The case could have been filed as an Upper West Side edition of “Clue”: the amateur mezzo-soprano, in the frozen food section of Trader Joe’s, with the open palm of her manicured left hand.
Marcella Caprario, 37, an opera singer and multilingual elementary school teacher, went on trial in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday on misdemeanor charges of assault and harassment after admitting to slapping Dr. Cathleen London, a family practitioner and television commentator.
The charges stem from a confrontation between the women on Jan. 9 in the grocery store, at Broadway and 72nd Street, over frozen vegan pad Thai with tofu.
According to testimony, the altercation began as Ms. Caprario’s husband, Bill Hobbs, tried to grab a container of the pad Thai from the freezer. Mr. Hobbs said that Dr. London’s son Noah, 13, slipped in front of him in the narrow aisles and prevented him from getting the noodles. The teenager disputed that claim.
“He happened to get there a second after I got there,” Noah London testified on Tuesday. “Then he overreacted.”
According to Dr. London, Mr. Hobbs began berating her son, at which point Ms. Caprario went to her husband’s side.
Dr. London said that as a small crowd began to gather, she stared down Ms. Caprario, describing her as “a screaming banshee.” She said she stepped forward to assert “a defensive stance.”
As the women moved nose to nose, Ms. Caprario testified, she slapped Dr. London across her right ear and cheek, causing a ringing in Dr. London’s ear. Dr. London called the police, and they arrived shortly afterward.
“She was grinning,” Dr. London said of Ms. Caprario. “She was very pleased with herself.”
Ms. Caprario did not dispute the slap, but defended herself by saying Dr. London had repeatedly breached her “personal space.”
Throughout the proceeding, Ms. Caprario shook her head between heavy sighs — her eyes wide, black heels tapping the courtroom floor — at the prosecution’s case.
A prosecutor, Colleen Tompkins, tried to portray Mr. Hobbs as becoming verbally confrontational with Dr. London’s son. Mark Bederow, who is representing Ms. Caprario, asked the boy if he thought it odd that a stranger would begin yelling at him.
“The entire scenario was odd,” Noah London said.
Mr. Bederow smiled.
“I’ll grant you that,” he said.
The judge hearing the non-jury case, ShawnDya L. Simpson, was expected to issue a verdict on Wednesday.