mention the NOI isn’t always in the black, her stemware keeps disappearing, and she doesn’t get to see enough of her dogs.
She’ll just smile that impish smile, fill your glass, and substitute the Piccata for the Marsala, because you could have sworn that’s what you ordered (you didn’t).
At a time when corporate profits are being redistributed as dividends or kept in cash instead of creating jobs, and the stimulus package that was or wasn’t is debated around town, it’s the Caity DiFabios of the world who remind us what it means to pursue the American Dream. All of it.
If she wanted to, Caity could simply ride the coattails of the lost generation, cash her unemployment check, and go home. Instead, she’s building a business, hiring employees, and figuring out how to handle the bills. And life. Even when she’s supposed to be off, she shows up every day, regardless of what happened the night before, to do her job and roll with the tide of whatever crazy customer happens to come in the door.
I won’t bore you with my take on the gorgonzola filet versus the chicken parmesan. This isn’t a restaurant review…it’s more of a critique on life. As far as I’m concerned, Caity’s already earned a full five stars because what she’s doing is the heart of the American Dream, and I’ll take it with or without the sauce.