Sep 3, 2008

The Queen, the King and the servant

One of the things that working as a waitress has thought me is being able to appreciate good service. And bad service, even.

In those -rare- occasions my schedule allows me to go out for dinner, I feel like a Queen. How nice to have someone keep your glass of water full, how indulgent to have another guy offering you bread, and ...OMG... it's warm, and you don't even have to slice it because they've already done it for you! How luxurious to have a stranger bringing your favorite dish cooked exactly the way you want, and have another stranger cleaning up after you and getting your table all nice and ready for dessert.

How about when they bring you an after drink on the house? That's when I don't feel like a Queen anymore, I am God in my own Heaven.

Think about it for a moment. You, people. All of you who like to come and eat where I work. And all of you who patronize some kind of food establishment. Think about it. Make a list of ALL the reasons why you go out for dinner instead of staying home. Sure, it's because of the food, you like that particular taste you can't quite reproduce in your kitchen. Or maybe you don't even like the food that much (at least I hope, for your own sake, that you don't like the food I happen to serve you), but it's million times better than what you can prepare for yourself. Then, yes, you want a night out and a slice of city life is way better than what's on TV tonight. And maybe you want to enjoy the company of friends, or maybe you simply forgot to buy groceries, now it's too late and you are exhausted.

But listen, how about that luxurious experience of being served? You don't have to move a finger, you just need to talk clearly, express your desire for a hot plate of half cheese ravioli -and please just add 2 of the meat ones, would you?- half spaghetti, one quarter with meat sauce, one quarter with tomato sauce and a touch of cream, one quarter with pesto and grilled chicken, not too much oil because I am on a diet, and one quarter, is there a quarter left?, oh yes, ok, the last quarter with primavera sauce, but please leave out the broccoli because I can't digest them, ah and don't forget to throw in some extra garlic, and give me some anchovies on the side. And the spaghetti, I'd like them al dente, but not the ravioli, them I like mushy, I can't stand when the edges are too hard to chew.

Yes, sir? Anything else?

That's it, ah, I am in a hurry, so can you please make it superfast?

I will, but you have to admit that one of the reasons you are here is because your wife/husband/partner would rather kill you than prepare all of the above. And because you like the idea that someone can serve you the requested dish with a smile on their face. And because the only thing we ask you in exchange is to remember exactly what you ordered so that you won't complaint when the spaghetti are too hard, the ravioli are too soft, the primavera has too much garlic, the chicken is not on the side and the tomato sauce is pink.

You ask, I deliver. You make a mess, I clean up. Your kids throw half-eaten rigatoni all over the floor, I pick them up. You spill Chianti on the antipasti and on your white collar shirt, I don't scream "Dummass!!", instead I literally run at your table, apologize like it was my fault, wipe the mess, give you clean napkins, more wine and new appetizers, for free.

You are the King, I am your servant.
What's not to like about that?
The bill, maybe?

Hey, Sir!...Sorry....Sir! Where's the tip?

Mar 5, 2008

Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone

Yeah, right.
Remember one of the first scenes of that great movie, Big Night, when the chef Primo refuses to serve spaghetti as a side dish for risotto, wondering how can someone order starch and carbs at the same time? Remember how the customer keeps asking for more cheese on his serving of pasta? Remember how another customer assumes that the spaghetti automatically comes with meatballs? "No, sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone", answers the waiter, trying to accommodate the guests and to stay true to his Italian heritage at the same time.

That's a difficult task and in all honesty, I gave up. I gave up trying to understand the ranch dressing thing, I stopped saying that Italian food is not all about garlic, (which we use just to add a hint of flavor, not to replace lack of flavor), I quit explaining that the pregrated, prepacked, never expiring "parmesan" from Chile has nothing to do with the noble cheese of Central Italy, and that we don't use THAT MUCH OF IT anyways, I'm tired of saying that pizza to me is not a chewy piece of dough surmounted by an extra thick layer of greasy cheese and an insane combination of fatty toppings, I don't want to inform you that pesto sauce doesn't really have to be everywhere, I no longer feel horrified by that monstrous meat lasagna dish, I stopped giving recommendations on the food we serve, because if I did, I'd just say you'd better leave and go order somewhere else where they have absolutely nothing on the menu that resembles fettuccini Alfredo or spaghetti meatballs (who is this Alfredo anyways?).

You want extra cheese on a pizza that is already only about cheese? FINE. You want to add pesto, chicken, broccoli and clams to your fettuccini pomodoro? NO PROBLEM. You want even more bread and butter with your meal? OK WITH ME. You want to dip the pizza crust in Thousand Island dressing? SURE. You want a pink sauce? WHY NOT? You want to eat eggplant parmigiana with a side of tortellini? FINE. You think three glasses of root beer go well with your veal? GREAT.

I'll do what you want. I'm here to please you. Just remember though: Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone.

Feb 13, 2008

Rules of the game

During all these years, I've served tons of customers. Many of them I've seen more than once, and their face has become familiar, as well as their taste in food. I can tell you what dressing they like on the salad, how often they go out for pizza, what type of beer they drink, what side dish they enjoy with their chicken parmigiana, how thin their crust must be.

Does that make me their intimate confidant? I don't think so. I don't even know their name! As a matter of fact, one of my personal rules is:"Never get to know a customer by name". Because that can only lead to worse.

When Mark, the saturday night guy that always wants to sit at table 13 and would never - and I mean never - order anything else than his veal with spaghetti, followed by a slice of cheesecake, when he told us his name, everyone freaked out. BIG DISASTER! You are nice, you know, you come in, you don't talk much, in fact you don't talk at all, you are easy, freaky and predictable, so predictable that by the time you take your coat off, your veal is already frying on the pan, and you haven't even ordered yet. So why did you ruin everything?

I mean, you were perfect, never a word, just signs, credit card on the table to mean you are ready to pay, nod to the right to ask for more water, nod to the left to request extra bread. Perfect! Why did you need to tell us your name? That's not good.

Please don't, at least you, silent Mark, please don't start making me your friend. I'd say especially you, freaky Mark. I saw the horrified look on your face the night you came in and your table 13 was already taken. Big change to sit 2 numbers before, you could barely handle it. We realize you must have things your way, the same way, you must sit on table 13 on saturday night and you must have veal parmigiana with spaghetti, 2 glasses of water and a slice of cheescake. I know you must pay and sign before the cheesecake arrives to the table, I know you always have to go to the restroom after the meal, leaving your jacket on the chair, I know, we all know. But please don't make me part of it, I don't want to understand why you do what you do, I don't want to tell you my name, I don't need to know yours.