In 1956, after more than 25 years of devoted labor as a modest restaurateur on the Street of Scriveners in Rome, the existence of Giovanni Venturi, a naive but kindhearted Tuscan peasant by birth, is threatened by the opening of the URITI, one in a large chain of ""mass production"" restaurants, famous for having consistently forced every small restaurant in its vicinity out of business. Knowing that the URITI's operations are dependent upon a dumbwaiter running from the basement kitchen to the upstairs dining-room, the scholarly bookseller, Giovanni's devoted next-door neighbor, suggests digging an underground tunnel from the Trattoria Da Giovanni to the dumbwaiter of the new restaurant on the corner-- in actuality, stealing the food from the URITI kitchen to feed Giovanni's customers. The highly entertaining characters and events which attend the completion of this operation from the bulk of the story and determine the ingenious nature of Giovanni's ""crime"". In the course of his digging, (to add to the fun) Giovanni discovers some ancient ruins and becomes a scholar of Etruscan archaeology. Highly imaginative and appealing, this is a first novel for Howard Shaw, an American who has been stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Rome since 1952. His love for and knowledge of his adopted city are very convincing, and his keen insight into human nature results in a delightful balance between tongue-in-cheek, subtle humor and scenes of delicate poignancy.