Tag Archives: Noshing

Write It All Down, You Indignant Prick.

     If you let your guard down as a server, show a hint of hesitation or vulnerability-that you aren’t in control of the dining situation-you are so easily screwed and easily taken advantage of by that certain type of people who are on the hunt for hand-outs.  (Disclaimer: The vast majority of my customers/diners/regulars are awesome people and don’t give us the run-around) There are just some diners that love the little amount of control and power that comes with “ordering” [from] a “server” (around). Well guess what control freaks? I already know what you’re going to order and that your lunch table wants to split seven checks and I’ll be back every thirty-five seconds while you’re here to refill your diet coke because apparently you are really thirsty and love that sweet bubbly shit. Please forgive me if it’s been forty-five seconds before you see me table-side again, but I am a tad busy with my other thirteen tables. I definitely manage my time well and think in term of “economy of motion” to improve my efficiency to better take care of my people. My actions are all broken down in terms of the seconds needed to complete them. So I might be carrying someone’s wrapped up next day goodies while dropping a check off for the next deuce. I spin and my mind spins brilliantly together to get things done, and it’s a head rush when you’re able to multitask so many things together.

     Yet (not so) funny enough, to my disadvantage my memory sucks in almost every aspect of my life except for the ever-revolving list of hundreds of people whose favorite tables, drinks, salad dressings, bottle of wine and meal happens to be stored for swift retrieval on the outer surface of my brain. So I must WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Uh hey Wifey? What did you need me to pick up at the store on my way home? Where’s the store anyway? I think I forgot to transfer my laundry. Did I even put my clothes in there after starting the washer? Shit! Whose birthday is it? Damn it! Yeah, I know. Sorry, whatever. [Who didn’t smoke tons of really good pot as a teenager? Oh, I’m the only one?] Oops! Ok, well…I’m doing just fine now. What was I about to tell you? I seemed to have forgotten.

   Oh yeah, so there are these people who feel out witted in very simple, yet hardly noticeable ways that it might just annoy them a bit because they realize that they aren’t totally in control of the situation. Even if I drop off their soda without asking if they would like a diet soda today, they want to TELL ME that they want a diet coke. I know what you want, so let’s cut to the chase because you’re going to want your check 30 minutes from the time you waltz through door, when your lunch isn’t going to be on the table for ten to twenty minutes depending on how busy we are. That leaves you ten minutes at most for me to pack up any leftovers, clear you table, get change for your 100 dollar bill (is that really all you have? Your check is $21.10!) and get back to you all while juggling 15 other tables during lunch.

     I really get a kick out of people telling me during our busy lunch rush that they “Really have to get back to work” and I keenly reply that “Everyone here has to go back to work, but I’m still stuck there!” Some laugh, some sneer. But hey, I’d rather my people feel cared for, maybe a little coddled and carried as well. I know what you want and I’m gonna do it without you telling me, silly child. Daddy knows what you want.  Oh and when someone isn’t enjoying what they ordered, I might get a little offended. It’s easy for us to take negative feedback personally. Most of our employees have invested years, YEARS!, of their lives in this institution. “Not a problem, I will have that remade for you and out to you as soon as I possibly can. Can I bring you something else while you wait? Can I have a small appetizer made up for you or bring you something more to drink in the mean time? We appreciate your understanding. This glass of wine is on me.” Basically because I know that everything on our menu is awesome, except the lasagna. It tastes good, a veal Bolognese, but it’s greasy and cheesy. It’s not for everyone.

     When someone orders our “Homemade Lasagna (meat and cheese)” They most likely envision a pillowy, stacked concoction with red sauce and spinach oozing out of the sides. Nope, not here. We make a large batch with the Bolognese and it’s sliced up and heated in the oven before it’s served more as a long slice, rather than the side-viewed stack. It tastes good to me but just not what people expect.  And here’s the thing…I don’t really back down if someone thinks their dinner wasn’t prepared correctly because I know how every dish on our very large menu is prepared, I can describe in detail down to where we source our products from what you might want to or are planning to eat. So please don’t tell me that you don’t see any JUMBO LUMP crabmeat in your pasta when I watched my brother drop a fifth of a pound of it in the cream sauce and plate it on top of the veal cutlets myself. I’m here to take care of you and make sure you ENJOY your time here!

    I once got in a confrontation with a middle-aged woman who, I later learned, claimed to have worked as an Italian chef in Baltimore for 25 years (she envisioned her egglpant parm) and the eggplant parmesan we served her did not in any manner resemble how she had  witnessed it in the past. In fact, she claims, it was not the way that eggplant parmesan is to be prepared in the traditional, Italian style at all, period! It was mushy and thinly sliced and probably smelled bad (to her) even. Need I mention…I think she is in insurance sales now.    

     I beg your pardon Miss, I just want to let you know that we’ve been making the eggplant the same way since the first location of our small privately owned restaurant group was opened like 25 years ago lady and everyone but you loves it. Oh and she didn’t even order it, her daughter did! Anyways, I described in full detail to this “experienced Italian chef” how we cut, lightly batter and flash fry our extremely fresh, daily sliced eggplant before topping it with house made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese before finishing it in a baking dish in the oven. And that’s how it has always been made.

     I’m not lying to you lady, I have no reason to. What am I gonna get out of this confrontation? You’re already pissed, even as I walked over to the table I could tell on your face that you were picturing crimson-tipped ivory devil horns sprouting through my brown curls. No one is trying to poison you or your daughter. I am not evil! We want you to eat here and to eat here often, so what the fuck is your problem? I’m not an MVA (DMV) employee, your health insurance policy representative or a pushy police officer. I’m the good guy. I bring you food and drink! I’m smiley and charming! (?). So what does this lady do after I offer to have another eggplant parm made for her daughter then offered her a menu to review after she turned that down? I chat with my brother’s business partner, let’s call him Craig, about having an unpleasable diner. It was especially strange because we had never seen her and I know everyone who regularly walks through our front door.  So after all of this, (wait for it)

…this menopausal bitch gets up from her table in a half-empty dining room while I am speaking to Craig and walks directly up to our front counter to my brother of all people, and funny enough he was standing there watching me handle the situation in our front dining room just fine by myself minutes before, and tells him that I am “an indignant prick” and should be fired immediately because I was rude and not receptive to her needs. Ha ha ha. Go fuck yourself right in the toosh lady! I’m not getting fired. In my brother’s own words, “I’m sorry dear, but I would be happy to make you something else to eat, whatever you want. But I’m not firing him. He’s my little brother and he’s really good at what he does and he’s not going anywhere.”  So she sits back down after he defuses the situation, I void the eggplant from their check and drop it off. They give me no tip at all, nothing, only to return the following night for dinner.

     This oh so charming woman, whose image has been permanently seared into my memory along with the other usual suspects happens to have walked in the restaurant and was sitting in my section. Shit…really?!?! I basically wanted to punch her in her Leno-sized chin as soon as I spy her mug across the dining room.  I’m certain she requested me, and so what does she do? Orders eggplant parmesan, claims it is delicious and leaves an appropriate tip. Seriously? What’s wrong with some people? She may have just wanted to announce her arrival. I might be a bit of an indignant prick though, I’ll admit it. I know it doesn’t sound good but I took it as a small compliment and my servers thought it was awesome. She hit the nail on the head.  But I’m only such because I am confident in this consumer-vs-service provider situation that is usually perceived to be controlled by the consumer that I call my job. I regretfully report that the customer is not always right.


The Eater

     During lunch service the other day I was reminded of one of the infamous characters we have seen throughout our years of business here at the restaurant. The gentleman whom jogged this particular memory was laidback and didn’t seem to be in any hurry as he unpacked his breifcase onto the table capable of seating four people comfortably. He started by ordering an entree-sized seafood salad as an appetizer, then a dinner sized portion of a seafood and pasta entree including its accompanying side salad (yes, more salad!) and drank a bath tub of iced tea while consuming it all! But that was really nothing compared to who you’re about to meet.


     There was a man who came in one evening with his parents; he was in his early thirties and his parents appropriately in their late 50’s to early 60’s. The parents we had seen regularly throughout the few previous years, so after I approached them with the familiar “Hey how are we doin’ tonight? Good to see everyone.” they introduced their son who was here visiting from New York City. I immediately noticed that there was definitely something a little different about this guy when I first settled in to taking care of them. He was a bit small and frail even and had big white teeth jammed into his oversized bobble head. The parents even acted differently while he was present, but it was a weird kind of different. It was as if they were trying to hint at or warn me and preparing themselves for whatever was about to happen. They explained the entire menu to their son and made multiple suggestions and played up our homemade desserts big time. Well, the older married couple orders their typical dinner of one pasta entrée and Greek salad with chicken then proceeds to close their menus and hand both of them to me. There was an uncomfortable pause.

This peculiar little man visiting from New York City was a Broadway actor and dancer I soon learned, and based on the amount of time he combed over our carbohydrate-saturated menu I expected him to order a salad and maybe a side of vegetables to avoid  a fatty, heavy Italian dinner. And he did. He started with a Large Greek salad with chicken as his mother had ordered and a couple sides of vegetables, not surprising. One side of sautéed asparagus, one side of sautéed mushrooms, and one side of sautéed spinach started his order. I expected that to be all for him as I shut my order keeping book and reached for his menu. He asked to hold onto it until later because this guy also wanted to take advantage of the oh-so-popular Monday night pasta special. When his dad’s side salad and the sides of vegetables arrived, he proceeded to order two of our overflowing pasta entrees, each accompanied by a side salad. For the record, I want to say they that sat down at about 7:35pm on a slower than usual pasta night Monday. I am definitely expecting him to tell me that he’s taking most of this order to go home for him and his boyfriend to eat tomorrow, but he informs me it will all be for here. He instructed me to have his side salads, two: one side garden salad and one side Caesar salad, brought out immediately to accompany all of the vegetables he ordered, then his Greek salad with Chicken while his parents received their entrees. Ok??? That’s as far as I got then. I walk away from table 15 a little bemused, yet very amused also! This guy just ordered dinner for four people, and I don’t dare hesitate to share this amazing phenomenon with the rest of the restaurant. Is he really planning on me to bring all of this food to the table for him to try? I might have to pull another table over to set up a buffet for the stranger. Hey, I’m pretty bad if I go to a restaurant I’ve heard great things about for the first time. I’ll drop like $30 on lunch just for me, but I certainly won’t finish everything.

                OK, well I just can’t hold it back any longer, but the weird young man I have just introduced you to earned himself an infamous nickname among our entire staff. I give you The Eater.  I start back to the table with the continuing first course of side salads and the sides of vegetables ordered by the Eater. They eat at a normal, unassuming pace. There’s nothing weird except the amount of food this guy just ordered. Well The Eater ate three sides of vegetables and two side salads before I placed his very large Greek salad in front of him piled with 2 grilled chicken breasts. His mom had her also very big salad before her and dad was enjoying a Bolognese I believe, and things are going well. I am still a little confused what this guy plans on doing with the other two pasta dishes he ordered. Well, I soon found out when his dad informed me than he was going to leave me his credit card to pay for dinner and they were going to be leaving while their son was going to sit and continue to eat. What?!?! Did I hear that correctly? I have never heard of such a thing in my entire life! Ok well daddy wasn’t kidding because he and his wife got up and left their chairs after the man gave me his credit card. Yet another strange part of the situation, the parents didn’t eat a lot of their dinners, but they left their plates without asking me to wrap anything up for them to take home and I barely had time to act if they wanted their leftovers wrapped. I’m suddenly the ringleader to a one-ring circus. My Eater had already consumed three sides of vegetables, two side salads and one large Greek salad with chicken before pulling his parents’ unfinished pasta and salad diners in front of him. I treat him as he should be, normally and attentively, but I am obviously relaying updates to the rest of the restaurant staff about my incredibly entertaining table by this point. As the Eater shovels down the remaining food on the table he informs me to have the two large pasta entrees he ordered an hour before be started and brought out. Holy Fuck! His eating pace increases while he eats alone. Could he be a competitive eater in training or something? This guy is not joking around. Let me just tell you that I haven’t seen so much food consumed since my friends and I discovered the gravity bong concept in our early teens. Uh, yeah and I’m almost sure my writing would be far more articulate if I had never participated in those brain and lung-punishing activities.  So, wow, I clear the guy’s table for the third time and bring out two large and steaming bowls of pasta, and remember one of them only costs this guy $3.99. He is so excited, and I’m sure his excitement isn’t the only reason but, he looks like he’s gonna shit his pants when the pasta bowls hit the table. This guy is an animal, a machine, inhuman. What the fuck is wrong with this skinny little wack job? Funny thing: he sat close enough to the table that his chest was practically pressed up against the table cloth. My late Monday night regulars emptied out of the restaurant slowly, while my soldier carries on. I checked on him regularly and I notice he is eating with fervor and haste, but somehow he reserved his dignity throughout the entire meal. He literally cleaned every plate.

Let’s count it back down: The Eater ate three sides of vegetables, one and a half large Greek salads with two chicken breasts on each and two and a half huge entrée sized pasta dishes which alone could easily feed a family of 5. I could not believe the amount of food consumed by this guy. There’s really nothing to expand on there. It was unbelievable. The man had eaten constantly for two hours and I think I cleared his pasta plates at about 9:35. Naturally, I expected the guy to immediately go to the bathroom and empty his stomach into the toilet via self-inflicted gagging after binge eating for two hours, but what does this fucking animal do? He asks me to relist the evening’s dessert selections for him. HAHAHA This is incredible! His mom did speak very highly of our house made desserts after all, but just wait. He orders a tiramisu, a slice of cheesecake and a slice of chocolate cake. He topped off and politely asked for the check after leaving  only a few bites of the rich chocolate cake laying on its side in crumbs on its plate. And the Eater never once left the table.

                The Eater sat in the same chair in our dimly-lit front dining room from 7:35 until minutes before we closed at 10:00pm and never once stopped eating, and he did not leave the table to use the bathroom. This mystery man ate $90 worth of food not counting his parent’s leftovers and stood up very slowly and walked, no teatered, out the front door. The Eater has only been spotted once since buying desserts at the carry out counter very briefly, and lives as a local legend among the tables of our dining room, yet I must hold hopes high that he lives on in the jungle of restaurants that we call Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs.

Oh and what about the guy from the other day? He ordered more food to go and took good care of me after he finished his extensive lunch. So there might just be a new Eater in town!